FILMS… My Three Favourite Island Based Movies

#1970s #1980s #2000s

 

Ah, living the dream or the nightmare that is island life…

 

The last of my Wandering Through the Shelves for 2022 March posts has three of my favourites.

 

 

This is the next of my 2022 posts for this weekly entertainment-themed challenge from Wandering Through the Shelves.  For my second and my final post for June, the challenge was to pick three of my favourite films set on an island.

More about this blog’s 2022 blogging challenge is found HERE… and this page also includes the blogger’s final challenge for this year, if you are now keen to join this fun collaboration. And to explain all, Thursday Movie Picks is…

…. a weekly series where you share your movie picks each Thursday. The rules are simple: based on the theme of the week pick three to five movies and tell us why you picked them.

All my weekly contributions for 2022 are found HERE…  

The three films I’ve selected to illustrate this topic are not all set in the United Kingdom, Australia or Ireland… Including these three alone would make the final three films impossible to choose from. But one is set on a Scottish island, and the other two have a tropical twist. The final three films are The Beach (2000), The Wicker Man (1973) and The Blue Lagoon (1980).

And check out all my weekly contributions for 2022 which are all found HERE…  

 

The Beach (2000)

The Beach – Official Movie Trailer, TheReviewLib

Even though this has a shirtless Leonardo DiCaprio in most of his screen time, this film was only seen recently. The film was made over 20 years ago, and since then this leading actor has certainly lost his waifish looks and bulked up a bit. But anyway…

The film tells of Richard (DiCaprio) who decides to find paradise on earth and then goes backpacking in Thailand to try and find it, as you do (along with a zillion other backpackers). On the first night abroad, Richard meets a French couple, Françoise and Étienne (Virginie Ledoyen and Guillaume Canet), and Richard is instantly attracted to Françoise.

This loved up pair tell him they’ve heard about a mythical island, and Richard believes this is the unique experience and paradise he’s been searching for. Then he meets Begbie on holiday – as my Darlin Husband describes this character – or for those of you who didn’t get that Trainspotting (1996) reference, it’s the loud, overchatty and illicit drug-taking Scot, Daffy (Robert Carlyle). So Daffy and Richard get stoned… 

Daffy kills himself but leaves Richard with a map with this mysterious island on it. Richard gives a copy of this map to some American surfing types. This island has a cannabis plantation guarded by armed guards and a secret community of backpackers who also live there but in their own properties. This plantation owner is quite happy to have these backpackers as long as they don’t invite anyone else to join them. 

Richard and the French couple swim out to the island. After they join the backpackers, they have to promise they won’t allow others to know about the island as part of their condition to stay there. The island leader of these backpackers is a girl called Sal, played by Tilda Swinton. Richard does not mention to this group that he gave away a copy of the map. And they enjoy island life for a while…

Richard has fallen in love with Françoise, and she appears to return his feelings. Eventually the two act on their feelings. And they start a relationship after she ends her relationship with Étienne, with his blessing. After going to get supplies with Sal (Tilda Swinton), she discovers he gave the surfers a copy of the map.

So Richard hoping to please Sal sleeps with her after she orders him to. Then the plot goes more than a bit darker after they return to the island. Sal tells everyone what happened and Richard is dumped by Françoise and ostracised by the group, which means a DiCaprio meltdown… 

This film was a lot better than I imagined. It was based on a novel by Alex Garland – the writer of Ex Machina (2015) – you know things will turn from blissful to horrendously wrong. The direction came from Trainspotting‘s director Danny Doyle. Interestingly Richard’s role was originally one destined for Robert Carlyle’s co-star in this film, Ewan MacGregor. 

