Literature: The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is a 1908 novel by Henry De Vere Stacpoole. There are two sequels, The Garden of God, published in 1923 and The Gates of Morning, published in 1925.

The novel is about two young cousins, Richard and Emmeline Lestrange, and galley cook Paddy Button who are marooned on a tropical island after escaping their burning ship. Paddy teaches the kids how to survive on the island, before dying in a drunken haze, leaving the two to fend for themselves.

There have been four film adaptions. A 1923 silent film directed by W. Bowden and Dick Cruickshanks. A 1949 version directed by Frank Launder. The 1980 adaption directed by Randal Kleiser and starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins. In 1991, William A. Graham produced and directed a loose adaption of The Garden of God titled Return To The Blue Lagoon starring Milla Jovovich and Brian Krause. And in 2012, Lifetime had a loose adaptation called Blue Lagoon: The Awakening starring Home and Away actors Indiana Evans and Brenton Thwaites, with Christopher Atkins making a cameo as their teacher.

All three novels are online here under "E-texts". Serious scholars of Edgar Rice Burroughs' work believe they can track part of his inspiration for Tarzan to these novels and to Morgan Robertson's earlier novella, Primordial.

The novels and the films provide examples of:

  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Dean, the male lead of the 2012 movie. Played straight with original male lead Richard, though it's justified.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Even though they're stuck on a deserted island, the leads never really look like they're getting anything else besides a couple tears in their clothes and deep tans. The 2012 movie is especially bad about this.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: In the film there's a scene where the boy, seen from behind, is clearly stimulating himself manually. The girl asks him "What are you doing?" and he guiltily says "Nothing!" In another scene when they're arguing, she taunts him extensively about this.
  • Children Are Innocent
  • Coming-of-Age Story
  • Convenient Coma: In the novel, Emmeline comes walking out of the forest with the baby she had a few hours earlier. She explains to Richard that she felt ill, went to sit in the forest, and then "remembered nothing more" until she woke to find the little creature lying beside her. Apparently she remembers more about the birth later.
  • Deserted Island: Take a wild guess...
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: In a movie based primarily around emotional and physical self-discovery, Diabolus is personified in the form of a three-year-old boy throwing oars from boats.
  • Dull Surprise: The acting from the leads in these films was somewhat wooden. Brooke Shields was the first actress to win a Razzie and Milla Jovovich and Brian Krause were both nominated for Worst New Star.
  • '80s Hair: Despite being stranded on an island since childhood, Richard somehow manages to have a consistent perm.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Presumably the reason for the first sex scene in The Awakening. The two leads discover a skeleton near their lean-to, and Emma freaks out. Not long after, she gives Dean her virginity.
  • Godiva Hair: Emmeline. To the point (as pointed out by Roger Ebert) of Narm. The makeup artists had to glue Shield's hair to her chest to prevent any inadvertant nip slips.
  • Kissing Cousins: Richard and Emmeline are cousins. They are also the only available mates for each other.
  • Loincloth
  • Mighty Whitey: Dick Lestrange, son of the original couple. He appears in the sequel, The Garden of God and the followup novel The Gates of Morning. He can best be described as an intelligent, likable and very easygoing Surfer Dude. Katafa, something between a Jungle Princess and a Broken Bird, washes up on the shore and causes trouble. She isn't really a Kanaka, but a Spanish girl who was Raised by Natives. To ensure the plotline, she's been cursed as an untouchable. After sundry how-likely-is-that events, Dick and Katafa fall in love. Katafa becomes touchably soft and takes him home with her, where he is immediately hailed as King, the old King having died in Katafa's absence. More to the point, laid-back ol' Dick immediately accepts, as a matter of course! (Having earlier picked up a Royal MacGuffin probably helped with this decision.) Stacpoole (usually fairly non-racist) clearly implies that in their present predicament, the natives need a white couple to save them.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Done in a somewhat comic scene in which the two kids go running naked ahead of Paddy, who's yelling at them to get their clothes back on.
  • Noble Savage: Richard and Emmeline in the original film, and Richard (son of the couple from the first movie) and Lilli of the sequel. They pretty much raise themselves to adulthood and know little of human civilization. On the other hand, the original inhabitants of the island are seen practicing human sacrifice; nothing particularly noble about them.
  • Nostalgic Musicbox: Among the artifacts taken to the island is a music box that plays Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9, #2 in E flat major. Emmeline says "That's Chopin! I can play it on the piano." It's used by the kids growing up as a connection with/nostalgic reminder of their life before the island. Sometimes they dance to it. None of this is in the book.
  • Raging Stiffie: In the first film, there are many shots of Christopher Atkins swimming naked underwater with an erect penis. How the filmmakers got away with an R rating for that is quite a mystery. In Return To The Blue Lagoon, Richard wakes up with an erection; which is sort of what tends to happen to a guy when he's close to Milla Jovovich.
  • Robinsonade
  • Scenery Porn: It even got an Academy Award nomination for its cinematography.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene