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Expectations & Reactions:

Director Peter Brook brought William Golding's haunting novel about the human spirit to life in a great way in 1963. Now, Criterion has released a wonderful version of Lord of the Flies on DVD. Having recently read the book, Peter Brook was right on in bringing Golding's vision to the screen. It is truly frightening to see how the boys transform by the end of the story.

I was very pleased to learn that Criterion saw fit to release Lord of the Flies on DVD. Originally planned for release in November, the disc saw numerous street date changes (something Criterion is famous for), but let me tell you it was worth the wait. I had seen the film once before on VHS, and I figured that with this DVD audio/video quality wouldn't be the main concern. I was right. Lord of the Flies is far from a demo disc, but really most of Criterion's discs aren't. That isn't necessarily a bad thing though. Criterion is good about putting classic films on DVD with wonderful extras. The multitude of supplements is what I was looking forward to with this one.

Look & Listen:

Filmed in Black & White, and being a fairly old film Lord of the Flies doesn't translate too well on DVD. The print exhibits many imperfections, speckles, and dirt. Every scene isn't like this, but for much of the film you'll have to deal with this problem. There is not much else I can say except, don't go into Lord of the Flies expecting to be dazzled by the picture quality.

It's tough to find the right words for the audio department too. What can I saw about a mono soundtrack? It's pretty dull and lifeless. We aren't exactly talking about a 90s summer blockbuster, rather a 60s drama. Considering that, the soundtrack is fine. There are a few instances of crackling or popping but that is the fault of the original negative and not Criterion. Now that we've gotten past the audio/video it's time for the good stuff...

Extras & Highlights:

The extras! Let me just say, I love Criterion! They never cease to amaze me with the time and thought that they put into supplements. It is not always the volume of features that impresses me, but the quality (they have had a few loaded discs though Armageddon and Brazil for example). Each extra that Criterion gives us the privilege of watching or listening to is carefully thought out. Criterion makes sure that the supplements add to the film experience. They were the Special Edition pioneers for Laserdisc, and they have (time and time again) continued that great tradition on DVD. Lord of the Flies is no exception.

Kicking things off is an audio commentary by Peter Brook, Lewis Allen, Tom Hollyman, and Gerald Feil. The four have some great stories and fond memories about this project. It is interesting to learn that the island where filming took place was used as a military hospital for the Bay of Pigs invasion. It must have been tough to film with a bunch of planes flying overheard all the time! Another interesting tidbit (there are a lot) is that the original cut was quite a bit longer than what we have. It must have been heartbreaking to cut this classic down to a mere 90 minutes.

A second audio track contains excerpts from the novel read by William Golding. I really enjoyed this feature. You not only get to hear some of Golding's motivation for the story, but listening along with the film is a good way to compare the two versions. I think you'll find that Peter Brook stayed very close to novel.

More goodies include Gerald Feil's documentary Empty Spaces, which deals with how Peter Brook creates theater. Other video supplements are a production scrapbook, home movies, and outtakes. Each of these really takes the audience inside the filming of Lord of the Flies. Knowing what went into putting this film together only adds to the enjoyment.

Rounding out this fine collection of extras is the theatrical trailer, and a deleted scene. The trailer has the option for commentary as well, and the deleted scene has commentary and Golding's reading. I can't really find a weak point here. I seemed to enjoy each extra a little more than the next!

Menus & Interface:

Simplicity is the key here. The menus start up as soon as the disc is popped in. They lack any bells or whistles, but they sure are easy to use. A color scheme that is easy on the eyes, and an "X marks the spot" way of the selecting the next feature is simple to follow. You won't be doing too much needless clicking. There is a weak point here however. The scene selection menu contains text-only chapter markers. This is something Criterion does a lot, and I hope they soon realize this is not the way to go. Video clips are simple to include, and really help when trying to find the right chapter. If nothing else, a still picture would have been nice.

Storyline & Syllabus:

A plane crash turns a group of seemingly well-mannered boys into savages. Based on the classic novel by William Golding.

Cast & Crew:

James Aubrey and Tom Chapin star in Lord of the Flies. Hugh Edwards, Roger Elwin, and Tom Gamin also star. Raymond Leppard wrote the music. Peter Brook wrote the screenplay based on William Golding's novel. Lewis M. Allen produced. Gerald Feil and Tom Hollyman did the camerawork. Peter Brook directed Lord of the Flies.

Conclusions & Afterthoughts:

Any serious fan of DVD or Criterion for that matter should not judge this disc on audio/video quality. It would be a shame to let that spoil your enjoyment of Lord of the Flies. The haunting film is worth the price of admission alone, but Criterion (as they always do) really added to the enjoyment with a superb collection of extras. Without the outstanding supplements, the film might be missing something. I learned a lot, and I was captivated from beginning to end.

