The Blue Lagoon (1980 film)
|The Blue Lagoon|
|Directed by||Randal Kleiser|
|Produced by||Randal Kleiser|
|Screenplay by||Douglas Day Stewart|
|Based on||The Blue Lagoon|
by Henry De Vere Stacpoole
|Music by||Basil Poledouris|
|Edited by||Robert Gordon|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$58.8 million (North America)|
The Blue Lagoon is a 1980 American romantic survival drama film directed by Randal Kleiser from a screenplay written by Douglas Day Stewart based on the 1908 novel of the same name by Henry De Vere Stacpoole. The film stars Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins. The music score was composed by Basil Poledouris and the cinematography was by Néstor Almendros.
The film tells the story of two young children marooned on a tropical island paradise in the South Pacific. With neither the guidance nor the restrictions of society, emotional and physical changes arise as they reach puberty and fall in love.
The Blue Lagoon was theatrically released on June 20, 1980 by Columbia Pictures. The film was panned by the critics, who disparaged its screenplay, execution, and Shields' performance; however, Almendros' cinematography received praise. In spite of the criticism, the film was a commercial success, grossing over $58 million on a $4.5 million budget and becoming the ninth-highest-grossing film of 1980 in North America. The film was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, Almendros received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and Atkins was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor. Shields won the inaugural Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress for her work in the film.
In the late Victorian period, two young cousins, 9-year-old Richard (Glenn Kohan as Young Richard) and 7-year-old Emmeline Lestrange (Elva Josephson as Young Emmeline), and a galley cook, Paddy Button (Leo McKern), survive a shipwreck in the South Pacific and reach a lush tropical island. Paddy cares for the children and forbids them by "Law" from going to the other side of the island, as he had found remains from bloody human sacrifices on an altar there. He also warns them against eating the deadly scarlet berries. Paddy later dies after a drunken binge. Now alone, the children go to another part of the island and rebuild their home.
When Richard and Emmeline become teenagers, they begin to fall in love. The experience is stressful for them because of their lack of education on human sexuality. Emmeline is frightened by her first menstrual period; she refuses to allow Richard to inspect her for what he imagines is a wound. When Richard becomes physically attracted to Emmeline, she does not reciprocate his feelings; Richard responds to the situation by hiding from Emmeline and masturbating.
A ship appears for the first time in years, but Emmeline does not light the signal fire. As a result, the ship passes by without noticing them. When Richard angrily confronts Emmeline about her failure, she asserts—to Richard's disbelief—that the island is their home now and that they should remain there.
Emmeline secretly ventures to the forbidden side of the island and sees the altar. She associates the blood on the altar with the blood of Christ's crucifixion, concludes that the altar is God, and tries to persuade Richard to go to the other side of the island to pray with her. Richard is shocked at the idea of breaking the Law, and a heated exchange ensues. Emmeline reveals that she knows about Richard's masturbation and threatens to tell her Uncle Arthur about it. They throw coconuts at each other, and one coconut hits Richard on the head.
Emmeline accidentally steps on a venomous stonefish. Sick and weak, she pleads with Richard to "take her to God." Richard carries her to the other side of the island and places her on the altar, offering a prayer. Emmeline recovers and Richard admits his fear of losing her. After Emmeline regains her ability to walk, the two go skinny dipping in the lagoon and then swim to shore. Still naked, Richard and Emmeline discover sexual intercourse, becoming lovers. As a result, Emmeline becomes pregnant.
Months later, Richard is left alone and hears a sound from afar and goes directly to the other side of the island. One night, in hiding, he discovers a group of natives from very distant islands performing a ritual in front of the statue as a ceremony, during which they kill a captured enemy native. Richard becomes frightened and runs away to find Emmeline. Richard and Emmeline are stunned when they feel the baby move inside her and assume that it is her stomach causing the movements. Emmeline gives birth to a baby boy, whom they name Paddy.
A ship led by Richard's father, Arthur (William Daniels), approaches the island and sees the family playing on the shore. When they notice the ship, Richard and Emmeline walk away instead of signaling for help, content with their lives. As they are covered in mud, their appearance is difficult to determine, and Arthur assumes that they are natives.
One day, the family takes the lifeboat to visit their original homesite. Richard searches for bananas, leaving Emmeline and Paddy with the boat. Emmeline does not notice when Paddy brings a branch of the scarlet berries into the boat. Emmeline and Paddy slowly drift away, and Paddy tosses one of the oars out of the boat. Unable to reach the oar, Emmeline shouts to Richard and he swims to her, followed closely by a shark. Emmeline throws the other oar at the shark, striking it and giving Richard time to get into the boat. The boat is caught in the current and drifts out to sea.
