Stars: Brooke Shields, Christopher Atkins, Leo McKern
Director: Randall Kleiser
Released by – Twilight Time
Limited edition of 3,000 units
Available through www.screenarchives.com
Reviewed by Steven Ruskin
The Blue Lagoon caused created quite a stir when it was released in 1980. Movies about puppy love were usually much tamer than what was being promoted for this film. This was an R rated film about two teenagers running around naked in a tropical paradise that have a baby. Whoa, there. Over the years films like this had been made and they became must see date movies for the then “tween” set. But though there was a good deal of hand holding and even some kissing no one ever had a baby! And they most certainly did not run around naked for most of the picture. This bordered on the salacious, yet many who saw it say it was a very innocent film full of love and beauty. Some were charmed and some were offended. The controversy served to give the film far more publicity than it deserved and drove those ticket sales to make it one of the top ten grossers the year of its release. Other films before The Blue lagoon hit that same audience squarely on the head by pulling its collective heart strings.
Melody (1971) a British film starring the two teen sensations from Oliver (1968) Jack Wild and Mark Lester with Tracy Hyde was a lovely film. Music was provided by The Bee Gees well before their Saturday Night Fever set in. There were some very sweet scenes as the two youngsters rode the railroads into the countryside from the city. The film was known as SWALK – Sealed With A Loving Kiss – in England. 1971 also saw the release of the American Film, Friends. This time out a young boy from England runs away with a French girl. They set up house in a secluded area eventually having a baby and trying to cope with the many complications that follow. Elton John provided the music which became a hit soundtrack album. Friends was a very big hit and had the baby story well before the Blue Lagoon. Clearly puppy love could mean big box office but there was nothing attempted like The Blue Lagoon before. At least according to the publicity surrounding the film. There was a tremendous amount of tease associated with this film. Brooke Shields was 14 years old and the film had an R rating.
The film is based on a 1908 novel, the first part of the Blue Lagoon Trilogy by Henry De Vere Stacpoole. There was an earlier largely forgotten version made in 1949 with Jean Simmons and Donald Houston cast much older as the leads. Randall Kleiser’s last directed film was the immensely successful adaptation of the Broadway musical Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. The Blue lagoon was never intended to have the kind of adolescent awakening or dark edge that the Australian set film, Walkabout (1971) did. In this story set in the early nineteen hundreds two seven years olds are shipwrecked on an island after their schooner catches fire and capsizes. At first they have the lovable old sailor Paddy played with affection by English character actor Leo McKern. He teaches them how to survive and plays dress up games with them. He warns them to never cross to the other side of the island where the boogey man lives. He dies and the two seem to manage just film gorging themselves on fruit, vegetables and fish. They even have a huge two story oceanfront penthouse. One afternoon as the two playfully swim in the beautiful blue lagoon and tease each other they morph from kids into the lithe bodies of two teenagers. It’s a pretty scene.
Just as you’d expect they progress from a bother and sister like relationship into an adolescent sexual tug of war. Less the proceedings get too prurient anytime the couple approaches any kind of lingering affection, Kleiser cuts to the natural beauty of the island paradise. Each caress brings another look at the radiantly colored cockatoo birds or one of the varieties of tropical fish on display. This serves to make it all very sanitized and Disneyfied. Clearly there was a very conscious attempt made to keep things from getting smarmy or untoward. We learn that Ms. Shields used a double for the fleeting nude scenes. In fact if you follow any of the shots with Ms. Shields you’ll see that she is covered or blocked by trees, fawns or Christopher Atkin’s arm or out of focus hair. It’s like an Austin Powers ballet of hide the chest. The times she has to stand upright in full unobstructed view or run around her long thick hair is affixed to her chest with glue and adhesive. Atkins is on display though again everything is done to keep things from getting prurient in any way.
It should be noted that the tropical paradise depicted in the cozy lagoon looks fabulous. Nester Almandros who won the Academy Award for his work on Days of Heaven (1978) works the natural light like a master. Almost the entire film is shot outside. He plays the sunlight and shadows to create a bucolic atmosphere that is stunning. Colors, skin tones and the textures of the water are just breathtaking. However for almost two hours there are just two people in this film and neither one is much of an actor. They look great. The locations in the Fiji Islands are gorgeous. Unfortunately any kind of believability in the story is strained too much. The fair skinned kids never burn just tan. We never see them show any kid of survival skills. They live in a two story jungle penthouse that does not even have any of the rudimentary comforts that Tarzan had. What do they do for days, weeks and years? We see that the people on the other side of the island commit human sacrifices to some stone god yet they never meet and it is a very small island. The couple hears them and their drums clearly though the natives never hear them, not even when Brooke is screaming her head off during childbirth. It is a very idyllic life that they lead. It is purely a fantasy that seems to play more to the dreams of the puppy love crowd than anything else. One gets the feeling that Kleiser has brought his own idealized version of his youthful dreams to bear on this film. It’s a nice daydream; just don’t know that anyone but him would believe it. Still it does look wonderful.
Then ending is very contrived and implausible, but then this film is not about reality. It’s a dream. If one can take it as a sweet adolescent daydream maybe that’s the way to go. Unfortunately the spell gets broken far too often by the poor acting, wafting direction and disappointing script. It’s interesting that most of the puppy love films never seemed to have garnered enough of a reputation to keep them relevant over the years. Even nostalgia has passed them by. Maybe puppy love is just a daydream we had long ago. To be that young, in that kind of doe eyed fascination with a beautiful girl and then to be dragged to the movies – what do you think she wants to see?
1.85:1 The ocean paradise presented in The Blue Lagoon looks fabulous. Colors, skin tones and the lush tropical plant life shot in the Fiji Isalnds all look realistic. Detail is crisp. The vibrant coloring of the birds and various sea creatures is captivating. Nestor Almandros’ cinematography was justly nominated for an Academy award. His use of natural light complements the film wonderfully since the entire movie takes place outdoors. The team of Valerie and Ron Taylor (Jaws) did the underwater scenes. This is a stunning looking disc. Fans of the film will want to bask in its luster.The publicity pictures do not reflect the quality of the Blu-Ray.
5.1 DTS HD. The sole option is an English track that shows up Basil Poledouris’ lush orchestrations. His work here easily fits with the picture postcard perfect photography.
Together with Mr. Almandros they have created what a dreamy perfect tropical paradise could look and sound like.
Twlight Time presents their isolated soundtrack for fans of the film to enjoy on its own. Commentary with the director and Brooke Shields. There is another commentary with the director this time covering the film with Christopher Atkins. We also get a vintage making of featurette, An Adventure in Filmmaking: The Making of The Blue Lagoon. Trailer and teasers.
It is nice to see Twilight Time including some additional extras with their releases. These were ported over from a previous DVD edition and they are a nice addition to their usual exemplary transfers.
On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic
Blu-Ray – Excellent
Movie – Fair