M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Five of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2014 and going through September 30, 2015. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on February 27, 2015. Available On Demand, digital download, and Blu-ray/DVD! Also streaming on Amazon Prime!

LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (2014)

Directed by David Gregory
Starring Richard Stanley, Fairuza Balk, Hugh Dickson, Oli Dickson, Peter Elliott, Bruce Fuller, Michael Gingold, David Grasso Jr., Marco Hofschneider, David Hudson, Graham Humphreys, Kier-La Janisse, Paul Katte, Fiona Mahl, Rob Morrow, Emile Nicolaou, Edward R. Pressman, James Sbardellati, Robert Shaye, Tim Sullivan
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

Having read the vague reports in FANGORIA as a kid about the subject of this documentary, I was chomping at the bit to dive into LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. While the true film Stanley envisioned will most likely never see the light of day (though one can hope), this documentary is the closest thing to seeing the film itself as it takes you step by step through the arduous and catastrophic voyage of this seemingly jinxed film from first inkling to final shot.

While key players like Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Bruce Willis, Ron Perlman, and obviously Marlon Brando and John Frankenheimer (since they have both passed on) are absent from this documentary, the film does offer up an impressive set of interviews and recountings from actress Faruza Balk, producer Edward Pressman, New Line President Bob Shaye, and most importantly Richard Stanley himself. Stanley is a fascinating director to me, having shown such promise with HARDWARE and DUST DEVIL. There was something about the director that really felt distinct and utterly unique; kind of in the same way Clive Barker burst into the scene all of those years ago. His films were unpredictable, often times difficult to describe in a singular sentence, and imbued with a mysticism that took the viewer to new and dangerous places. The film does a great job of mapping out Stanley’s fascination with H.G. Wells’ story as it shows the mountains of sketches, storyboards, and ideas cluttered around Stanley’s office to this day. Stanley knows his material as he recounts his feelings of previous incarnations of THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU and its knockoffs like THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE. He talks about how he envisions how H.G. Wells would make a modern-day Moreau tale as well. These opening scenes as Stanley still enthusiastically recounts his own ideas as well as praises toward the depth of Wells’ ideas make for a foreboding moment of hope before it all falls down. In terms of understanding the gist of the material, Stanley had it all down pat.

But as the film plays out, there were forces against Stanley mounting almost from the beginning. Interviews with Pressman and Shaye indicate that they never really felt Stanley could handle a film of this scope and while this would have been a great opportunity for Stanley to impress the hell out of them and make them eat their hats, hurricanes, unfortunate accidents, and seemingly Stanley’s difficulty handling such a large scale worked against him which resulted in Stanley being replaced with John Frankenheimer. And while LOST SOUL goes on the follow the story after Frankenheimer is attached to the film, this doc is firmly following Stanley as its thruway; depicting his depression and mental breakdown after losing the project and the now infamous measures he took to check in on the project even after he was banned from the set by donning a dogman costume and mingling in among the extras. As if this loony story isn’t weird enough, by the time they get to the scenes talking about Stanley in costume as a dogman (he himself pointing out the irony of how just as Moreau is a dethroned god in the film, he himself is delegated from overseer/director of the film to one of the dogmen extras), I couldn’t believe how crazy this whole journey really was.

Interviews with PA’s and extras help flesh out the behind the scenes stuff concerning Brando and Kilmer’s rivalry and downright sabotage of the film. The film does a fantastic job of illustrating how bringing Stanley, Brando, Kilmer, and Frankenheimer all together is the perfect storm of cinematic catastrophe. The levels of lunacy are epic with one story out-crazying the previous by often hilarious and disastrous proportions. And still, at the heart of it all, the director manages to anchor us all down with Stanley’s imagination and flaws as both a person and a director. The youthful glee about the entire film may have been the one thing that destroyed his chances and at the heart of this film, it is extremely sad to see how Hollywood can chew up dreams as they did here.

Those of you who were paying attention to the stories swirling about the creation of Stanley’s THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU will definitely want to check LOST SOUL out as will those who appreciate such films that were never made docs like MAN OF LA MANCHA and JODOROWSKY’S DUNE. But LOST SOUL is much more akin to the APOCALYPSE NOW doc HEARTS OF DARKNESS as it seems both films were destined for disaster. APOCALYPSE NOW overcame the odds. Stanley’s THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU did not, which makes this tale all the more heartbreaking. This is one of my favorite films of the year and no one who has ever reached for the stars and found themselves fighting for every inch should miss this tragic, entertaining, often hilarious, and downright soul-wrenching documentary.

Click here for the trailer!


THE 2014-2015 COUNTDOWN!


#12 – LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU
#13 – STARRY EYES
#14 – THE BOY
#15 – THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN
#16 – THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME
#17 – THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS
#18 – CUB
#19 – POD
#20 – BACKCOUNTRY
#21 – CLOSER TO GOD
#22 – WE ARE STILL HERE
#23 – A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
#24 – WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD
#25 – THE EDITOR
#26 – DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD
#27 – PARA ELISA
#28 – THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT
#29 – FROM THE DARK
#30 – EXISTS
#31 – A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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