The Blue Lagoon

Before the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, there was…
Released:
1980

Director: Randal Kleiser

Starring: Brooke Shields, Christopher Atkins, Leo McKern

The Setup:

Boy and girl are stranded on deserted isle. They grow up and discover “natural love.”

Discussion:

Me and my friend were dying to see this for ages, but it kept getting put off for things like The Main Event or Norman, Is That You?, so we finally decided that we really need to make this the priority. This also completes my exploration of Christopher Atkins’ major oeuvre [he’s still working today, by the way], which also includes The Pirate Movie and A Night in Heaven, which I always remember quite fondly. I need to see that Dracula movie he’s in. Anyway, both of us had seen this when it was out in the theater, and not since. I had forgotten EVERYTHING about it except the crab that comes out of the dead sailor’s mouth [which was the first time I had seen that and it totally scarred me], and the whole social controversy that surrounded the movie.

Anyway, the trailer [which we watched first] announces that this is “a sensuous story of natural love.” The phrase “natural love” gets a lot of play in the movie and all its associated materials, and it seems like a somewhat loaded phrase to me. For example, would it still be “natural love” if me and Hulk Hogan grew up on an island together? Somehow I suspect not.

So the film begins in the south seas where baby Brooke and Chris are traveling with Chris’ dad. It seems that Brooke’s mom and dad are dead, and she’s being raised as the sister of her cousin Chris. They find and look through the nudie pictures of the ship’s cook Paddy, the first of many pictures we’ll see that express traditional modes of hetero courtship in contrast with the “natural love” of Brooke and Chris. Anyway, all of a sudden the ship is on fire, and there’s gunpowder in the hold, so the captain orders Paddy to get the kids away from the ship. It seems the Dad gets in another boat like seconds later, so I don’t know why they couldn’t go together, but if they did I guess we’d have no story, huh? Anyway, SUDDEN FOGBANK! Which in retrospect is a bit ridiculous [it was clear and sunny like one second before], and the kids get separated from the father, who was also like 40 feet away a second before, and the sea looks pretty calm. The fogbank also saves money on having to show the ship explode, for here we only hear the sound, and someone offscreen obviously chucks a bunch of “debris” at the boat in a manner not that much different from the plane explosion from I Eat Your Skin. This sequence brought to mind, by way of contrast, the superbly-handled fire and shipwreck that begins The Black Stallion.

So the kids and Paddy float for a few days though seemingly without being affected by sunburn. I actually found this part fairly effective, especially as the wholly naïve kids keep kidding around, not understanding what happened to them, and start saying “I’m thirsty,” as though Paddy could just turn around to the cooler and hand them a juice box. During this time we have what must be “Orchestral Suite from The Blue Lagoon,” because the massively loud, overbearing music starts pounding the simple beauty of nature into our heads. This began to drive me crazy as the film alternates between tiny, quiet conversations between its characters and SUPER FUCKING LOUD orchestral music. I swear, I could sue the DVD makers for damage to my volume button, which I had to ride like a coked-up bronco buster up and down and up and down throughout the entire movie.

Eventually they wash up on an island, along with a bunch of debris from their ship, including a cask of rum and a bunch of stereoscopic photographs. These photos show images all centered on sex, courtship, marriage and birth, and are used throughout the movie to comment on the action. The kids are quite fond of running around nude, nature’s children that they are, and Paddy tells them “you can’t be running around naked all the time!” Paddy very considerately waits until the kids are fully trained in all arts of island survival and self-sufficiency before cracking open that cask of rum [we only ever see one], getting drunk and swimming out to sea. I found the image of him swimming out to sea pretty frightening, especially as the kids have no idea what’s happening. The next day the kids find him all dead [with the aforementioned crab in mouth], and realize they’re alone.

