At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Sep 23rd, 2015 •

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LOST SOUL steps up and takes its place in the pantheon of delicious documentaries about the bloody disasters that have befallen feature films, due either to the wanton hand of fate or, more likely, the utter incompetence of the filmmakers…or both. LOST SOUL will be thought of when we invoke HEARTS OF DARKNESS, LOST IN LA MANCHA, Clouzot’s INFERNO, and DEMON LOVER DIARY (well, maybe not DLD – that one’s just not available). It’s a prized jewel in a rarified genre.

Richard Stanley, decidedly strange and compelling, is on hand to help us flesh out the trajectory of his ambitious remake of H.G.Wells’ THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU (1996). Wells was an anti-vivisectionist, and he didn’t care for the first version of the film with Charles Laughton (ISLAND OF LOST SOULS – 1932). He just might have liked Stanley’s take on the material, but alas, that take was never to be. Not a moment of it exists, though footage was shot by Stanley of Barbara Steele, as Moreau’s wife, playing opposite an Orangutan, all of it later discarded. I remember Barbara calling me after she’d done her scene and disclosing to me in an amazed whisper, referring to her simian co-star, “And it had red hair..!”.

I met Richard Stanley once, in London, when I was appearing at a horror convention with my DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD. Buddy G, John McNaughton and I had been flown over, and Buddy and I had a great and frightening time visiting Jack the Ripper’s stomping grounds. Stanley was with a woman who kept chiding him for being self-effacing. I really didn’t get to chat with him at any length. He seemed a little zoned-out. And frankly it sounds like, in some iteration, that may have led to his downfall on the MOREAU shoot. Doc director David Gregory goes trolling for evidence and comes up with a rich catch. Many people both behind and in front of the camera share their colorful memories of the disaster. Fairuza Balk is especially endearing.

Marlon Brando, who was an ally of Stanley’s in this whole debacle, unfortunately didn’t arrive on location in time to protect the fledgling Hollywood casualty. And sadly there is no on-set footage of Brando included here, which would have been warmly received in Act Three, but cast and crew members do a decent job of recreating his utterly bizarre persona for us.

Richard Stanley has been more or less in self-imposed exile for the twenty years since his MOREAU went south. Even that peculiar and tragic post-script is food for thought, and ruminating about his fate extends far beyond the viewing of the film.

I’ve seen it three times already. It never gets tiring.

And in addition, there are a number of terrific supplements. A German silent version (1921) in tattered but acceptable condition sports an inordinate amount of make-out shots featuring Hanni Weisse as Jane Crawford, a captive on Moreau’s island. She is uncharacteristically pretty for a silent film actress, especially one from the German film industry, whereas the film’s other actress, Ludmilla Heli as Evelyn Wilkinson, is quintessentially drab and unattractive. The chief man-beast looks like he could get some employment with an out-of-town production of ‘The Lion King.’ And a few of Kevin McLeod’s soundtrack cues are a lot of fun – not necessarily appropriate, but rousing and enjoyable. And there’s a CD-ROM of Richard Stanley reading the Wells novel with a kind of passion we don’t get from him in the doc clips. This is looming as one of the best releases of 2015.

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