director Richard Stanley
Richard Stanley may not be Orson Welles, but he knows all too well what it is to have his film taken from him hacked and compromised. Even worse, as documented in Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014), he’s entirely lost total control, been fired, and more or less quit the film-making process. So, by comparison, his much chopped up 1992 flick, Dust Devil, still bears some of his personal touch.
Considering Dust Devil and Stanley’s prior film, 1990’s Hardware, it’s hard not to think that the movies really missed a lot of possibility when he quit directing. Not that I blame him.
One can only speculate what any version of Stanley’s “director’s cut” of the film would look like. I watched the much compromised version available on Netflix (running at about 87 minutes and cropped to pan-and-scan.) I’d actually set to watch this before but balked at the compromised picture.
It’s a strange picture at that. Shot in Namibia, it’s a bit of an African spiritual interpretation of a serial killer, a spirit from someplace else trapped in our world, collecting the fingers of the deceased, seeking a way back from whence he came. He’s a white man (Robert John Burke), good-looking, wearing a duster jacket, traipsing the roads, finding victims. He meets Wendy (Chelsea Field), a woman on the run from her husband, possibly suicidal. He is hunted by a cop, Zakes Mokae, a modern African non-believer in the spiritual side of this mystery, though he consults another man, John Matshikiza who tells him the supernatural aspects of things.
It’s an interesting concept for a film, invoking of the African spiritual/supernatural. Often in a film where some ancient or exotic story is hidden from a detective, it’s a white man delving into an “other” culture. One of the film’s interesting characteristics is twisting this. As well as the mixed message and morality as the story plays out.
Here’s hoping that Stanley can get a distribution for his version of the film. He was clearly someone with interesting ideas (and a penchant for some good practical visual FX when called upon) and it would be cool to see more.