From here it’s not too long before they are swimming one day and suddenly turn into teenagers, whereupon we are treated to some considerable Atkins cock. Brooke’s nudity is handled by a body double. Once they’re teenagers the movie wastes NO time in getting right to the sexual content, with Brooke asking Chris if he’s had “Thoughts… about you and me.” You think it’s going to start barreling ahead from here, but it starts slowing down a bit and it’s quite a while before they hop in the sack together. First Brooke gets her period, and not long after her staring at Chris and “his muscles” becomes more obvious. Then Chris discovers masturbation. Then Brooke is mocking Chris’ spear-fishing skills and Chris jokingly says “I’ll spear YOU.” Then they go for a very glowy swim [I think this is supposed to be the sea’s phosphoresce, sometimes seen at night (though I thought more in the deeper ocean), though when this first happens in the movie one’s first thought is: ‘what is this? Are they on hallucinogenic drugs?’]. Then she gets sick [on screen: a fish. Me: “Oh my God, she steps on the fish!” On screen: she steps on the fish. My friend: “Don’t RUIN IT!”]. Then she gets better. Finally they start playing the hokey-pokey. Then we know she’s pregnant. Then she has the baby [which she goes off way into the jungle to do].

All this time there has been considerable nudity and abundant “sensuality” [that means fucking, just really slow]. A large amount of the content of this movie is just how gorgeous both of the leads are, and a fair amount of it does touch its toe to the line that separates “sensuality” from “pornography,” which can make one feel a little funny, and not just on one’s tingly bits. Suffice to say, if you find it difficult to locate opportunities to view underage flesh of both sexes in legal forums, this movie may be for you. My friend saw this whole sheen about how the both of them are drifting away from traditional religion, but I didn’t see that so much, although my ears did perk up when her first menstruation is accompanied by her first sense of shame [“Don’t look at me!”], and how she automatically goes way deep into the jungle to have her baby. But although the film is very evocative of a lot of things, no overarching statement about men and women comes out… except maybe that in a “natural” state they don’t have as rigid roles as we do. Who knows.

It is well-known that Brooke’s hair was pasted to her boobs for this movie, and if you know that before you watch, you cannot stop noticing it. It’s especially apparent when there’s a strong wind and her hair is flying about everywhere—except the hair obviously pasted to [and often conforming to] her tits. Speaking of tits, please don’t miss the moment when Brooke is nursing and Chris stops by to sample some as well.

SPOILERS > > >
At the very end they are playing on the shore in the mud when Chris’ father, who has been searching the area [for how long? Years?] spies them. But they’re covered with mud, so he says “No, it couldn’t possibly be them,” which seems a bit odd, as, what else are you doing out here? Why not check it out? Maybe because of the mud he thought they were dark-skinned natives. Anyway, soon enough their boat is drifting out to the ocean [though—this was bugging me the whole movie—they barely pulled it up on shore ever and it never drifted away before] with them in it, and they can’t get the oar back because the world’s fakest-looking shark is in the water [seriously, it had a rounded dorsal fin], so it’s bye-bye island. They drift for several days, again seemingly impervious to the sun or elements. Then their son eats the berries they were told way back when would kill him, and they both decide to kill themselves, so they eat the berries, too. Then the father finds them, wondering if they’re dead or not, but no, they’re just sleeping. The end.
< < < SPOILERS END

Overall I generally liked it. It certainly remained interesting throughout [and was more interesting than I expected it to be]. I liked how the two remained uneducated, like children, most notable in a scene when they’re trying to sing Christmas carols, but only remember a few snippets of each song. A similar thing happens later when Chris is trying to utter a prayer. The rest of the movie does succeed in remaining evocative and intriguing even though there is very little actual plot and almost no goal to achieve, we just watch them grow up and watch their maturity and love grow. I liked that there was almost nothing more to it than that, so we’re left to fill in our own thoughts about what it all means and what’s going to happen, rather than having a framework and viewpoint imposed from without. Except the viewpoint that this represents a completely pure, “natural” love, which is fairly hammered down your throat.

The director of this movie also directed the classic TV movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, as well as Grease [!!!] , and Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. There is an “original featurette” on the DVD, which means it was made at the time of release. The sound on it is so terrible the whole thing seems like it was found in someone’s attic. We find out that the novel this was adapted from was released in 1918, and that there was an earlier adaptation from 1948. I would be interested in seeing a modern featurette on it from the present day, with Brooke and Chris and the director reflecting on the “phenomena” that surrounded the movie and what they think about it now. But no such luck.

Hmmm, I can’t think of a pithy closer.

Should you watch it?

If you like seeing nubile young bodies of both sexes, and are interested in this concept of “natural love.”

RELATED FILMS:
WALKABOUT, with its exploration of a young brother and sister wandering lost in the Australian outback, was an obvious influence on this film.

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