You all remember the infamous Island of Dr. Moreau from the 90’s; it came out, you saw it, most likely didn’t care for it, and moved on. If anything, you recall a mountainous Marlon Brando, painted white and playing piano with a tiny man. It turns out there are many causes for that films mediocrity, both conventional and allegedly supernatural. They are chronicled in Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, which dives back into the very conception of the project and follows it all the way through its troubled birth.
The film was envisioned as a passion project of Director Richard Stanley (Hardware, Dust Devil) that had the misfortune of drawing big name stars Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. In over his head on the large production and having difficulty controlling Kilmer, rumor soon got back to the studio, who made the hasty decision to replace him. Their replacement choice was one John Frankenheimer, an acclaimed director who did not care for the story and just seemingly wanted to work with Brando.
What saves this documentary from otherwise being a bonus feature on a Blu-ray is perhaps Stanley himself. He comes across as a fascinating character who responded to adversity in extraordinary ways. I won’t spoil the films surprises but I will share one bit. Apparently when he was in danger of losing the film in preproduction to another director, Stanley employed witchcraft, and it worked (no, Fairuza Balk did not supply the witchcraft). Director David Gregory wisely chooses to make Stanley the center subject of the Doc and it makes for a good film; though I never felt I got a good sense of how his Dr. Moreau would have been different from what ended up on the screen.
Adam Ruhl is a writer and life long Cinephile. He is the Executive
Cinema Editor of Pop Culture Beast’s Austin branch; covering festivals,
conventions, and new releases. When not filing reports, Adam can be
found stalking Alamo Drafthouse Programmers for leads on upcoming
DrafthouseFilms titles. Adam once blocked Harry Knowles entrance to a
theater until he was given extra tickets to a Roman Polanski movie.