In the ever-changing world of DVD, it seems like Criterion has been lost in the shuffle. More and more companies are making the jump into special editions, but they are just following the lead of the folks at Criterion. Warner Bros., Universal, and New Line (and now Fox) continue to put out some killer Special Editions, but don't count Criterion out. They were the first, and they are still the best. Lord of the Flies just serves to further remind us of that very important aspect of DVD. Did I forget to mention that I love Criterion?!

Editorial Reviews

In this classic 1963 adaptation of William Golding's novel, a planeload of schoolboys is stranded on a tropical island. They've got food and water; all that's left is to peacefully govern themselves until they're rescued. "After all," says choir leader Jack, "We're English. We're the best in the world at everything!"

Unfortunately, living peacefully is not as easy as it seems. Though Ralph is named chief, Jack and the choristers quickly form a clique of their own, using the ever-effective political promise of fun rather than responsibility to draw converts. Director Peter Brook draws some excellent performances out of his young cast; the moment when Ralph realizes that even if he blows the conch for a meeting people might not come is an excruciating one. Well acted and faithfully executed, Lord of the Flies is as compelling today as when first released. --Ali Davis --This text refers to the VHS edition of this video

From Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide
Lord of the Flies: Unique story of a group of British schoolboys stranded on remote island. Their gradual degeneration into a savage horde is compelling. Adapted from William Golding's novel.

Video Description
This story about a group of schoolboys shipwrecked on an uninhabited island is a damning interpretation of human nature, showing how once-civilized youngsters gradually turn into savages when left to their own devices. Based on the 1955 novel by William Golding.

Reviews of the Day

Fantastic DVD transfer

March 18, 2000
Reviewer: A viewer from San Ramon, Ca
I've been waiting for this one to become available for awhile. The Criterion DVD has so many valuable extras. The amount and quality of commentary is exceptional. Crystal clear images! You even get Golding reading is own excerpts! As for the movie itself... It is compelling and disturbing. I wrote a review back in about December. The images grow on you and are very memorable. Outstanding film making. Yes, the dialogue of the scene from the book where Simon talks to the pig is left out. I would have put it in, but the facial expression by the child is very interesting as he examines "The Lord." I've taught the novel and find this version very powerful and true to the intent of the author. The later movie version is horrendous and completely perverts the message. This is the version. The child actors are very real, the story of the film making on the DVD will only further your enjoyment! A Criterion Collection Winner! My other Criterion Collection DVD, the Third Man, is also a winner. Golding Rules! Very Powerful!

Evil lurks in the hearts of marooned boys

December 19, 1997
Reviewer: from Ontario, Canada
This is the 1960's movie of the Nobel Prizewinning novel by William Golding. Filmed near Puerto Rico in black and white, it faithfully reflects the novel's themes of good and evil.

A group of young British schoolboys are marooned on a tropical island during a future nuclear war. There are no adults with the boys, none of whom is over 13 years old. So the boys attempt to form a society, based on their school's rules and what little they know of adult rules of behavior. One boy is the good one, Ralph, who attempts to form a democratic society. His nemesis is Jack, who's the party type. He forms a rival group of hunters, who are not interested in getting rescued.

Eventually the groups split, leaving sensible Ralph isolated. The theme here is that the boys prefer the excitement of the hunter over that of an organized group. Then the hunter group rapidly disintegrates into savagery, all pretense of civilization falls away. At the horrific climax, the boys kill Simon in a savage attack and set the island on fire.

Golding handles his themes very well. Good and evil. How thin is the line between civilization and savagery. How anarchy so easily triumphs over organization. Despair that doing one's best is not enough. Friendship, loyalty and betrayal.

It is easy to see why this novel is so frequently set as high school study material. The themes are timeless and reveal more and more nuances with repeated study. --This text refers to the VHS Tape edition.

See also 1992 movie version of this novel, in an Americanized and inferior version. Extremely terrible adaptation from the original.
Reviewer: Enrique Munoz Ramirez

I can't believe what has happened to this wonderful, but creepy story. It has been chopped, and rearranged in a very awkward manner. Some important and key scenes aren't in the story at all! The movie didn't even exploit the message in the tale of man's dark nature. If Golding saw the movie version of his famous book, I think he would have been very disappointed. If I had it my way, I would had rearranged the story like the original. Read the book, its better.

"We'll have lots of rules"
Reviewer: Flesh And Wine

When I was a kid, I wanted nothing so much as to live on a Caribbean island. Warmth, water, critters, sea life, and running around naked made me envy Ralph, Jack, and the rest despite the outcome; they only needed a few girls there too.

