Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Lost Soul

I am thankful to my pal Steve who gave me a heads-up that the documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau was playing in Nottingham. I went to see it a few nights ago and I can assure you it's a corker.

The producers did an excellent job of giving what felt like quite a fair appraisal of the ill-fated exploits of the cast and crew on their remote set in Northern Australia. While it is clear that Stanley's vision would have made a far more interesting film than actually emerged, the trials and tribulations are thoroughly investigated and the documentary excites on a level beyond the simple teasing of a hypothetical masterpiece. On this note, many of the interviewees (including Stanley himself) are hilarious and special mention should go to Marco Hofschneider who seems like a really nice person caught in the centre of an increasingly bizarre madhouse (culminating in being, quite literally, punched "in the nuts" by the dwarf who went on to steal his screentime). Notably absent are Val Kilmer and David Thewlis, the first of whom comes off very badly, while the latter is barely mentioned.

Stanley is refreshingly dry and up-front about his interest in, and use of, witchcraft. He explains that he asked "Skip", a friend of his, to perform some magical fixes to get him the gig. I am not sure how serious to take him when Stanley goes on to exlain that his misfortunes were due to Skip falling ill and all his work unravling. This results in lightening hitting the filmmakers' mother's house and hyenas being seen by her neighbours (and there were hyenas on the wallpaper where Stanley was staying... so it all makes sense, y'know?). I did notice that on the bookshelf behind Stanley was the book Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within by John Skipp and I wondered if this was the "Skip" referred to.

Regardless of the merits of how he was treated, the experiece was clearly very hard for Stanley. He retreated afterwards to a remote ruin in Montségur, France where he has only more recently returned to the commercial world of film. He freely admits that he feels far more at home amongst the stones of the Cathar strongholds and the memories of the dead than he did amongst the machinery of Hollywood. He likens himself to a Moreau figure, and I hope the world will remember him for his pioneering and unique vision and not the filmic bloodbath in which it culminated.

Some of the amazing concept art produced by Graham Humphreys for the movie. These hint at the far deeper and more coherent themes which Stanley wanted to explore.

Marco Hofschneider - stuck it out despite being patronised by Brando, bullied by Kilmer and puched in the groin by two-foot-tall Spanish dwarf

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