Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Peter Brook
Written by: Peter Brook
(based on the novel LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding)
Starring: James Aubrey, Tom Chapin, Hugh Edwards & Roger Elwin
LORD OF THE FLIES is probably one of the most disturbing books you could ever be required to read for school. The concept of savagery lurking beneath the appearance of civilization is a complex, but understandable idea. A darker side of nature needs to be glimpsed by students in subjects other than History, so I personally support its use in the public school system. Personally, I love William Golding’s novel and wonder why it took me so long to finally watch one of the two adaptations based on it. Seeing as this flick is from the 1960’s and adapting a rather dark piece of literature, it’s obvious that things are not going to get quite as graphic and bleak as the novel does. Peter Brook’s adaptation still is pretty friggin’ extreme and hits the nail right on the head, especially considering the time period in which this was made.
Assuming you don’t know what LORD OF THE FLIES is about, the story revolves around a group of school boys being evacuated from England during the war (never stated, but most likely WWII). Their plane crashes in the middle of the sea near an isolated island. On the island that’s filled with jungle and wild pigs, the boys decide to try to keep their cool as they wait for possible rescue to come. Rules are set in place and a makeshift society is formed. As the days stretch on and tensions grow among two very different growing cliques, civilized lifestyle quickly falls apart and savagery reigns supreme. Things get real bad, real quick.
With only two films to his name at the point in his career, Peter Brook directed the hell out of this movie. It looks gorgeous and every shot is well-constructed. The atmosphere is rich with ever-present dread and beauty comes from the Puerto Rican location. Brook also takes credit for penning the screenplay, but he may have well just given that to Golding. A couple of aspects involving the war overseas are kept out completely, but that actually works in the movie’s favor. Otherwise, the movie plays out like the book did. There’s also the exception of some dialogue, but that’s to be explained in a moment. Brook did his best to bring a nightmare to life and he mostly succeeded, but there’s just one nagging flaw.
The cast is a mixed bag. Apparently, most of the young actors had not read the source material before hand and Brooks literally explained scenes to them before the filmed those moments. This led to some dialogue being improvised. This isn’t noticeable in the sense that I feel like they bastardized the novel at all. However, some kids are better than others. A few of the younger child actors are surprisingly strong, while one of the older ones is just plain annoying. The latter comes in Hugh Edwards as Piggy. His character was not exactly the strongest in the novel, but Edwards makes him into an annoying whiner. I literally groaned during every scene that he was given another line to awkwardly deliver. His whole portrayal is just aggravating. The best performers are seen in the conflicting leader roles of Ralph (James Aubrey) and Jack (Tom Chapin). These two are convincing and Tom Chapin is especially good. He comes off like an early inspiration for Draco Malfoy in the HARRY POTTER series, but that’s neither here nor there. I also wish more time had been spent on Roger Elwin as a psychotic child who had more development in the novel.
Despite a couple of so-so performances (especially that of a key character), LORD OF THE FLIES is a solid adaptation of a phenomenal piece of literature. It’s dark, bleak and tense like the source material, but also gorgeous in the cinematography and location. I highly doubtful that there will be a modern take on this book any time soon, but there really isn’t a need for one when you have this flick. LORD OF THE FLIES is a worthwhile watch for fans of the novel or those who want to see a most unusual film involving the darker side of human nature.