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There are two sorts of famous film. Those renowned for great performances, direction or cinematography, and the others, notorious for the events that surround their production. The death of a star (The Crow, Monroe's suicide during The Misfits), a capsized budget (Heaven's Gate, Waterworld) or set reports garnished with outrageous gossip are usually enough to ensure a movie achieves a place in the Hollywood Hall of Infamy, but few movies can have been quite so secure of their place in that anti-canon as this week's Island of Dr Moreau, an adaptation of HG Wells classic horror story and a nightmare of devastating pre-publicity for the studio.

After four years planning and scripting his film, director Richard Stanley secured $35 million studio backing. Marlon Brando, agreed to a role (as the scientist performing eugenic experiments, rather than the Island as some Hollywood wags suggested) along with box-office beefcake Val Kilmer. The stage was set for a film that would be a gory, swashbuckling tribute to the Italian horror movies of the 1970s - but Stanley was kicked off the set after just four days.

The trouble began when Kilmer dumped his role for a smaller, supporting part, turned up two days late for the shoot in Australia, then refused to rehearse. Stanley crashed his car, there was a flu epidemic and hurricanes made shooting the film's shipwreck scenes at sea almost impossible.

Back to California and a trickle of disastrous rushes convinced the money men that Stanley should be axed and replaced by veteran director John Frankenheimer. At which point, actor Rob Morrow, who had replaced Val Kilmer in the lead, decided to bail out.

With British actor David Thewlis stepping into the breach, the movie limped ahead, moving into even more bizarre territory when Stanley decided to play the unscripted part of undead director.

Instead of going home after being sacked, Stanley went to ground in the local rainforest, where he met up with a group of crew members who had also been booted off the production. One disgruntled crew member furnished the ex-director with a Dog Man mask taken from the set, which meant that Stanley could adopt deep cover (as one of Moreau's Beast People) and, in effect, play an extra on his own film.

Back on set, he was distressed by what he saw. His original schlock (fields of marijuana, animal sex and a female lead that gets cooked and eaten) had been cut by a chicken- livered studio. Indeed, the bland adventure film that has emerged can never live up to the horrors of its own production.