August 15, 2015

Review: LOST SOUL - The Documentary

Nobody sets out to make a bad movie - nobody wakes up and says "I'm going to make a movie that will have one of the worst reputations ever." Most bad movies result when ambition outstrips talent, or when different perspectives about the finished product prove too great to overcome.

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau, now available as a digital download and streaming by a variety of services (including Amazon), suggests that possibly both factors were in play during the production of the 1995 adaptation of H.G. Wells' classic novel. For documentary director David Gregory, both factors come into play, as a relatively new filmmaker with a distinct vision finds himself removed from his dream project...only to see the project disintegrate due to actor and director egos.

Coming from the success of Hardware (one of the best science-fiction movies you've never seen, and you really should), Richard Stanley was poised to take on a dream project: an adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau. After developing the picture and striking a deal with New Line, Stanley took his initial cast and crew deep into northeast Australia....and that's when the trouble began.

You would think that a documentary like Lost Soul would place the blame directly on Stanley, but it's not until the second half of the movie - when Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, and John Frankenheimer become involved - that things really become dysfunctional. A telling clue comes when an actor relates asking Frankeheimer what his vision was for the movie, and Frankenheimer's response is "Some directors are into visions, others are into telling stories. I'm a storyteller".

(I admit, I'm not quite getting Frankenheimer's quote right, but I would argue that someone who directed movies like Seconds and The Manchurian Candidate could handle both rather skillfully....but trust me, Lost Soul does a really good job in articulating some of the challenges this movie faced during its production).

It's a shame that we live in a time when poor filmmaking is celebrated precisely for its faults. (Won't name any names, but certain podcasts that asks how certain movies get made are to blame). John Frankenheimer's Island of Dr. Moreau - the film that resulted from the chaos - is considered one of the worst movies ever made. Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau argues that we lost the film that we should have seen....and that is an absolute tragedy.

If you're a movie fan, this is a must-watch. Worth every penny, even in rental.

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