The ghastly Spectres which were doomed at last
To tell as true a tale of dangers past,
As ever the dark annals of the deep
Disclosed for man to dread or woman weep.
-- The Island, Lord Byron
In 1960, while on a scouting journey for locations for Mutiny On The Bounty, Marlon Brando visits the atoll Tetiaroa and falls in love with the former home of Tahitian royalty. Two years later, Brando marries his second Mutiny co-star, Tarita Teriipia, who played his Polynesian wife in the film and purchases Tetiaroa for $200,000 with the intention of making it his home. Little did Brando know what his island paradise would bring he and his visitors, for in acting, one not only brings himself to a role, but the role can transform the actor's real personality, permenantly -- a most dangerous game for friends and family of the 'Godfather' and 'Colonel Kurtz'.
Aleister Crowley's godson, Donald Cammell's "swingin' sixties" gangster turn rockstar psychedelic mind-control epic Performance (1970) impresses Brando and influences his descison to cross the line with his 70s triumvirate of The Godfather, Last Tango in Paris and Apocalpse Now. Brando had met Cammell in 1959 through the french actor/director Christian Marquand (and Brando's son's namesake) and the two struck up a lifelong friendship.
Donald Cammell as Osirus in Kenneth Anger's "Lucifer Rising" (1972)
Co-Starring with Donald Cammell in Lucifer Rsing as Isis, Myriam Gibril would also star in Cammell's short The Argument (above) filmed in 1972 by master cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (and unfinshed until 1999.) Isis Myriam would also snap this telling shot of Cammell, Dennis Hopper, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Kenneth Anger:
Cammell and Brando's friendship would (temporarily) fall out over Cammell's romance with China Kong, the teenage daughter of Brando's longtime mistress, Anita Loo. In the interim, Brando, by then (and in continuim) undirecitable, stars in The Missouri Breaks as a ridiculously-accented dandy poet assassin, a role he would maintain for the rest of his life.
In the meantime, Donald Cammell directs Demon Seed, a troubled science-fiction production starring Julie Christie, raped and impregnated by her husband's computer system:
In 1978, after marrying China, Cammell is forgiven by Brando and the two retire to Brando's island for a months-to-years collaboration on the production of Fan Tan, a South Seas romantic adventure starring a Brando-like pirate (somewhat based on his Missouri Breaks persona) and a China-like anti-hero.
Brando employs Cammell to write a novel based on first third of Fan Tan, but the work remains unpublished until both of their deaths, with Brando registering his own screenplay version as late as 1993.
In 1987, Donald and China Cammell collaborate on White Of The Eye, a mystical serial killer divorce comedy which impresses Brando enough to hire Cammell again, this time to work on his thriller concept Jericho, in which Brando would play an exiled CIA assassin prompted back into action to kill everyone he knows. After 18-months' production, Jericho is scrapped just four days from shooting because Brando claims he can't get insurance.
While Brando returns to the screen with A Dry White Season in which he plays a South African human rights lawyer, Cammell returns to his cabin in the Hollywood Hills and work on 'unfilmable' screenplays like his adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire.
As Brando signs on to writer-director Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau project, his personal life takes a turn for the worse. Son Chirstian Brando, shoots and kills Dag Drollet, Tahitian lover of half-sister Cheyenne in the Brando home on Mullholland Drive. A distraught Cheyenne would hang herself in her mother's home in Tahiti five years later, just as Marlon begins shooting Dr. Moreau on an island off of Australia.
Richard Stanley's filmography eerily resembles Donald Cammell's, having directed both a killer robot movie (Hardware (1990)) and a mystical serial killer divorce comedy set in a desert (Dust Devil (1992)). Both Cammell and Stanley have a history of troubled productions either abandoned in pre-production or suffering corporate intevention, and like Brando, Stanley incorporates elements of his creative work into his private life, adopting the wide-brimmed-hatted "Walking Man" archetype of his Dust Devil into his personal persona.
Four days into shooting Dr. Moreau, Stanley would be relieved of his director's position by a nervous studio and replaced by John Frankenheimer, verteran of 1960s mind-control lynchpins The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds. While Frankenheimer would make a mess of Moreau, throwing out the screenplay by Stanley and Michael Herr (Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket) in favor of improvising to whims of studio and ego-mad stars Val Kilmer and Brando.
To his credit, immediately after being fired from The Island, Stanley turns his life into a far more interesting story than the eventual movie. As he told Fangoria magazine, Stanley, burning all production notes and disappearing into the jungle, met up with other rogue, discharged employees, then staged a reconnaisance mission back onto the set, disguised as one of the half-man, half-beast creatures.
While Stanley would retreat into a production limbo in which he still exists today, Donald Cammell. distraught over studio butchery of his final production Wild Side, shoots himself in the head in Hollywood, however staying lucid and in a state of ecstasy for 40 minutes or so before dying.
Brando would live on for another decade before leaving his son Teihotu Brando as sole inhabitant of Tetiaroa, which he plans to turn into an 'eco resort' seen in the promotional video below: