Animal Crackers In The Soup
- Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau review by Count Otto Black
The greatest documentary feature film ever made about the failure of a movie to reach its full potential (or indeed get made at all) is "Lost In La Mancha", the story of Terry Gilliam's doomed attempt to make his version of "Don Quixote", shot by a film crew who happened to be on set making what was intended to be a documentary featurette about the finished movie. Instead, they managed to capture the disaster as it unfolded.
This film is in a different league entirely. Shot two decades after the critical and commercial failure of a truly abysmal adaptation of H. G. Wells' "The Island Of Dr. Moreau" (by far the best version to date is "Island Of Lost Souls" from 1932), it consists almost entirely of middle-aged or elderly people who had some degree of involvement with the movie, mostly very minor, talking about what went wrong, or simply reminiscing about all the fun they had off-set. Richard Stanley, director of "Hardware" (remember that?), "Dust Devil" (you might actually have seen that, but it didn't exactly set the world on fire), and almost nothing else, who was supposed to direct this film but didn't, gets an enormous amount of screen-time to ramble on about his incredibly idiotic New Age beliefs and how unfair it all was, while various other people comment about how great the film would have been if he'd directed it after all, or point out that he was (and obviously still is) a very weird person who simply couldn't handle a major film shoot on the strength of directing a couple of low-budget horror movies and having a friend with magical powers who could fix everything by Sufi voodoo. It should be noted that extras and low-ranking crew members he made friends with on set tend to take the former view, and industry professionals the latter.
Conspicuously missing are comments from actual director John Frankenheimer (who has the excuse of being dead), star Marlon Brando (likewise), and co-star Val Kilmer (remember when everybody somehow thought he had talent?). There isn't even much footage from the movie to illustrate the points being made (though the fact that there are a few brief clips proves there could have been), so in order to fully appreciate this documentary, you'll need to go back and watch a film nobody likes on any level just to see what they're talking about. And while the Australian lady who played The Sow Woman seems like a very nice person, the amount of screen-time she gets just because she was on set only highlights the complete absence of comments from anyone who really mattered. In fact, the only real actors interviewed mostly whine about how their part should have been bigger, or was cut altogether.
It does pick up in the last half hour, when we get to hear some moderately amusing anecdotes about what a bloody awful human being Marlon Brando was and Val Kilmer no doubt still is, but about two-thirds of it is essentially Richard Stanley going on about how great this film would have been if he'd been allowed to make it, despite the complete absence of evidence that he's a genius, while other people who know what they're talking about point out that directors aren't taken off films that are already in production without a very good reason. Overall it's a bit dull, and feels as though it might have been made by a close friend or relative of Richard Stanley. And since nobody really cares about the movie whose failure it documents, it's hard to see why it needed to be made in the first place.
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.