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The Island of Dr. Moreau

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Script: Dr. Moreau
On the Production: Island of Lost Souls

The Island of Dr. Moreau (Rel. 1996)

The ultimate blasphemy, a camp classic or an interesting failure of what could've been a wonderful film? The Island of Dr. Moreau may very well be all of those things - and then some. The outline of the story is quite well known: aspiring filmmaker Richard Stanley takes on his most highly budgeted film to date ($35 million) to create a gothic voodoo film in the spirit of Italian gore classics Cannibal Holocaust and Zombie, casting Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer to the leads.

Both Brando and Kilmer had already became notorious of their tendencies to be difficult to work with. Kilmer had gotten a bad name on the sets of The Real McCoy, Tombstone and Batman Forever, whereas Brando had established a firm reputation as an eccentric performer on the chaotic set of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, improvising his lines and behaving irrationally. [That story has been well covered in the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse.] The Island of Dr. Moreau had something to prove: There is no such thing as a curse.

Soon after the production starts, rumors surface that Stanley's been fired and that the set is practically an Apocalypse Now Redux (pun intended). Next thing you know, John Frankenheimer is summoned to salvage the project, which has already turned more hideous than any of the good doctor's creations. Brando's Moreau looks more like a mad Pope than a mad scientist. Kilmer's difficult as ever, requesting strange pieces of cloth for his character to wear and burning a camera operator's face with a cigarette. [Read more]

Against all odds, Frankenheimer was able to complete the film. But unlike Coppola, he was unable shake the cinematic world with the result of the troubled production. Sometimes films made under a great deal of pressure turn out to be masterpieces. Most of the time they just end up being turkeys. [Read more]

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