Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014) Scary Movies 8

Richard Stanley and the dogman mask he wore when appearing in MOREAU
I have a weak spot for the 1996 ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU. Don't get me wrong it's not a good movie, but it is as trippy and wrong headed film as you are ever likely to see. There is something about seeing the pissed off Val Kilmer wander around the tropics while Marlon Brandon cavorts in a house dress that makes me realize that maybe,just maybe, my life isn't that bad.

The film was originally supposed to be directed by Richard Stanley who had done DUST DEVIL and HARDWARE. It was supposed to be a lowish budget epic but then the studio got involved and suddenly the budget shot out of control -even before  a frame was shot. When shooting started it all went wrong and Stanley ended up being fired and John Frankenheimer was brought it. That's when things got really freaking weird.

Cautionary tale meets true life mockumentary (as Gavin Smith said before the screening tonight, if you didn't know it was true you'd think they were joking) LOST SOUL is the story of what happened told by the people who were there- and willing to talk (Kilmer is nowhere to be found nor is David Thewlis). Actually this is only a fraction of what happened since Douglas Buck, who edited the film and was at the screening tonight said there is hours and hours of stories they didn't use.

The film begins with Richard Stanley who feel in love with the Moreau tale as a child. Managing to connect with Edward Pressman after making DUST DEVIL he managed to talk him into producing MOREAU. The trouble was Pressman took the project to New Line who then began to up the budget and bring in big stars like Marlon Brando, Bruce Willis and Val Kilmer. They also feared for Stanley's ability to make the film and briefly brought in Roman Polanski before budgeting in money for a replacement director. (There are a couple of stories there-one of which involves witchcraft)

Basically it was doomed from the start...or doomed once the studio came in since Richard Stanley is his own unique individual. Stanley intended to only where a white suit when directing and traveled to the location, where they were to spend  six months, with just a carpetbag. Probably the only person who could have directed Stanley's script was Stanley since he was the only one bold enough to have even made it even kind of work (The film explains several sequences the studio was terrified of-a sex scene involving the Cat Girl for example).

As the film goes on and other people are brought in Stanley fades from view, as various cast and crew tell you what they saw and heard around Stanley and even after Stanley was sacked. Even when Stanley disappears from the narrative's center stage he's always felt since for better or worse MOREAU was his baby and he set it in motion leaving everyone is constantly wondering what Stanley would have done as things got weirder and weirder.

As the film goes on it transforms from more or less straight portrait of a man's obsession to make a film into a look not so much the heart of darkness but the insane mind of Hollywood. Why else push on with a film they pretty much knew was going to bomb? The "serious" documentary becomes almost a full on comedy of errors as everyone goes insane. Its still a documentary, its just god damn fall on the floor funny

LOST SOUL is in its way a daring attempt to try and capture the insanity that was the MOREAU production. Its an attempt that succeeds; so well in fact that Mondocurry and several other people were looking on Netflix after the screening to see if they could get MOREAU to watch tonight (The Film Society really should have run that film after this one)

While it may not be as great as JODOROWSKY'S DUNE, which many people compared it at the end of the screening, its till is it's own sort of great.  If nothing else rarely has filmmaking seemed so funny.

An absolute must see. (and lets hope there are hours of goodies on the Bluray and DVD)
Barbara Steele and Richard Stanley on the set of a film consigned to the cutting room floor

No comments:

Post a Comment