LORD OF THE FLIES
Lord of the Flies 1990 has been mounted by Rob Reiners Castle Rock Entertainment production company. This initially seemed to bode well as Castle Rock have made a number of other respectable and above average productions including tvs Seinfeld (1990-8), various Stephen King adaptations, including the widely regarded The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and several Shakespeare adaptations. Director Harry Hook was an unknown factor who had previously made The Kitchen Toto (1987) about the Mau Mau Riots. Hook is one of the few people involved in the production that is at least British, although he has subsequently gone onto a largely undistinguished career making period dramas mostly for tv. The script comes from a respectable source writer Jay Presson Allen who also wrote works such as Alfred Hitchcocks Marnie (1964), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), Cabaret (1972), Funny Lady (1975) and Prince of the City (1981). Alas, Allen disowned the finished film and hid behind the pseudonym of Sara Schiff.
The biggest mistake that Lord of the Flies 1990 makes is to turn William Goldings story into an American production. A good deal gets lost in the Transatlantic migration for one, the boys no longer comes from a boarding school but are military academy brats who stand about calling each other colonel we even get the boys singing marching songs, while martial drums and pipes play on the soundtrack at appropriate points. Certainly, a military academy is perhaps the nearest an American production is able to get to simulating the environment of the books boys boarding school but it still seemed far scarier in the book when the hunters turned out to be choirboys gone rogue. The story has also been contemporised over William Goldings post-War milieu. In one of the more grating scenes something that has caused the film to date quickly the boys sit around, getting maudlin as they wonder what time ALF (1986-90) is going to be on tv could they not have at least chosen a tv show that had a more substantial cultural afterlife than that? Even more dated is a scene where they worry about being captured by Russians, something that was obsolete only a matter of months after the films release. There are some additions over the book such as having the pilot alive at the beginning of the story and the island being hit by a hurricane. Certainly, the remake has it over Peter Brooks version in some beautiful natural location photography (in Hawaii and Jamaica) but it pointlessly widens a stage that was held with perfectly viable economy in both the book and the much more faithful 1963 film.
Mostly what the film lacks is any of the symbolic intensity of William Goldings writing. It is a terrifying book where its classic status exists because of William Goldings ability to let it rest in a series of dark, swimming symbols about socially repressed things emerging into the open. However, the film has scaled this down to no more than a literal melodramatic struggle. The drive to kill Simon and the fear of the pilot are devoid of symbolism and no different to the dramas that might occur in an episode of a regular tv series with its heroes stranded on this weeks tropical paradise. We get the pigs head mounted on a stake but it is an image without any of the associated imagery such that the title Lord of the Flies no longer has any meaning that is explained in the film. The pilot remaining alive in perhaps the storys most innovative change in order not to have to invent the skeleton of a WWII pilot but there is little about how this is turned into The Beast. The addition of dream sequences with the pilot telling them they are going to be rescued is incredibly lame.
The other thing the film sorely lacks is William Goldings subtlety of dialogue, of fears expressed from a childs perspective, something that the Peter Brook film captured so well these are just kids yelling Eat shit and die. The film also lacks the true descent into barbarism that existed in the book and the 1963 film. Too much of the film is taken up by the pretty tropical surroundings it looks more like an episode of Survivor (2000 ) than it does a parable about the collapse of civilised order. The latter half of the film works the best because these sections mirror the events in the book reasonably closely and dig into the storys darkness there is still not the alarming barbarism of the 1963 version but Harry Hook generates some passable drama during scenes like the snatching of the glasses and Piggys murder.
The only member of the cast that was ever heard from again was Balthazar Getty who went onto a modest adult career in films, including David Lynchs Lost Highway (1997), Shadow Hours (2000) and Feast (2006), among others. As Jack, Chris Furrh has bronzed, blonde good looks you instantly hate him from the point you meet him and he brings an authentic venom once he becomes the leader of the rival tribe. As Piggy, Danuel Pipoly is a striking ringer for a younger version of Drew Carey. Nevertheless, Piggy is the one character in the film that stands out as written on the page by William Golding where Danuel Pipoly imbues the part with a plaintiveness that makes him the best developed character in the film.
Full film available online here:-