After drifting for days, Richard and Emmeline awake to find Paddy eating the berries he had picked. Hopeless, Richard and Emmeline eat the berries as well, lying down to await death. A few hours later, Arthur's ship finds them. Arthur asks, "Are they dead?" The captain (Gus Mercurio) answers, "No, sir. They're asleep".
- Brooke Shields as Emmeline Lestrange
- Elva Josephson as Young Emmeline
- Christopher Atkins as Richard Lestrange
- Glenn Kohan as Young Richard
- Bradley Pryce as Little Paddy Lestrange
- Chad Timmermans as Infant Paddy
- Leo McKern as Paddy Button
- William Daniels as Arthur Lestrange
- Alan Hopgood as Captain
- Gus Mercurio as Officer
The film was a passion project of Randal Kleiser, who had long admired the original novel. He hired Douglas Day Stewart, who had written The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, to write the script and met up with Richard Franklin, the Australian director, who was looking for work in Hollywood. This gave him the idea to use an Australian crew, which Franklin helped supervise.
The film was shot at Nanuya Levu, a privately owned island in Fiji. The flora and fauna featured in the film includes an array of animals from multiple continents, including a species of iguana hitherto unknown to biologists. This was discovered by herpetologist John Gibbons, who after watching the film and traveling to the island where the iguana was filmed, described the Fiji crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis) in 1981.
Shields was 14 years of age when she appeared in the film. All of her nude scenes were performed by the film's 32-year-old stunt coordinator, Kathy Troutt. Shields did many of her topless scenes with her hair glued to her breasts. Atkins was 18 when the movie was filmed, and he performed his own nude scenes (which included brief frontal nudity).
The Blue Lagoon was panned by critics. It holds a score of 8% on Rotten Tomatoes out of 24 reviews. The critical consensus reads: "A piece of lovely dreck, The Blue Lagoon is a naughty fantasy that's also too chaste to be truly entertaining." Among the more common criticisms were the ludicrously idyllic portrayal of how children would develop outside of civilized society, the unfulfilled buildup of the island's natives as a climactic threat and the way the film, while teasing a prurient appeal, conspicuously obscures all sexual activities. Roger Ebert gave the film 1½ stars out of 4, claiming that it "could conceivably have been made interesting, if any serious attempt had been made to explore what might really happen if two 7-year-old kids were shipwrecked on an island. But this isn't a realistic movie. It's a wildly idealized romance, in which the kids live in a hut that looks like a Club Med honeymoon cottage, while restless natives commit human sacrifice on the other side of the island." He also deemed the ending a blatant cop-out. He and Gene Siskel selected the film as one of their "dogs of the year" in a 1980 episode of Sneak Previews. Time Out commented that the film "was hyped as being about 'natural love'; but apart from 'doing it in the open air', there is nothing natural about two kids (unfettered by the bonds of society from their early years) subscribing to marriage and traditional role-playing." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post similarly called the film "a picturesque rhapsody to Learning Skills, Playing House, Going Swimming, Enjoying the Scenery and Starting to Feel Sexy in tropical seclusion." He particularly ridiculed the lead characters' persistent inability to make obvious inferences. Metacritic gave the film a score of 31, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Awards and honors
- Main awards
- 1st Golden Raspberry Award
- 1980 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards
- Young Artist Awards
- Nominee: Best Major Motion Picture – Family Entertainment
- Nominee: Best Young Motion Picture Actor – Christopher Atkins
- Nominee: Best Young Motion Picture Actress – Brooke Shields
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
Versions and adaptations
The Blue Lagoon was based on Henry De Vere Stacpoole's novel of the same name, which first appeared in 1908. The first film adaptation of the book was the British silent 1923 film of that name. There was another British adaptation in 1949.
The Special Edition DVD, with both widescreen and fullscreen versions, was released on October 5, 1999. Its special features include the theatrical trailer, the original featurette, a personal photo album by Brooke Shields, audio commentary by Randal Kleiser and Christopher Atkins, and another commentary by Randal Kleiser, Douglas Day Stewart and Brooke Shields. The film was re-released in 2005 as part of a two-pack with its sequel, Return to the Blue Lagoon.
A limited edition Blu-ray Disc of the film was released on December 11, 2012 by Twilight Time. Special features on the Blu-ray include an isolated score track, original trailer, three original teasers, a behind the scenes featurette called An Adventure in Filmmaking: The Making of The Blue Lagoon, as well as audio commentary by Randal Kleiser, Douglas Day Stewart and Brooke Shields and a second commentary by Randal Kleiser and Christopher Atkins.
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