LORD OF THE FLIES
Review by Gordon Justesen
Aubrey, Tom Chapin, Hugh Edwards, Roger Elwin, Tom Gaman
Director: Peter Brook
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: Aspect Ratio 1.37
Features: See Review
Length: 90 Minutes
Release Date: July 16, 2013
“We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we're not savages. We're English! And the English are best at everything!”
In terms of stories depicting civilized people being reduced to their most primal nature, William Golding's Lord of the Flies is one of the most potent tales ever written. The idea of having a group of schoolboys deserted on island and attempting to establish some order following a horrific plane crash is perhaps one of the most unsettling “what if” scenarios ever conceived. Seeing this story unfold on film would make it even more so, and director Peter Brook's 1963 film adaptation has to be one of the more daring films of its time.
The story opens with a group of British schoolboys being evacuated by plane out of their homeland in the midst of an outbreak of war. Eventually, the plane crashes and the boys find themselves stranded on an island. None of the adult supervisors appeared to have survived.
So it isn't too long until these group of boys, all of whom are in their pre-teens, come to the conclusion that some level of order must be established. Survival doesn't become much of an issue, as they come to find they have a decent amount of food in the form of fruit and wild pig as compliments of the island. And they don't seem to detect any type of deadly predators to cause them any harm.
And it's those positive factors that end up triggering something unexpected, which is that there is basically nothing to fear but themselves. Eventually, what order was established soon unravels. Even worse, many of the young men begin to let their inner savage run wild, resulting in actions you'd never dream think children of this age were even capable of.
What director Brook has added to an already unnerving scenario is a level of uncanny authenticity. The cast was entirely comprised of young actors with no previous experience, and the black and white photography combined with an almost documentary approach suggest a dangerous “this is actually happening” vibe. Again, this was a most bold filmmaking approach for an early 60s release.
Criterion, in their consistent nature, boasts a most remarkable presentation for this Blu-ray release. The raw and rugged look of the film shows off effectively in the 1080p. The outdoor photography is nothing short of a pure treat for the eyes, especially when it comes to vast shots of the island landscape. Momentary nighttime sequences don't fare as well, but that's understandable given the extreme low budget qualities.
The PCM mono mix is basically the absolute best performance possible for a film of this type. Given how this movie was filmed, with sound interferences coming from all over the place, certain sound flaws are to be expected. But the dialogue delivery is well handled, as it turns out...and in the end, that's all that really matters for a film of this type and with this much age.
Criterion never fails with the extras, even when they're in short supply. For this Blu-ray release, though, supplements are in tremendous supply. To start with, there's a commentary with director Peter Brook, producer Lewis Allen, cinematographer Tom Hollyman and cameraman/editor Gerald Feil. We also get audio recordings of William Golding reading from the novel, and accompanied by corresponding scenes from the film. There's a deleted Scene, with optional commentary and Golding reading, as well as an interview with Brook from 2008, a collection of behind the scenes material including home movies, screen tests, outtakes and stills. Also included is an excerpt from a 1980 episode of The South Bank Show featuring Golding, a new interview with Gerald Feil, an excerpt from Feil's 1975 documentary, “The Empty Space”, showcasing Brook's theater methods, and also Living Lord Of The Flies, which is a piece composed of never-before-seen footage that was shot by the boy actors during production, and featuring a new voice over by actor Tom Gaman. Rounding out the extras is a Trailer and a fantastic insert booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey Macnab and an excerpt from Brook's autobiography, “The Shifting Point”.
Peter Brook's uncompromising film adaptation of Lord of the Flies is the closest viewers will ever get to the unsettling potency that William Golding's novel established. And it is now featured on an outstanding Blu-ray release from Criterion that is a pure must own!