Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s The Island of Dr Moreau 2015 ****

Having burst onto the cinematic scene with the impressively realised low-budget sci-fi Hardware, hopes were high that Richard Stanley was going to ascend to a James Cameron level of creative work; he certainly knew how to make visceral cinema. The likeable South African came a cropper with the film version of The Island of Dr Moreau, and this documentary, reviewed on Amazon Prime, sees David Gregory interview a number of suspects as to who killed his movie. From New Line’s point of view, Stanley’s departure from the film is very much his own fault; one exec tells a strange story about not liking Stanley because he asked for too much sugar in his coffee, a claim that Stanley refutes. Whatever prowess Stanley had, any director would have been unsettled by Marlon Brandon wanting to rewrite the script to reveal his character was a dolphin, or insisting on wearing an ice-bucket on his head during takes. If Brando endlessly teasing dogs with his laser pointer wasn’t enough, further chaos arrives in the form of Val Kilmer, anecdotally revealed as something of a control freak. Or indeed any number of elements; Stanley’s vision of the film seems over-ambitious, but it also seems borderline criminal that this young director didn’t have a strong first AD to support him. Stanley’s firing, then sneaking back onto the set disguised as a monster is the stuff of urban myth, but it’s only one of a wealth of bizarre stories captured here. Allusions between Wells’ text and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness are explored, and Stanley’s family connection to Conrad’s book is also a real point of interest. Stanley has indicated that the doc isn’t entirely accurate, but it is entertaining, particularly the cast’s impressions of replacement director John Frankenheimer. It’s enough to engender hopes that Stanley’s next project, an adaptation of H.P Lovecraft’s Color Out Of Space, starring Nicolas Cage, will offers him a more playable hand than on this occassion.

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