Though some consider The Blue Lagoon one of the worst movies ever made, it isn't that execrable. Gorgeously photographed (by Nestor Almendros) with an almost painfully lovely Brooke Shields in the lead, the picture is oddly engaging.
That saying, it is also often, quite stupid, quizzically aimed and lamely acted-- and not by the more famous Shields who became the first ever "Winner" of a Worst Actress RAZZIE Award — it's Christopher Atkins who stinks up the isle.
The picture, released in 1980, was rated R but geared towards children as a learning entertainment to understand sex. OK…But then, after watching The Blue Lagoon, the child angle is not entirely ridiculous. The sexuality of the picture is decidedly demure with nudity (by Ms. Shields' body double) mostly consisting of beautiful underwater shots and fornication via kissing, rolling in the sand and waking up the next morning smiling. Nevertheless, this is an R-rated movie and adults, perhaps some perverted adults, must have ventured into theaters to watch 15-year old Brooke and her glued-to-her-breasts hair. If this movie was aimed for the family, there's no reason it could have abstained from nudity—you barely see any in the first place. And the kids, at no point, learn the words "fuck" whilst living on their island paradise.
So again, who the hell is this movie for? Director Randal Kleiser, who also made Grease, adapted (with screenwriter Douglas Day Stewart) the movie from loftier sources. Based on a 1903 novel by Henry Devere Stacpoole, the story has two young, shipwrecked kids living on an island with a craggy old sailor. The sailor teaches them all the Gilligan's Island stuff—like making a cool hut, catching fish, and gathering fruit—that kind of thing. When he dies, they are left to their own devices but are just fine, even when "the boogeyman" on the other side of the island frighten them. Since they were around seven years old when shipwrecked, they learned little of adult ways. And since the sailor didn't teach them about things like, uh, menstrual periods, they have to come across their burgeoning adulthood with wonder and horror. And of course they will start having sex. But not after lame comments like, "Why are you staring at me?" Answer: "Because you have muscles." Or, when I think of you "I get funny in the stomach."
Now I understand they are essentially teenage children attempting to understand why hair is growing in strange places, but given the acting talent of the leads, the film should have relied more on showing and not saying. And yet, there are moments here that are potentially fascinating. I'm not going to spoil the ending, but it's interestingly dark for a film like this. Also, the entire concept is a good one. But it should have been layered with more problems of understanding their world and growing beyond sex and babies and civilization. The sexuality would have been the easiest thing to figure out.
So it is with dismay that this film, which was not well received, would spawn a sequel—and a sequel 11 years later. Return to the Blue Lagoon has even worse intentions than the first movie (and I don't really think The Blue Lagoon had entirely prurient interests, even if underage Pretty Baby star Shields was the hot ticket at the time).
Return, directed by William A Graham, stars two similarly tanned beautiful kids (Milla Jovovich and Brian Krause) who also are left to reside alone on an island. But get this, the young boy is actually the son of the original Lagoon couple and after a ship is poisoned with the plague he, another young female child and her mother must row out to a remote island to escape infection. Here's the convenient part—it's the same island as The Blue Lagoon (hence, "Return") and they find the same hut.
The woman tending the kids is much more refined than the pirate of the original film, so they learn more about the world. They also make things like silverware out of shells. But she dies, leaves them alone and again, they will have to understand their oncoming adulthood all by their lonesome. We even get another menstrual period scene only, Milla doesn't have the advantage of bleeding in the water, she wakes up to a soiled loincloth.
The bigger difference in Return is when a boat finds the island and a group lives with the couple, intending to send them off to San Francisco. Milla gets a female rival in a pretty Victorian girl who's got the hots for the man she "mates" with (yes, yes, they've already gotten down to doing it—though this film is PG-13). And one of the crew has the hots for Milla, if only for stealing her "beads" (which are in fact, pearls) and desiring to rape her.
Pregnancy, and other non-surprises (especially if you've watched the original film directly before this one) await in a movie that's interesting solely for the comely Jovovich who's so insanely stunning, its best just to focus on her over any of the island scenery. Really, this was probably the only reason the film was even made. Thank goodness she went on to other things. The director, incidentally, directed the respected TV movie, Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones the same year as the original Blue Lagoon. I highly doubt he thought he'd be making the sequel eleven years later.
Columbia/Tri Star presents The Blue Lagoon. in Widescreen Anamorphic (1.85.:1) or Full Screen (1.33:1). The transfer is incredibly vivid, with the blues of the water and greens of the island popping out gloriously. It does not look dated. Return to the Blue Lagoon is presented in Full Screen (1.33:1) with similar results. A lovely transfer.
Both audio comes in 2.0 Dolby Surround. There are no problems here; you can listen to both Brooke and Milla's frequently atrocious dialogue quite nicely.
Extra's on The Blue Lagoon include two audio commentary tracks, one with Kleiser, Stewart and Shields herself. I have to give credit to Shields for standing by the picture and admitting that she hadn't even had her period yet when she shot that famous scene. The other track has Kleiser and Atkins, an actor discussing his very first role and how much he learned while making the movie. Both tracks are odd, and kind of sad, but interesting for the pride all of these people take in the project. Also on board is Shields' personal photo album, talent files and the original featurette about the making of the film. For Return, the extras are less plentiful, meaning, no extras.
When watching these movies side by side, The Blue Lagoon remains superior if not for Nestor Almendros' cinematography (the brilliant artist was the DP for Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven and Monte Hellman's Cockfighter for chrissakes) and his underwater shots showing the kids growing up are inventive and dazzling. But both are essentially pretty curios for the adolescent or attracted-to-the-adolescent set.
Read more Kim Morgan at her blog Sunset Gun