It is interesting how we do not see a flood of behind the scene documentaries released more often. Every film that has ever been made has some sort of drama behind it all. Especially when it comes to box office bombs because, at some point, these were considered great ideas. Richard Stanley knows all too well how drama can destroy a vision. In the new documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau the title gives way the entire tone of the piece with the word ‘doomed’. While not the most lively of docs this is yet another entry of the fascinating world of movie making.
In the mid-1990s up and coming film Director Richard Stanley had a dream: To make his own version of the H.G. Wells classic The Island of Dr. Moreau. By begging and pleading, with some black magic thrown in for good luck, New Line Cinema gave into Stanley’s dream. Not only were things coming together very quickly, but it looked as though the film was going to be made with some minor hiccups. But then those hiccups turned into problems and then those problems turned into a clash of egos. Somehow in less than a week Richard Stanley was fired from his own project and that is only the beginning of this troubled production.
If you are a fan of hearing juicy details of celebrities acting like jerks or how production can go crazy in an instant then Lost Soul is for you. The endless recounting of Marlon Brando’s insanity and Val Kilmer’s (allegedly) sour attitude makes it a wonder this flop was even made. It also becomes incredibly depressing to see other actors and crew realize very quickly that the movie they signed up for would break them over the course of several months. There are some moments of levity sprinkled throughout but the overall message of this documentary is that it is very easy to get swallowed up by the Hollywood system.
One major flaw with this documentary though is the overall focus with Richard Stanley. It makes sense, initially, to make this about him because his rise and fall story is tragic. Unfortunately Mr. Stanley is not the most interesting man to listen to when it comes to recounting this film’s history. He has a touch of odd in him and he does have moments where his ‘black magic’ views on life provides some interesting comparison to Wells’s tale. His monotone voice hampers any of his quirks however and the fact that the film becomes much more interesting once he gets fired says a lot about him as a subject.
Even with a droll central character Lost Soul is still a fascinating watch of how a film can get made even at the worst of times. At every point in production it seemed like fate did not want this version of Dr. Moreau to be made and it is hard to deny considering the final results. This documentary is now part of a nice marathon showcasing troubled productions with Lost in La Mancha and Jodorowsky’s Dune. If we had to compare the three though Lost Soul would honestly have to be the weaker of the bunch. But does the other two involve a legendary actor making friends with a midget? Probably not.