The Blue Lagoon
What prompted your interest in Fiji or the South Pacific islands in general?
A friend from the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Suva told me that The Blue Lagoon, starring 18 year-old Jean Simmons, inspired his career researching South Pacific history and politics. He caught this U.K. movie at a Sydney cinema as a teenager. The film was made in 1949 and shot on location in the Yasawa Islands in Fiji. My friend must have seen a revival many years later as he is younger than me.
All these movies are based on the 1908 novel (still in print) of the same name by Irish writer, Henry de Vere Stacpoole. It tells the story of Emmeline and Dick, two young children shipwrecked on a South Pacific island. As they learn to survive outside any society, they also struggle with their changing bodies and emotions. Eventually they discover love and childbirth in the most natural and innocent ways. Two sequels take the story further, where Emmeline and Dick must deal with the evils of the world they came from.
How many films and sequels?
1923, a silent movie made in South Africa.
1949, UK filmed in Fiji with Jean Simmons, Donald Houston
1980, US, filmed in Fiji with Brooke Shields, Christopher Atkins
1991, Return to the Blue Lagoon, US sequel made in Fiji
2012 Blue Lagoon: The Awakening, US TV drama filmed in Caribbean
Why so many remakes?
A genre mash-up of survival-in-the-wilderness, teen romance, and coming-of-age drama, what won't hook viewers in The Blue Lagoon?
Clearly, the story parallels the Biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
It also plays with the possibility that humans might return to a purer moral state away from 'civilisation'.
Northern hemisphere audiences love seeing films made on location in tropical islands, especially Fiji!
Scientific spinoff for Fiji
The 1980 Hollywood film starring 14 year-old Brooke Shields was filmed on a private Yasawa island, Nanuya Levu, known as Turtle Island. The cinematographer dwelled lovingly on the wildlife, which included many exotic animals imported for the filming. However, John Gibbons, USP herpetologist, noticed while watching the movie the frequent appearance of a spectacular green lizard. He believed this lizard was new to science. He travelled to Turtle Island as soon as he could and described the beautiful Fijian crested iguana (Brachylophus vitiensis) in 1981. If you've read Death on Paradise Island, my first Fiji Islands Mystery, you'll know the Fiji crested iguana, or vokai in Fijian, who's a very important character!
The 1980 movie was a huge box-office success which brought Fiji to the attention of movie-goers worldwide. This resulted in increased demand for holidays in Fiji, which meant new resorts, many more jobs in tourism and spinoff benefits for souvenir production, agriculture and more. It goes without saying that there's at least one resort called Blue Lagoon and a wonderful cruise company, Blue Lagoon Cruises I can personally recommend. But until we can visit Fiji for a holiday again, we'll have to make-do with discovering reruns of movies.
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