First Time Watch: The Blue Lagoon (1980)


By Christian DiMartino


Or maybe the better question is: how? I had heard about The Blue Lagoon and how weird it is, and even that didn’t prepare me for the discomfort I experienced yesterday. The Blue Lagoon could be described in a number of ways. Beautiful, fascinating. Trash, child pornography. How this film was greenlit, let alone made, will forever be a mystery, and the film itself is perhaps the most uncomfortable I’ve sat through since Stanley Donen’s Blame it on Rio, and for similar reasons. Except this time, it’s worse.

You know your movie is royally messed up when the main storyline focuses on an incestuous relationship, and that’s only the second weirdest aspect of the film. The film is directed by Randal Kleiser, who also made Grease. I love Grease– it’s the word. The word for The Blue Lagoon would have to be pedophilia. Kleiser’s choices for this film are disturbing, in that you can’t help but feel like each choice was done with intent, making it all the more creepy. I know this movie was made in 1980, and Kleiser hasn’t made a movie in over a decade, but frankly, the Cancel Police might want to give this movie a look.

Before I dive into what is so creepy and wrong about this film, as if the incest part wasn’t an indicator, I guess I’ll dive into that story. The film is set in the Victorian era, though that hardly matters since every single line delivery feels off, but also, there are only a handful of costumes on set. Since everyone’s naked most of the time, more on that in a bit. Anyways, while aboard a ship, the ship catches fire, and two cousins, Emmeline and Richard, are separated from their family and end up stranded on an island with their uncle. The uncle dies, but teaches them survival techniques. Years go by, and Emmeline and Richard (now played by Brooke Shields and Christopher Abbott) are teenagers. It is in these teen years that the two develop an attraction for one another, and not only do they experience a sexual awakening but they also are forced to learn about adulthood and what not on their own.

So The Blue Lagoon would’ve been really strange on its own… yet it doesn’t stop there. The controversy surrounding this film stems mostly from Brooke Shields, who was 14 at the time and her character is naked much of the movie. Her nudity is done with a body double, and her hair is actually glued to her breasts much of the film in the event she was exposed. She even had to testify in court over this. So one thing I have to wonder is, why not cast an actress who is of age? Abbott was 18 at the time of filming… so why didn’t they find someone his age? It’s also really weird because he’s naked and on top of her a number of times… and again, she’s only 14. Second, while they had a body double for Shields… the full-frontal nudity of children is still on display.

That’s right. As if the poor acting and line delivery wasn’t sinking the movie as it was, The Blue Lagoon elicited an immediate scream whenever my eyes witnessed the child actors playing the younger Emmeline and Richard fully naked. Again, I ask, why? Not only was a whole film crew on board with this, but also, the parents were okay with it… what?

Usually, I judge a movie for the movie itself. This, however, is kind of hard to avoid because you get the sense watching this film that you are, indeed, witnessing child pornography. There is no need to see two fully naked children. It’s inexcusable. Yet obvious child porn aside, The Blue Lagoon is still a pretty horrid experience. I feel like everyone on this island caught a bad acting bug, because not only are the children terrible actors, but so are the adults. Every line feels as if it was delivered on the first take, and shoot, maybe it was. Maybe Kleiser knew that the film he was making was smut, and he rushed to get through it as long as the nudity was there. Shields, who is pretty beautiful, won a Razzie for this, which is fair. Yet Abbott is far worse, and he was snubbed.

Also, just… what is the point of this movie? It’s based on an old novel and it’s had a few different adaptations, but what is it about this story that more than one person has felt the need to adapt it? It’s a sick, twisted erotica, and on top of that, it’s rather pointless and stupid. It also feels really long for a movie that is under two hours. There has hardly been a word of positivity about this film in this review, so why does it still earn half a star? Well, this is going to sound stupid, but it is beautifully filmed. The cinematography is by Nestor Almendros, who also filmed Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven and Alan Pakula’s Sophie’s Choice. The cinematography is, quite simply, a beauty. Which is kind of ironic, since the film itself is ugly and icky.

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