Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau
By the time an extra relays a story about how Marlon Brando was absolutely convinced his mush mouthed gibberish was actually German (it wasn’t), Richard Stanley’s vision for “The Island of Doctor Morrow” was a corpse. In fact, his vision for the movie dies a scant 45 minutes into the 90 minute documentary “Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau”, which is just as well. You see an artist get trounced by a system he never should have worked in, you see him struggle and you see him fail, wildly. He seems nice enough and you feel suitably bad for him. Then Marlon Brando shows up and demands to take eight weeks off so he can be fitted with a prosthetic blowhole and the movie hits a new, dizzying level of crazy.
I watched “Lost Soul” last week and was impressed with its structure. It was linear as we follow Richard Stanley, an artist with two independent and highly regarded horror flicks under his belt, as he’s given the reigns to a big budget film with dreams of molding it into a twisted, bloody art film. We see concept art, we’re given suitable foreshadowing (when things started to go bad he tells the camera, earnestly, that he “turned to black magic”) and by the time cameras roll he’s a chain smoking mess totally not up to the task. This would have been fine for a documentary, although one we’ve seen before about the struggle between art and commerce, speculation on what could have been, yadda yadda yadda.
What “Lost Soul” has that sets it apart is a corpulent, unreasonable wrecking ball in Brando that showed up and smashed whatever hope was left. He’s uniquely unreasonable, random and terrible to those around him and everyone who speaks of him does so with a “you’re not going to believe this” gleam in their eyes and, by and large, they are right. Each story ups the next one as Brando systematically thwarts progress at every turn. Stanley is basically cast aside at this point and you likely won’t notice because what happened after the artist was kicked off the movie is so damn entertaining.
On some level it’s strange that the filmmakers switched their focus mid movie, but it’s all of a piece and basically works. It also doesn’t shy away from Stanley’s faults, but paints him as an iconoclast. I’m not sure I would have gone that far, or as far as to name the documentary “Lost Soul,” but as far as “the machine crushes the artist” documentaries go, this one is definitely entertaining and worth the time.
“Lost Soul” is now streaming on Netflix.