The Blue Lagoon (1980) is so very close to the book, Blue Lagoon: A Romance,
written in 1907 by H. de Vere Stacpoole and published in January 1908. The
actual book is on the Internet and the dialog in the movie is faithful to
Some dismiss the movie as trivial. However, consider this. Brooke Christa
Shields was 14 years old (born 1966) when she played Emmeline LeStrange.
She had already appeared in 12 prior films. Christopher Atkins was making
his movie debut at the age of 18 years (born 1962) playing Emmeline's
cousin, Richard LeStrange (referred in the book by the diminutive name,
Dicky LeStrange). In the book, Emmeline is 8 years old and Dicky is 8 years
"and a bit" when the story starts.
Emmeline's father died before she was born. Two years later her mother
died. Her uncle and father's brother, Arthur LeStrange, (veteran actor
William Daniels) took guardianship of Emmeline in Boston. Mr. LeStrange
purchased a small estate in Los Angeles and was in route by clipper ship to
San Francisco around South America. The ship, named Northcumberland, had
departed from New Orleans bound for San Francisco. Having rounded the Cape
of South America and going off course during a calm, a fire breaks out in
the hull of the ship.
The cook, Paddy Button, played expertly by veteran Australian actor Leo
McKern took Emmeline and Dicky aboard a dinghy launch and attempted to row a
safe distance away from the ship before it exploded from gunpowder stored on
board. Mr. LeStrange and ships' compliment were separated in the fog from
Paddy, Emmeline, and Dicky after the ship blew up. Mr. Button and the
children drifted in the South Pacific Ocean for about three days and nights
until they were brought by the tide to an island named in the book as Palm
Tree Island somewhere in the ocean southeast of the Marquesas Islands. In
the movie we see a Boston newspaper with a date that appears to be 1893
floating in the water.
The children and Paddy Button are saved and set up housekeeping as
shipwrecked survivors. For the first 45 minutes of the movie, child actors
Elva Josephson and Glenn Kohan play Emmeline and Dicky. Elva only acted in
three movies and two TV appearances while Glenn appeared in this film only
and acted no more. However, they did a good job playing themselves as
eight-year-olds. On the island Paddy tries to be father and mother to the
children. He teaches them the basics of survival, gathering fresh water,
harvesting bananas from trees, catching fresh ocean fish, capturing small
rabbits, knot tying, hut building, making a signal fire, making a tree
calendar to mark the days, and exploring the flora and fauna and caves of
the island. They had rescued a trunk of clothes that the children use as
dress up and play items. Also, there were three-dimension view photos of
the day of adults in social activities. These photos would be useful to
educate Emmeline and Dicky in some social graces of civilized people.
Emmeline had found a keg of rum and a skeleton of another shipwrecked sailor
when they first arrived on the island. After two years on the island,
Paddy, drinks himself to death. It is curious that this small keg would
have lasted for two years being the rummy that Paddy was as he tells the
children that he has many children in ports around the world. However, the
children discover Paddy's dead body and conduct a burial ceremony as best as
they could. Don't look for this on the TBS "edited for content" version, as
it's not there. TBS spoils the movie by cutting out what they feel are
"sensitive" parts of the movie, albeit, necessary for continuity of the
story to retain its TV 14 rating.
(This is not a children's movie. This is a young adult's movie. The
rudimentary scenes are necessary to be faithful to the book! If the rating
ends up being "R", so be it. Also, this is far from being a "soft porn"
movie as some reviewers suggest. This is a story about how people can
survive in the late 1800s on a deserted South Pacific Island without the
niceties of the then civilized western world.)
Enter teens Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins at about the age of 14
years. The story picks up as the children have entered into puberty.
Brooke (Emmeline) begins to become aware of her changing body turning her
into a woman and she experiences these changes alone and confused without
another woman to help educate her. Likewise, Chris (Dicky) is becoming a
man and Brooke, although the same age in the story is more mature than Chris
and is becoming sexually attracted to Chris' emerging manhood. What was
once child's play and tickle-touch between children, is now, sexually
sensitive to young emerging teens. Critics -- this is Nature at work! The
moviemakers did a wonderful job of portraying this on film.
Of course, they discover sex. But, they do not know that it produces
children. Emmeline and Dicky marry each other in a ceremony they devise to
show that they are "civilized." They begin to live together as husband and
wife. Ultimately, Emmeline becomes pregnant and finally is aware that there
is something growing within her.
Fast forward to the "Bogeymen" on the other side of the island. A tribe of
natives had, from time to time, come by boat to the other side of the
island. Here they had a stone idol and sacrificial alter. At least six
times during the film, even when Paddy was still alive, the survivors heard
distant drumbeats. Paddy knew the danger and passed a "law" warning the
children never to go to the other side of the island. After Paddy's death,
Emmeline and Dicky do go to the other side and discover the idol. Emmeline
thinks it is God. The edited version leaves out the night spying and
confrontation of Dicky with a native. Get the full version for this
"humane" meeting of East meets West. Oh, these are not African peoples.
This is a South Pacific movie. The natives are supposed to be
In the book, Emmeline has her child all alone on the floor of the forest
while Dicky is returning from spying on the Natives. In the movie, Dicky
returns, "in the nick of time," to witness the child's birth. No matter.
That's Hollywood's movie license.
Of course, Uncle Richard has continued to pursue finding his son and niece.
The book explains how he comes to know where the children might be. He
hires a ship to search the area of the Palm Tree Island. Ultimately,
Emmeline, Dicky, and baby Paddy (now about 2 years old -- in the book she
names the boy child a girls name, Hannah because she likes the name) put out
to sea in the dinghy that is still seaworthy after being shipwrecked for
eight years and five months. After losing their oars during a shark attack,
the survivors, without food or water, drift in the ocean for three days
before Uncle Richard discovers them. The movie ends as faithful to the book
ending. The trio is rescued. When the rescue boat rows out to intercept
the dinghy, Mr. LeStrange asks, "Are they dead?" The ship's crewman
replies, "No, they're asleep."
Beautiful Brooke and handsome Chris are not to be made fun of. They acted
remarkably well portraying children with limited education and vocabulary.
The island scenery is beautifully photographed. There is a wonderful
special effect when Brooke baths in the ocean. Get the video as TBS took a
hatchet to these frames. If you were living in that era and shipwrecked and
survived, you would want your eight plus years on the island to be like
Brooke and Chris spent in this film. Get the video and enjoy. It's an
adult film for mature teens and older adults.