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Blu-ray Review: ‘Lord of the Flies’ (1963), The Criterion Collection – Kids Can Be So Cruel

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There’s a saying in the film industry that suggests one never work with animals or children due to their inability to act on cue. Or act, period, for that matter. In 1961, British director Peter Brook threw all caution to the wind and decided to film an adaptation of William Golding’s 1954 novel Lord of the Flies with a cast that was comprised mostly of children. But whereas most directors would attempt to coach his performers – adolescent or otherwise – to stick to the script at hand verbatim, Brook wisely decided to film his adventure into the realms of dystopia by all-but telling his temporary kids to just sort of do it their own way and stuff the script.

lord-of-the-flies-1963-blu-ray-review-criterion-collection-blogcriticsFortunately, it worked – and a major cult classic was born. Playing out as if it were an accidental precursor to those overused and overrated faux documentary/found footage films today’s unimaginative form of cinema tends to rely on, Brook’s Lord of the Flies brings us the tale of a plane full of schoolboys that crash-lands near a tropical island somewhere, with not so much as a single adult left to supervise. With no one to take care of them, the boys decide to set up their own rudimentary form of government. Naturally, this inevitably leads to complete and utter chaos when such admirable human qualities as abhorrence, apprehension, and aggression emerge from even these young babes in the woods.

Previously issued by the folks at The Criterion Collection way back in 2000, Lord of the Flies has received a huge makeover from that old Standard-Definition release for this new Blu-ray release. Apart from now being able to discern the teensiest of details, nearly all noticeable flaws have been removed from the 35mm composite fine grain source used for this HD transfer, and the contrast and clarity for this presentation is superb to the nth degree. The film’s original monaural English soundtrack has been given an LPCM 1.0 soundtrack upgrade, with optional English (SDH) subtitles being included for those of you who just can’t handle those darned foreign accents.

Criterion has opted to include most of the special features we were blessed with for both the 1993 Laserdisc and 2000 DVD releases here for this 2013 Blu-ray. These items include an audio commentary with director Peter Brook, producer Lewis Allen, director of photography Tom Hollymen, and cameraman/editor Gerald Feil; excerpts from Golding’s novel, as read by the late author himself, set to their corresponding filmic moments; an assortment of deleted scenes, outtakes, and galleries; the original theatrical trailer (with optional Peter Brook commentary); and a segment from Feil’s 1975 documentary The Empty Spaces about Brook’s theater work.

New to this release are more recent interviews with both Brook and Feil; a snippet from the British television series The South Bank Show with guest star William Golding; and a portion of never-before-seen 8mm footage shot by the children stars themselves during the making of the film, complete with a reading by actor Tom Gaman (who portrays Simon in the movie) as taken from his own 1998 essay about his experiences making the cult classic. An illustrated 28-page booklet including a piece written by Geoffrey Macnab also features an selection from Peter Brook’s novel, The Shifting Point, and wraps up this highly recommended purchase perfectly.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.