Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Blue Lagoon, the book and the film

I came across an interview with the director of The Blue Lagoon. It was sort of interesting. It was the movie's 35th anniversary. So I looked at and read some of the user comments, and I watched part of it on Netflix. I haven't seen it since the '80s. I really hated it, but the thing was a huge hit and there are so many people, all of them women, who still just love it. And the ones who love it do so for exactly the reasons the director intended. It was a financial and, if you were in the target audience, artistic success.

But I was just watching an old British comedy made during World War Two. A man is stuck alone on an island operating a lighthouse. He rescues a woman who was on a ship that was torpedoed and sunk. She tells him that she once read a book about a boy and girl who were thrown together on an island and fell in love under a palm tree. I wondered if she was talking about The Blue Lagoon. The movie was based on an old novel.

It occurred to me that the novel The Blue Lagoon was public domain, so I did a quick internet search and it was online. I read a little bit of it.

The novel had the same weakness the movie had. Too much dialog. I read just a little so I'm not going to try to review it, but I thought the description wasn't terribly vivid and the writing was a bit sketchy.

But what surprised me is how much of the book was in the movie. The plot was so rudimentary and the source material was so obscure and unimpressive. It's hard to imagine that ANY of the millions of people who saw the movie had ever read the book. I only read a little, but there were several things I recognized from the movie. I thought the dialog they took from the novel was rather bad.

When the kids are on the ship and see sharks in the water, the boy asks, "What are they called, father?", it sounded awkward. It could have been phrased more naturally. But that line came straight from the book,

There was the scene where the kids have spotted the guy who went on to play Rumpole of the Bailey lying out on the beach. They go to wake him up. The girl makes a flower garland and plans to put on him and then yell "boo" so he'll jump up with it on. Turns out the guy is dead. When they turn him over, a little crab crawls out of the poor actor's mouth, the girl faints and the poor boy has to carry his costar back to the boat. All this was in the book with the same lousy dialog.

It reminds me of reading the Ed McBain novel King's Ransom which Kurosawa adapted to make High and Low. The movie was so different from the book that it was surprising when you saw what Kurosawa kept. For example, the name of the character----in the American novel, it was "Gordon King". In the Japanese movie, it was "Kingo Gondo".

Anyway, there are vast numbers of public domain novels there for the taking. Hell, you could make your own adaptation of The Blue Lagoon and they couldn't do anything about it. Just be sure to adapt the book and don't remake the movie. It wouldn't cost much---most of it is just two kids on a beach.

I was always amazed that there was only one direct rip-off of the movie, a thing called Paradise starring Willie Aames and Phoebe Cates. It was a Canadian-Israeli co-production, so it was anti-Arab, about a pair of teens who flee the Arabs and end up swimming naked in an oasis with a masturbating chimpanzee. That's no joke. It had a masturbating chimpanzee.

Roger Ebert quipped that in The Blue Lagoon, the kids learn about sex watching the sea turtles mate, but luckily, in Paradise, they only had one camel. Gene Siskel was annoyed by the joke. Yes, they had only one camel, but what about the masturbating chimpanzee?

I wonder how they got the chimpanzee to do that on cue. Is that something Israelis train chimps to do?

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