After this leading role went to DiCaprio, the role of Richard was then changed to an American one. But one does wonder if DiCaprio would have been a hit or a miss by going full tilt Scot. Surely it can’t have been as bad as McGregor in Tales from the Crypt where he donned a full-tilt American accent. This accent was adopted by him for no apparent reason in an episode called Cold War. The episode was set in London and if I remember rightly Jane Horrocks and John Salthouse, McGregor’s co-stars in this episode kept their British accents… But he did have a much more convincing American accent in Down with Love (2003), many years later…

 

The Blue Lagoon (1980)

THE BLUE LAGOON (New & Exclusive) Trailer, Eureka Entertainment

Back to the Victorian era for this film where two cousins, a girl of 7, Emmeline and a boy of 9, Richard are taken to a tropical island after the boat they are travelling on with his father, catches fire. The kids find themselves on an island along with the ship’s cook, an old man, Paddy (Leo McKern). This old man tells them not to explore the island – as he spotted an altar and human remains when exploring the island – and to eat certain poisonous berries.

So at first, it’s an idyllic kind of life for these kids as they hang out on the island, check out nature ( cue nature footage of all sorts), go swimming etc. But in time the old man dies. The kids grow up – to be acted by Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins – and adolescence kicks in.

This is a time that freaks them out, with Emmeline getting her first period and like in Carrie (1976), at first she doesn’t understand what’s going on. Then a burgeoning romantic and sexual attraction between the two develops, which they both resolve at first… er in his case… individually. Then after much more plot and many more close ups of the wildlife, their now mutual sexual yearnings are acted on. Nine months later the pair have a baby and this naturally shocks them both…

Interestingly this 1980s film was a remake of a 1949 film with Donald Houston – the British star who played Taffy in Doctor in the House (1954) – and Jean Simmons. Simmons should not be confused with Gene Simmons from the rock band, Kiss as Darlin Husband joked (again). And this 1949 film was a remake of a 1923 version… and these were all based on a book from 1908. The story was adapted again in 1987… and there is yet another version from Lifetime… and I haven’t seen any of these.

But it was this the 1980s version was the film that I watched when I was a wee girl, and so most of the sexually implied scenes went over my head. This film is best remembered for a scene where Emmeline throws a coconut and hits Richard on the head. This scene was brilliantly executed and is comedy gold. Sorry, Christopher… and good aim Brooke!

This film and Atkins’ character were parodied in Top Secret (1984). The Blue Lagoon was also made two years before Christopher Atkins and his 80s perm returned to a tropical romance in The Pirate Movie (1982). The Blue Lagoon was wonderfully dissected by Roger Ebert HERE and he comments both wittily and candidly about the plot where,

“every third shot in this movie seems to be showing a parrot’s reaction to something”

and adds that

“It’s a wildly idealized romance, in which the kids live in a hut that looks like a Club Med honeymoon cottage, while restless natives commit human sacrifice on the other side of the island.” 

This film won a variety of awards and nominations including a prestigious Best Cinematography nomination in the Academy Awards. It also won a Golden Glove nomination for Atkins and a Razzie for Brooke Shields. In her defence, Brooke Shields was only 14 when she made this her seventh film so this award seems unjustified. It was Atkins’ film debut.

And it’s important to stress that Shield’s nude scenes were carried out by her much older – and more age appropriate – body double. IMDB adds HERE that this double was replaced by the on-set dolphin handler. But that is the real 18 year old Christopher Atkins in all his glory…

 

The Wicker Man (1973)

The Wicker Man (1973) Official Trailer – Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento Horror Movie HD, Movieclips Classic Trailers

This British film was filmed in and around Newton Stewart and other Scottish towns. But it was based on a (fictional) Scottish island, Summerisle. Personally, I believe that this is the more horrifying of those Wicker Man films because this, for me was so close to home.

Despite the presence in the remake of Nicholas Cage, I gave up on this newer version about 5 minutes after the opening credits and after seeing the trailer. I am prone to do this with remakes or original films if I’ve enjoyed the other version that I have seen (are you still with me?). But there are a few exceptions to this rule.

