Friday, July 31, 2015


If you know anything about the disaster that is 1996's The Island of Dr. Moreau, you know that it was plagued by difficult actors with massive egos who wanted to make script changes daily and produced one of the worst movies ever, made for $40 million dollars and grossing $49 million, and ultimately lost money for the company.  This vague description of the debacle barely scratches the surface of bad luck, misfortune, and all around craziness that occurred on the making of the film.  The smallest man in the world punches an actor in the groin on an elevator, Fairuza Balk attempts to ESCAPE the doomed production, the Austraillian extras party for weeks while getting paid and not shooting, and famously, the original director, Richard Stanley, after being banished from set and threatened with a lawsuit if he shows up within so many feet of the set, sneaks back into the production wearing a beast mask and makes it on screen.  Again, this BARELY scratches the surface.  This is a must-see documentary for anyone who has ever been interested in how movies are made, and how easily and quickly things can go terribly, and hilariously wrong.  Director Richard Stanley (Hardware, Dust Devil) is the main character here, and a character he most certainly is.  He's eccentric, but incredibly lovable and speaks with great passion about the novel.

Severin's Special 3-Disc 'House of Pain' Edition is a treasure trove of great extras, beginning with over 72 minutes of outtake interviews with Richard Stanley, Marco Hofschneider, Jim Sbarsellati, Graham Walker, Graham Humphreys, and Hugh and Ollie.  There is also a six minute archival interview with John Frankenheimer, the director who took over the project when Richard Stanley was fired.  Finally, there is a short audio interview with actress Barbara Steele.

Next up is a short featurette of concept art with accompanying audio commentary by Richard Stanley.

The disc wraps up with two great featurettes.  The first, "The Hunt for the Compound," where a crew revisits the sets and shooting locations, now grown over, in the jungle of Cairns.  Secondly, "Boar Man Diary," where an extra reads excerpts from his diary that he wrote while on set.  Really funny featurette, and my favorite of the set, even though it is relatively short.

The second disc is a DVD format entitled "The HG Wells Files."  A gem of this set is housed here, and it seems to have flown well under the radar.  It is a recently discovered, feature length 1921 silent, German adaption of the Wells novel, titled "Island of the Lost."  The picture quality is not amazing by any means, but looks fairly good considering what the elements must have looked like.

Next is a short featurette called "HG Wells on Film" that chronicles Wells' novels that have been adapted into films.  The second disc finishes up with "Richard Stanley on HG Wells," which is more outtakes of Stanley speaking lovingly of the author.

The third and final disc is an audio CD of the audio book, "The Island of Dr. Moreau," read by Richard Stanley, who has a great voice for an audio book.

For further supplements, I highly recommend episode 98 of the podcast Killer POV, where the gang talks with Stanley and Severin Films' David Gregory.

This is a must have for anyone interested in the making of movies, especially big budgeted Hollywood ones that go horribly wrong.  If you liked Jodorowsky's Dune, you will equally love this.

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