Most film buffs like to pretend to know it “all,” but of course that’s pure nonsense. If you “knew it all,” you’d lose interest in movies and move on to something like literature or perhaps needlepoint. I myself have dedicated over 30 years to the study and appreciation of international horror cinema, and I’ll never “know it all,” nor would I want to.
The point here is that it’s very satisfying to learn new information regarding a subject you already know very well — and here are two brand-new documentaries that prove this point over and over again. (And in wonderfully entertaining fashion, which is always a nice bonus.)
Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau
It’s safe to say that most film freaks have seen — or at least heard of — the ill-fated 1996 rendition of H.G. Wells’ classic Island of Lost Souls. Perhaps best remembered for Marlon Brando’s outrageously wacky make-up, the 1996 version of The Island of Dr. Moreau was, as they say, a highly troubled production. Some film sets suffer from “creative differences,” but it seems that this one was cursed from day one.
Director David Gregory (a veteran of hundreds of documentary shorts found on DVDs everywhere) focuses on director Richard Stanley as the focal point in the Moreau maelstrom. Highly respected, at least in horror circles, for films like Hardware (1990) and Dust Devil (1992), Mr. Stanley jumped at the chance to re-adapt Moreau for the big screen — and then the wheels fell off.
Lost Soul is such a fascinating, funny, tragic, and bittersweet documentary that it’d be best to leave the explanations and anecdotes to the people who were there. The film is loaded with frank and honest recollections from actors Fairuza Balk, Rob Morrow, Peter Elliott, and Marco Hofschneider; former New Line chief Bob Shaye; dozens of colorful and bemused crew members; a solid handful of film experts; and, of course, Mr. Stanley himself — as the guy who landed his dream job and lived to regret it.
Tailor-made for movie nuts (like me) who knew only the most basic of juicy “rumors” about what went on during the shooting of Dr. Moreau ’96, Lost Soul is not only fun for film buffs, it also works as an entertaining yet sobering depiction of how much unfair, crazy bullshit goes on in Hollywood.
…and speaking of bullshit!
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films
One of the most entertaining things about growing up as a film fanatic in the 1980s was the non-stop deluge of “Cannon Films” — and now we have the documentary that encapsulates every crazy, tacky, and occasionally sublime moment of the infamous studio’s meteoric rise and equally expeditious fall.
Directed by the man who brought us the Aussie-centric Not Quite Hollywood (2008) and the Filipino-focused Machete Maidens Unleashed (2010), Electric Boogaloo starts out with the basic info on Cannon Films chiefs Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, but quickly ramps up and starts focusing on all the cheeseball classics that made Cannon Films so popular (not to mention profitable) throughout the 1980s.
You want the inside scoop on Enter the Ninja, Return of the Ninja, and Ninja 3: The Domination? Of course you do. The brief period in which Sylvia Kristel couldn’t keep her clothes on? Sure. Richard Chamberlain as a poor man’s Indiana Jones? Definitely! The controversial resurrection of Leatherface? Oh yes. The complete run of Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson explosion-fests? They’re all here. (I love Invasion U.S.A.) Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2? Obviously!
We also get to movies like Barbet Scroeder’s Barfly, Franco Zeffirelli’s Otello, and Andrei Konchalovsky’s Runaway Train — films that would be considered “high quality” from any studio. So clearly there was some attempt at respectable artistry at work here…
But nope. Then came Superman 4, Over the Top, and Masters of the Universe, and those were the beginning of the end for Cannon Films.
High praise to director Mark Hartley for rounding up dozens of great interviews with actors, filmmakers, and Cannon fans alike; for offering a fine explanation as to why “older” film freaks maintain sort of a love/hate relationship with Cannon Films on the whole; and for presenting this colorful history lesson with a marked degree of humor, respect, and energy.
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