William Golding was a devout Catholic, and his novel arises from the beliefs and doctrines of that church. The foremost is the view of mankind as hopelessly compromised in its character and unable to create a decent society without the grace of higher power. Without this grace, humans lose the consciousness of themselves and others that makes a higher form of existence possible, and they become 'beasts' who are neither good nor bad, but amoral. This amorality can be seen either as a state of innocence or a state of savagery. And so, Golding used kids, whose consciousness is much lower and whose veneer of civilized behavior is much thinner than adults, to examine the process of a decline into that primordial state.

Humanists dislike Golding's novel since it asserts that people are incorrigible, and a civil society is unattainable and unsustainable without religious belief and guidance (or at least the appearance of it). Golding implies that rules and laws are not enough, and the nature of society depends on the nature of its individuals. But I think Golding intended a deeper meaning than the political implications that many take from it, which is that God is what makes humans unlike beasts but something more. Much as the presence of adults turns children into adults as they grow, the presence of the divine is what gives people the things they cherish most: the awareness of themselves and others as human and all that goes with that. Whether that is the case remains to be proven and may be unprovable.

There's a Darwinian aspect to the story also in that Jack turned out to be the successful competitor in the situation into which the boys were thrown. Ralph had too civilized a character to oppose Jack at his level. The promise of salvation and rescue is too remote to overcome Jack's ability to feed the boys' immediate needs and desires.

Peter Brook and the rest did a excellent job of filming Golding's novel. It's much better than later Americanized version if only because the kids are much more sympathetic. I missed the conversation between Simon and the pig's head, but including it wouldn't have worked as well as the silent confrontation Brook chose instead. Golding set the action on a Pacific island with the boys probably fleeing one of the British colonies there. Two obvious things tell the viewer that it was filmed in the Caribbean: the queen conch which is used for a trumpet and the sea grapes on the beach. Neither of them are found in the Pacific.

The making of the film of the novel is at least as interesting as the film itself. This DVD contains a good bit of information on that subject. Outtakes, home movies, and deleted scenes are included as well as commentary by the filmmakers. The commentary is interesting, but I wish Peter Brook had spent more time explaining the specifics of the scenes as they occur instead of spouting gassy generalities about film making. The picture is amazingly clear. The footage of the boys when they weren't performing brings back my old desire, and I wish I could have been a part of the project. The scene where James Aubrey (Ralph) and Tom Chapin (Jack) strip naked and dash into surf makes me sick with envy.

Criterion has done an excellent job with this film.

Reviewer: Jacques COULARDEAU from Auvergne, France,
next door to Lestat de Lioncourt's birth place Peter Brook is a genius and this film will never die. A bunch of kids evacuated from England during the Second World War regress to the worst imaginable savage state. They recreate all evils. They recreate superstitions. They recreate killing as a way to cope with their fear of the night. They recreate killing for the sake of their own unity and their own belief in the possibility to survive. The blood of their victims becomes the rite of their sanity. Modern men cannot any more go back to any kind of primitive state without losing their culture, their civilization, their humanity. They go back to animalism. The most frightening element is that any one who speaks loud and strong is able to unify a pack of human animals behind him, on the basis of their frustration. It is a clear lesson about our society. We live with wolves among us. Economic wolves who are ready to devour us to increase their power and their fortune. Moral and political wolves who are ready to kill those that are considered as non-social to get popular support and votes. Even cultural wolves who are ready to destroy any sanity in order to become stars and gurus. Man is a sectarian animal. That is what this film tells us. And the coming of the British Navy to save those kids do not save anything because we suddenly discover that deep down the kids are just normal because they submit to this authority as soon as it arrives. And the whole nightmare is punctuated with religious music that is transformed into some war chant of death...Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, Universities of Paris IX and II
--This text refers to the VHS Tape edition.

A Good Rendition
Reviewer: Sheldon Alquist from Nevada
This version of "Lord of the Flies" seems to follow the book rather closely. That is, the 1962 version. Don't mess with the later version, released in the early '90s.

This film shows us how easily we civilized humans revert to savagery. I think that is our basic instinct, and we really have to work to be 'civilized'.

I think that several scenes were left out, but the film had to be cut in order to be viewed by a typical audience. I think that at least 2 hours were cut from the original.

If you have read "Lord of the Flies", you will enjoy this movie. Buy it. It follows the book nicely.

Awesome movie!
Reviewer: hotstuff_jj from IOWA
I literally thought that this is one of the best movies ever. If you've read the book...You have to see the movie!

Reviewer: wdanthemanw from Geneva, Switzerland
Last Criterion DVD to date, Peter Brook's LORD OF THE FLIES has the flavour of dead flowers. Adapted from the book of Nobel Prize winner William Golding, the movie relates the adventures of a group of english children lost in a desert island after the crash of their airplane. The purpose of Golding-Brooks was not to describe another Robinson Crusoë story but rather to describe the evolution or rather the regression of a society left without the protection of the laws established during 2000 years of civilization.

