24th Aug2014

Frightfest 2014: ‘Lost Soul’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Featuring: Richard Stanley, Fairuza Balk, Marco Hofschneider, Robert Shaye, Graham Humphreys | Directed by David Gregory

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We’ve heard all the insane rumours and scandals attached to the ill-fated 1996 remake of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. How director Richard Stanley spent four years developing the project only to be fired after four days of shooting and replaced by John Frankenheimer and how headliner Marlon Brando impacted on that decision…

Helmed by Severin’s David Gregory, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau is an intriguing look at the intricacies and fragility of film-making in Hollywood – the battle between creativity, money and power. For the first time the cast and crew recount what really happened on the set of the film and why it all went so spectacularly wrong.

Richard Stanley, the director of Hardware and Dust Devil, was – following the critical acclaim of his early movies  – due to make the move into the big leagues with The Island of Dr. Moreau, a passion project for the director which was to be a brand-new take on the classic H.G. Wells story. A passion project that took over his life at the time, that was until he was unceremoniously fired from the production and replaced by John Frankenheimer, who in turn would lose control of the movie to an out of control Marlon Brando and an ego-maniacal Val Kilmer.

Gregory’s documentary sees Stanley reveal his original plans for the film and his battle for control over what would be one of the biggest flops of the late-90s. Striking an erudite poses Stanley recalls a strange tale that emcompasses witchcraft, copious amounts of drug taking, ridiculous battles between the cast and crew, and the bizarre politics that would eventually sink what could have been, given Stanley’s passion and drive to tell HIS story, a modern classic of the genre.

But it’s not just Stanley who wows with weird stories, stars stars Fairuza Balk and Rob Morrow give revealing interviews, New Line head Robert Shaye, producers Ed Pressman and Tim Zinnemann chime in and numerous crew from both versions of the film (who tell some of the best stories surrounding the movie), add their reminiscences; unveiling the a story that is stranger and more bizarre than any rumour ever was! From Stanley disguising himself as a dog man on set, to Fairuza Balk taking a taxi across the entire of Australia, coast-to-coast, in support of Stanley, to Marlon Brando oft-reported bizarre antics – including painting himself white so his stand in could do most of the work; to totally changing the script to feature his particular predilections; to giving minature “actor” Nelson de la Rosa a starring role in the film, demoting actor Marco Hofschneider to nothing more than a mere cameo!

As a look into what has been called one of the worst film’s ever made, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau is eye-opening and fascinating. As a documentary it is less so, coming across more as a bonus feature for an unwarranted Blu-ray Special Edition release of the film. However despite that, for those interested in just how many Hollywood cooks spoilt this particular broth this is a must see.

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