In 1996 an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1896 novel The Island Of Doctor Moreau was released to indifferent reviews, with many critics speculating that it could have been so much more. Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau is the story of just how much more it could have been if director Richard Stanley, who was was kicked off the film three days into production after four years of preparation, had been able to complete his vision of the story.
Why we’re looking forward to this: Richard Stanley should need no introduction to the horror community, having directed two of our favourite genre movies in the shape of 1990’s Hardware and 1992’s Dust Devil (the Director’s Cut of which remains one of our favourite movies of all time), and it’s no secret that he was unceremoniously dumped from the production of his dream project, the definitive version of Wells’s classic The Island Of Doctor Moreau, but the story behind the events that led to this is as fascinating, if not more so, than the actual tale itself.
Far from being an absolution of Stanley, Lost Soul takes an unflinching look at just how dysfunctional a movie set can get under the right/wrong set of circumstances, from the apparent competition between stars Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer as to who could be the biggest asshole, to the behaviour of Stanley himself who disappeared into the rain forest for weeks rather than facing up to the realities of his disintegrating production, via Stanley’s use of witchcraft to ensure that he got the job in the first place.
Lost Soul is one of those genuine cases of truth being stranger than fiction, while shining a spotlight on the underbelly of the film industry. Brando and Kilmer may well have once been huge stars (the former perhaps more so than the latter), but at the time they still both held a fair modicum of power in the industry which allowed them to indulge in behaviour that would be several shades beyond the pale in any other industry. Like James Hetfield’s meltdown in Metallica documentary / car crash Some Kind Of Monster, the coming together of Brando, Kilmer and Stanley created a perfect storm of dysfunction that makes for one hell of a great story for those of us not there to endure it.
Stanley never really bounced back from his experience on The Island Of Doctor Moreau, and it spelled the end of any meaningful part of the film industry for both Kilmer and Brando, but for those of us with an interest in the behind the scenes machinations of the genre, Lost Soul promises to be fascinating and essential viewing.
Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau is due for release later this year.