Two young cousins survive a shipwreck with the help of an old sailor. The castaways find a gorgeous island and the old man teaches the young kids survival techniques. After the sailor dies, the kids grow into adolescence and discover love and sex.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Almost everyone has heard of the 1980s film adaptation of Henry De Vere Stacpoole’s 1908 novel The Blue Lagoon, starring Brooke Shields (Endless Love) and Christopher Atkins (The Pirate Movie). This nearly-forgotten British adaptation of the turn-of-the-century novel is very similar to its ’80s counterpart. And both movies are technically proficient, good-looking films with likable actors.
Directed by Frank Launder (The Belles of St. Trinian’s), this British Blue Lagoon is every bit as sensual as the famous American version. In fact, I was a bit surprised that the movie was approved by the censors of the time. There is, of course, no nudity, but the filmmakers don’t do much to hide what’s really happening on the island.
It’s clear that these youngsters spend all their time having sex, which eventually results in a pregnancy. Ah, horror, horror, horror! They aren’t even married! (there IS a “mock wedding,” a silly attempt to appease moralists). The Blue Lagoon parallels the Biblical story of Adam & Eve — there is even a forbidden fruit — so I’m assuming that the censors felt that anything inspired by the Bible must be okay.
Jean Simmons (Spartacus) and Donald Houston (Room at the Top) play the teenagers (Marilyn Monroe and Roger Moore were among the actors who auditioned for the roles!). Simmons and Houston are very good at suggesting sexual desire. A look, a smile, a gesture, Simmons and Houston work hard to clue you in on what’s going on. Simmons, in particular, is very effective at acting with her eyes. Cyril Cusack (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) has a small role as a villainous sailor.
It’s too bad that I couldn’t fully appreciate the film’s biggest asset, Geoffrey Unsworth’s (2001: A Space Odyssey and Cabaret) exquisite Technicolor cinematography. The print I saw was in much need of restoration (the snapshots were taken directly from an old YouTube print). There is also the then practice of combining studio footage with outdoor scenes that worked against the movie — the transitions are poorly done.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
As I said before, this Blue Lagoon is very similar to the remake. Actually, this is a remake too. Henry De Vere Stacpoole’s novel was first filmed in 1923 (apparently, the silent version has been lost forever). Taking into consideration the huge popularity of the 1980 movie, I’m not sure why the 1949 version isn’t more readily available — it’s a good movie that deserves to be rediscovered. Color, 101 minutes, Not Rated.