Written by: George Pacheco on July 27th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 2014
Director: David Gregory
Cast: Richard Stanley, Kier-La Janisse, Michael Gingold, Graham Humphreys, Edward R. Pressman, Robert Shaye, Tim Zinnemann, Fairuza Balk, Bruce Fuller, Marco Hofschneider, Rob Morrow
BluRay released: July 28th, 2015
Approximate running time: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: LPCM Stereo English
BluRay Release: Severin Films
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $20.00
Severin Films founder David Gregory directs this excellent documentary, dissecting the unfortunate series of events which befell the infamously troubled 1996 production of The Island of Doctor Moreau.
Gregory’s film primarily sets its focus upon the director who was unceremoniously fired from the production, British filmmaker Richard Stanley, who at that point had earned some serious indie interest for his two stellar productions of Hardware and Dust Devil. Stanley is simultaneously dry, witty and funny as he tells his side of the tale, explaining how long the ideas churned within his head before the auteur eventually found his way to writing up a screenplay. There’s an ever-present twinkle in Stanley’s eye and a slight smirk on his lips and he reveals fascinating details about the production, despite the obvious pain and disappointment the whole experience likely left him with at the end of the day.
Gregory tracks down plenty of other folks involved with Moreau, as well, although actors David Thewlis and Val Kilmer are conspicuously absent from the proceedings. Still, members of cast (Fairuza Balk, Rob Morrow and the very funny Marco Hofschneider), crew, as well as production folk (New Line Cinema head honcho Bob Shaye) offer their own recollections about what went down, shot in a typical “talking head” documentary style, nicely augmented by some minor animation and colorful sequences showing Stanley’s original Doctor Moreau sketches.
There’s a real sense of tragic, “what was and what could’ve been” to Stanley’s tale, not entirely dissimilar to what many fans felt from the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune; a sense that there really could’ve been an amazing-albeit probably un-filmable at the time-picture sprung forth from Stanley’s imagination, only to be replaced by the stitched-together (though still interesting) mess wrangled together by replacement director John Frankenheimer and crew.
Still, there’s a saying that all things happen for a reason, and, at the very least, Gregory’s documentary pulls back the curtain and reveals some very ugly factoids about some of the Hollywood heavy hitters who ran roughshod behind the scenes of this film (read: Val Kilmer was an asshole, Marlon Brando was totally off his rocker, and also kind of an asshole), while at the same time reminding all genre fans of just how imaginative and creative Richard Stanley is as a writer and director.
Here’s hoping that perhaps Lost Soul can coax out Stanley-who has delivered some anthology segments and shorts in recent years-back to the director’s chair for the balls-out, proper feature we all believe the man can still create.
Severin’s Blu-Ray of Lost Soul looks really good, with sharp colors and contrast to the new footage, while the archival footage is predictably rougher in comparison, but nostalgic for those who remember watching the final Moreau cut on VHS back in the day. The LPCM 2.0 is clear and glitch free, with optional English subtitles, to boot.
There are a bevy of extras on hand here, not the least of which is an extra hour-plus of interview outtakes from Stanley, Hofschneider and more, as well as original concept art from Stanley and his collaborator Graham Humphreys, with optional audio commentary. There is also a set report from Frankenheimer shot back in ’96, an audio interview with actress Barbara Steele (who was due to appear in the film as Moreau’s ex-wife) about her experiences with Stanley, as a handful of other featurettes, including one where Stanley himself goes to a screening of Lost Soul.
Severin have also released the film as a three disc edition with even more elaborate extras, including a 1921 version of The Island of Doctor Moreau thought to be lost, background history upon H.G. Wells’ original novel, as well as a CD-ROM audiobook of Stanley reading the author’s text. Consider either version to be essential viewing.