The truth behind Richard Stanley’s doomed Island of Dr. Moreau movie is now available on Netflix in one awesome 90-minute documentary.
I don’t know about you, but I am endlessly fascinated by the behind the scenes goings-on from troubled movie productions. Often, the things that made a major motion picture go so horribly wrong are just as compelling as any blockbuster, sometimes even more so.
I grew up reading a wide range of authors, the works of Roald Dahl, Jules Verne and H.G Wells appealed to my imagination and as such, I sought out every movie adaption of their respective works. H.G Wells’ books have been successfully adapted into motion pictures in the past. The Invisible Man, the original version of The Time Machine and multiple incarnations of The War of Worlds have all be relatively good. However, The Island of Dr. Moreau has yet to have a meaningful movie forged from its provocative story. The 1977 version that starred Burt Lancaster as the deranged doctor was a mess, but compared to the 1996 remake, it’s a sodding masterpiece.
Being just 15 years old when this movie came out, I was so excited by the trailer and couldn’t wait to see it. Released two weeks after Independence Day, The Island of Dr. Moreau was in cinemas and ready to be a massive hit. Then, after the curtains closed and I stopped crying, it dawned on me that all was not well on the set of the movie as they seemed to be making it up on the spot.
The onslaught of problems Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau faced has become the stuff of movie-making nightmares. The independent filmmaker was getting his first (and only) experience with the Hollywood machine, and it chewed him up entirely.
After just three days of filming that saw little footage shot, Richard Stanley was sacked from the production and was eventually replaced by John Frankenheimer. You’d think that would enough of a setback, but you would be very wrong. Even seasoned director Frankenheimer struggled to keep things running, dealing with the erratic behavior of Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer proved an impossible task.
I won’t ruin it by going into the minutia of what went wrong on the set, you should just watch the documentary and discover first hand the awaking nightmare that unfolded. The documentary takes you through every step of the process, and it is great to see Richard Stanley on the record openly discussing the whole ordeal. The hardcore among you will already know most of the details in this documentary, the excellent book The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made has a thorough account and makes for a thrilling read.
It is hard not to feel sorry for Stanley, Dust Devil, and Hardware made him an interesting filmmaker and one brimming with potential. Had he got to make his $8 million version of Dr. Moreau then who knows what he would have gone on to direct. Sure, he might be a black magic enthusiast and a decidedly odd chap, but show me one filmmaker that’s ‘normal’ (whatever that means).
The soon to be released Death of Superman Lives documentary will finally lift the lid on what happened to Tim Burton’s doomed Superman movie. Until then, sit back, relax and enjoy Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau. My only real complaint about the documentary is it simply isn’t long enough.