Some cinematic stink bombs leave remarkable stories behind.
Take “The Devil’s Candy,” the 1991 book deconstructing the 1990 dud “The Bonfire of the Vanities.” The story of how a can’t miss movie missed by a country mile is a vibrant read, period.
Consider “Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s The Island of Dr. Moreau” a “Candy” companion piece. The documentary just debuted on Netflix’s streaming service as well as on Blu-ray, and it’s a must-see for any serious film fan or those who crane their neck to see a car wreck.
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The 1996 “Moreau” feature stained star Marlon Brando’s career and caused Hollywood to re-think Val Kilmer’s ascent. The documentary shares why in great detail, from Kilmer’s runaway ego to Brando’s willingness to ruin any scene to fit his whims. If Mr. Brando thought he needed peacock feathers for a certain scene, the crew had to make it so.
Any completed film is a minor miracle, a combination of actors, crafts people and financiers coming together in semi-harmony. With “Moreau,” nearly everything that could go wrong did.
It’s all ghoulishly entertaining as constructed here, with many of the key players opening up without a filter. Time heals, but these wounds still sound fresh. What’s missing is Kilmer’s input. Then again, considering the testimony lined up against the actor (he’s a “prep school bully”) it’s easy to see why he begged off.
A production that began with such promise — we landed Brando! James Woods is on board, too — quickly soured.
With “Moreau,” nearly everything that could go wrong did. Egotistical actors.
“None of us had any idea what was coming,” said co-star Fairuza Balk, who speaks with her arms closely folded over her slim frame. Co-star Rob Morrow, who eventually was snipped from the finished cut, begged to be released from the project at the time.
Drama stalked the shoot from every possible angle. Brando’s daughter, Cheyenne Brando, took her own life just before the film’s shoot began. Crew members suffered grave, and mysterious, illnesses. A hurricane washed away key pieces of the film’s set. And young director Richard Stanley, who also wrote the script, quickly lost control of the production.
Stanley emerges as the film’s most inscrutable figure, an artist who looks back at his biggest failure without an overt sense of doom. He was taken off the project mid-film, replaced by respected veteran John Frankenheimer. The switch hardly helped.
The film’s waning moments get bogged down in on-set shenanigans that blurry the film’s otherwise sharp focus. Still, you don’t need to have suffered through “Dr. Moreau” to appreciate “Lost Soul.” It’s Hollywood at its very worst, and you can’t look away.