LORD OF THE FLIES is an allegory. One can easily follow the ideas of Peter Brook if we keep in mind that the actions of the children can be read in the mirror of ethnological or anthropological recent discoveries. Their fear from the beast that some of the children believe to have seen in the tropical nights is very close to the fear of God or of the gods of our ancestors, and so on.

Shot in black and white and with children wonderfully directed by Peter Brook, LORD OF THE FLIES is hypnotizing. How can these blond heads become so rapidly like us, cold-blooded monsters ? Our rousseauist view of Mother Nature will disintegrate very fast in front of these kids, our kids.

Sound, images and extra features are at the level of what we expect from Criterion.

Hidden behind the symbolism...
Reviewer: A viewer from Cleveland, Ohio
This is (was) a film draped in rich symbolism: there is enough sociology, political science, and even theology to satisfy almost any Bostonion. Yet to me when I saw it as a child, it was first a film about nudity: about social nudity amongst boys. In this film boys splash, run on the beach, and even spank one another while laughing and peeking with curiosity. If that all sounds exploitational, this is surely not new, nor does it invalidate the other "higher" levels of appreciation. Plenty of Italian artists were dislaying nudity in the 1600's, and pointedly ignoring it. With enough angst, demons ("Lord of the Flies" is Beelzebub), and Biblical allusions for Michelangelo, this is a great old classic.
--This text refers to the VHS Tape edition.

Totally captivating movie
Reviewer: geneseorick from Geneseo, IL
This, the 1963 version of Lord of the Flies, is definitely the superior version. A captivating movie with beautiful black and white cinematography, excellent non-Hollywood acting, and one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard. The soundtrack is from Misa Luba, a Latin mass sung by a Belgian Congo choir.
--This text refers to the VHS Tape edition.

Lord of the Flies.......metaphysical definition.....Beelzebub
Reviewer: Bruce E. Fields from Columbia, TN
Young boys shipwrecked on a deserted island...two camps camp planning to stay on the island...the other camp anticipating camp motivated by fear,confusion, and idolatry...the other driven by faith, hope, and unity... This film speaks of the duality of man...carnal vs spiritual...the flesh warring against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. Simon (the bearer of truth) was falsely accused of being a monster ....Point being.... truth is always the monster which threatens a lie. In viewing this film try to look for meaningful symbols which speak of deeper truth...It is "young blonde beast ravening prey" is lawlessness...yet at the same time it is the just living by is hope....

The best film version of the Golding masterpiece.
Reviewer: A viewer from San Ramon, California
Initially, this film looks very low budget, but it's cinematic style tells the story very powerfully. I found myself engrossed with the film. The amateur cast of children rings very true to form, especially the actor who plays Ralph. The characters are very strongly realized. The sound appears off in a few places so I want to see if the DVD version coming out works over this problem. This version will get to you. The black and white film presents an atmosphere very faithful to the book. The later 90's version perverts the main idea by adding females and a living adult on the island. This alters the nature of the "beast," and leads the story down a different moral path. See this black and white version. It'll stay with you. Simon's death and the final sequence are very disturbing and profound. I'm buying the dvd Criterion version.

Reviewer: A viewer from uk
This 1960's version is my most favorite movie in the world, especially as the boys weren't real actors; they portrayed their characters very well.
--This text refers to the VHS Tape edition.

This movie rocks!
Reviewer: Nate from USA
I agree with the author about the story. I don't think that there is always a happy ending when people, much less boys under 12 years old. I think this is an excellent movie!
--This text refers to the VHS Tape edition

Review: Lord of the Flies
Reviewer: Nausika from USA
Lord of the Flies represents society to a tee. Even more so in the 90s than in the day it was written. William Golding is a genius, and this book proves it. Lord of the Flies is a dramatic book that is hardly a feel-good experience. After reading the book, I watched the 1963 movie, which I promptly bought. It is just like the book, word for word. I give it 4 out of 4 stars. I then watched the 1990 movie, which didn't follow the plot line entirely, and had unnecessary scenes. It was rated R, which no movie based on Lord of the Flies should be. I give that movie 1/2 of a star. The book is my favorite, and every time I read it, I get more out of it. It had me weeping at the close of the story. I strongly recommend that you read this book.
--This text refers to the VHS Tape edition.

Jordan R Birch from Buckinghamshire , UK
This disturbing tale of the downfall of civilization really makes you think. Every chapter makes you want to read on and on and on. William Golding really knows what kids are like (trust me, I'm 11 years old).


Review By Chuck


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