The film has an uptight Scottish and Christian cop, Sgt Howie (Edward Woodward) investigating the disappearance of one of this island’s schoolkids, Rowan Morrison. He gets an anonymous tip-off about this child’s fate and his investigations take him to the Scottish island of Summerisle. This island has abandoned Christian beliefs and now believes in Celtic Gods. The islanders also indulge in pagan ways including May Day celebrations. Howie is shocked by the adults’ often blatant sexual behaviours and thoughts.

After Howie arrives on this island, many of the islanders deny this child’s existence… Although this policeman does find proof that this child existed at the local school. Later, he is even shown this child’s grave. Howie’s investigations take him to the top and he talks with the Island’s resident lord, Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee).

It seems that Summerisle’s grandfather was the one who initiated the islanders’ pagan beliefs. After learning the islanders intend to provide a human sacrifice to these Celtic Gods in exchange for an abundant harvest, Howie becomes concerned for the fate of this child… and then he finds that he is unable to leave the island to get help.

As a 1970s horror fan, this was one of my first remembrances of a Scottish themed horror that I first watched as a teen. It even has Christopher Lee seen in full tartan regalia as the Island’s resident lord, Lord Summerisle (and very dashing he is too). Lee heads a cast including Ingrid Pitt, Diane Cilento and Britt Ekland. The screenplay comes from Anthony Shaffer who wrote the screenplays for Sleuth (1972) and Death on the Nile (1978). 

The Wicker Man also inspired the Wickerman festival, which was reportedly a Scottish family-friendly musical event in Dumfriesshire. On Wikipedia HERE the entry about this festival stated that,

“The festival would climax on the Saturday at midnight with the burning of a giant 30 ft (9.1 m)  wicker man, built by local craftsmen…”

The film was also tributed to a song of the same name by Iron Maiden. And this film boasts a variety of versions, the director Robin Hardy claims the final cut is the closest to his original cut of this film which is a lost film.

This final cut was reviewed by Bob Calhoun and appears to have a few additional scenes which add more understanding to the plot and characters. It contains spoilers and is found HERE. Calhoun’s account of the film however does make me want to search for this version of the film. But this is primarily because of this enticing comment…

Also, any extra inanity just adds to the film’s overall phantasmagorical weirdness. I mean, this is a film where Christopher Lee spouts odd Pagan poetry over lovingly photographed snails intertwined in the act of mating. 

And other films which are for well-calculated reasons or otherwise, based on islands include… Shutter Island (2010), Mamma Mia! (2008), Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018), The Rock (1996), Mysterious Island of Beautiful Women (1979) (TV Movie), Evil Under the Sun (1982), When Time Ran Out.. (1980) and a guest post from Darlin Husband on The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).

But if you include the UK and other islands tune in one day for one set on a fictional Mediterranean island, Elsbels. And this film was filmed in the UK, Carry on Abroad (1972). And even the title, including a broad as just possibly one of this particular film’s double entendres that haven’t aged as well… But now crammed full of acting National treasures of the British vintage acting kind.

 


Don’t forget to read the other contributions for this topic on Wandering Through the Shelves link up HERE.

And tune in for my July 7 post with my thoughts about three favourite movies with Fun Fairs

 


 

 

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6 thoughts on “FILMS… My Three Favourite Island Based Movies

  1. The original version of The Wicker Man is the one film in that list I haven’t seen but it’s one that I really want to despite its remake with Nicolas Cage which is fucking hilarious if you approach it as a comedy. The Blue Lagoon wasn’t for me as I am already uncomfortable seeing a nude, underage Brooke Shields as it was discomforting enough in Pretty Baby. The Beach I thought was alright though it’s one of Danny Boyle’s weaker films.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would recommend The Wicker Man original its much more fun. It is kind of creepy now reading more on The Blue Lagoon, so I was relieved they used body doubles. But the premise feels a bit creepy without that. I did enjoy The Beach more than I thought I would and no one does meltdown more than Di Caprio, seems to be a must have scene in all his movies…

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