The Blue Lagoon (1980 film)
|The Blue Lagoon|
Promotional film poster
|Directed by||Randal Kleiser|
|Produced by||Randal Kleiser|
|Screenplay by||Douglas Day Stewart|
The Blue Lagoon|
by Henry De Vere Stacpoole
|Music by||Basil Poledouris|
|Edited by||Robert Gordon|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$58,853,106 (U.S. and Canada only)|
The Blue Lagoon is a 1980 American romantic survival drama film directed by Randal Kleiser and filmed on the Blue Lagoon in Malta and on Turtle Island in Fiji. The screenplay by Douglas Day Stewart was 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 feelings and physical changes arise as they reach puberty and fall in love.
The film contained a substantial amount of sexual content, and Shields was depicted as nude in many of the scenes. This was controversial, as she was 14 years old at the time of the filming. A body double was used for all of her nude scenes and in frontal shots her breasts were always covered by her long hair or in other ways. The film was overwhelmingly panned by critics, who found the portrayal of the characters' situation to be idyllic to the point of being implausible and dull.
In the early Victorian period, two children, Richard (Glenn Kohan) and Emmeline Lestrange (Elva Josephson), 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 found remains from bloody human sacrifices on an altar. He also warns them against eating a deadly scarlet berry.
Paddy dies after a drunken binge. Now alone, the children go to another part of the island and rebuild their home.
Years pass and they grow into tall, strong teenagers. They live in their hut, spending their days fishing, swimming and diving for pearls. Richard and Emmeline (now portrayed by Christopher Atkins and Brooke Shields) begin to fall in love. This 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. Richard becomes physically attracted to Emmeline but she does not reciprocate his feelings, inciting Richard to go off alone and masturbate.
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 this, she tells him that the island is their home now and they should stay, to Richard's disbelief.
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. She comes to the conclusion 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. They insult each other and Emmeline reveals she knows about his masturbating, and threatens to tell her Uncle Arthur about it. They throw coconuts at each other, and she hits him on the head. Following the fight, Richard kicks Emmeline out of their hut.
Emmeline accidentally steps on a 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 to God. Emmeline recovers and Richard admits to his fear of losing her.
After Emmeline regains her ability to walk, they go skinny dipping in the lagoon and then swim to shore. Still naked, Richard and Emmeline discover sexual intercourse and passionate love. They regularly make love from then on. Emmeline becomes pregnant. Richard and Emmeline are stunned when they feel the baby move inside her and assume it is her stomach causing the movements.
Emmeline gives birth to a baby boy, whom they name Paddy. Emmeline holds him and learns how to feed him as the baby instinctively starts suckling. The young parents teach Paddy how to swim, fish and build things.
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, they 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 they are natives.
One day, the family takes the lifeboat to visit their original homesite. Richard goes off and finds bananas for them, leaving Emmeline and Paddy at 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. 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. They are unable to retrieve the oars without risking a shark attack. They paddle with their hands to no avail; 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 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
- Chad Timmermans as Infant Paddy
- Leo McKern as Paddy Button
- William Daniels as Arthur Lestrange
- Alan Hopgood as Captain
- Gus Mercurio as Officer
The movie was a passion project of Randal Kleiser, who had long admired the original novel. He hired Douglas Day Stewart, who had written 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 in Jamaica and Nanuya Levu, a privately owned island in Fiji. The flora and fauna featured in the film includes an array of animals from multiple continents. As it turned out, the iguanas filmed on Fiji were a species hitherto unknown to biologists; this was noted by the herpetologist John Gibbons when he watched the film, and after traveling to the island where the iguanas were filmed, he described the Fiji crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis) in 1981. The blue lagoon scenes were shot in Comino Island, Malta and Champagne Bay, Vanuatu.
All of Brooke Shields' nude scenes were in fact done by the film's 32-year-old stunt coordinator, Kathy Troutt. Brooke Shields did many of her topless scenes with her hair glued to her breasts.
The Blue Lagoon was panned by critics. It holds a score of 9% on Rotten Tomatoes out of 22 reviews. 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 and body parts. 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.
Awards and honors
- Main awards
- 1st Golden Raspberry Award
- 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 by 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 1980 version includes much more nudity and sex scenes than the 1949 version, though far less than the book.
The sequel Return to the Blue Lagoon (1991) loosely picks up where The Blue Lagoon left off, except that Richard and Emmeline are found dead in the boat. Their son is rescued. As Paddy's name is unknown to his rescuers, he is renamed Richard, after his father.
The movie was briefly parodied in a flashback scene of the movie Top Secret! (1984). The Quantum Leap episode "Leaping of the Shrew" guest-starred Brooke Shields, and was about a young man and woman marooned on a deserted island. It was also parodied in the movie Going Berserk (1983) when John Candy reveals his recurring nightmare inspired by the movie. The end of the dream spoofs Christopher Atkins' masturbation scene when Candy is spotted masturbating by the jeering passengers of a ship that happens to pass by.
On December 9, 2011, the cable TV network Lifetime greenlit the television film Blue Lagoon: The Awakening. It premiered on the channel on June 16, 2012. Atkins appears in the 2012 film as one of the teachers on the ship-borne field trip where Emma and Dean are lost at sea and end up on an island.
DVD and Blu-ray
The Special Edition DVD, with both widescreen and full-screen 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.
- The Blue Lagoon (1923 film)
- The Blue Lagoon (1949 film)
- Return to the Blue Lagoon
- Blue Lagoon: The Awakening, A lifetime television movie
- State of nature
- Martin Popplewell, an English journalist who was inspired by The Blue Lagoon to intentionally strand himself and his lover on a desert island at age 15.
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