Saturday, September 14, 2013

Paradise Lost At The Blue Lagoon

Hi ho, movie lovers. I have question for you. What happens when you make a movie about two stranded kids who "naturally" discover sex?

Give up?

You inspire somebody else to make another movie about two stranded kids who "naturally" discover sex.

Of course, I'm talking about 1980's "The Blue Lagoon" and 1981's "Paradise". Both films starred teen models with limited acting ability, curly-headed co-stars with even less acting ability and enough peek-a-boo nudity to delight pervs of every stripe.

Sadly, I am old enough to remember when these flicks premiered and the ruckus they caused. Basically, worry-warts feared that impressionable young people, after seeing the screen couples copulate ("naturally", mind you), would thus rush out and copulate themselves (less "naturally"). This was completely misguided hysteria and just the kind of free publicity the producers were counting on.

Truth be told, anyone who sat through one or both of these stinkers would be more inspired to laugh themselves sick or demand a refund, rather than engage in carnal relations, natural or otherwise.

With the passage of time, both films have attained the stature of unintentional laugh riots. But which film is worse than the other, "The Blue Lagoon" or "Paradise"? Let's compare the two and see!

PLOT ROT-- "The Blue Lagoon" presents two cousins stranded on a tropical island. They manage to avoid sun stroke, rickets, dental problems and bug bites on the way to discovering sex. "Paradise", on the other hand, presents two teens who are the lone survivors of a nasty ambush of Arab stereotypes. They manage to avoid sun stroke, dehydration, snake bites and camel spittle on the way to discovering sex.

THE WINNER-- It's a tie. Both plot lines are preposterous. Constant exposure to tropical and sub-tropical conditions without sun block and NONE OF THEM suffer any skin damage? Impossible.

DOUBLE TROUBLE-- "Blue Lagoon"s leading lady was Brooke Shields, a teen model with very bushy eyebrows. Her acting prowess was that of a teen model with very bushy eyebrows. Her co-star was Christopher Atkins, who had never acted before in his life. Over on the set of "Paradise" was Phoebe Cates, a regular Seventeen magazine cover girl, making her film debut. Her co-star was Willie Aames, then appearing as Tommy on the comedy/drama "Eight is Enough".

THE WINNER-- It's a tough call, because both couples are so evenly matched. In the end, the deciding factor was hair. Chris Atkins had to have his brown hair dyed blond and permed for "Lagoon". Willie Aames, on the other hand, was already sporting a wavy, sandy-colored mop that was left untouched. Therefore, Aames and Cates were a more "natural" couple and thus sweep this category.

CLOTHING OPTIONAL--Reams of free publicity were whipped up for both "The Blue Lagoon" and "Paradise" because of the scanty attire the principals sported on screen. No matter how much the two films producers defended the artistic integrity of their work, seeing the cast (or at least their body doubles) in various states of undress was the main selling point for the paying public (remember, this was before the Internet could bring nudity into every home on the block). However, which film was more "realistic" in regards to their stars' "au natural" cavorting?

Shields and Atkins characters were kids when they were shipwrecked on Club Med. Common sense would dictate that they would out-grow their clothes eventually, especially since their island idyll would last several years. Cates and Aames, meanwhile, were already teens when "Paradise" started. Unlike the "Lagoon" duo, Phoebe and Willie were only stranded for a couple of months, tops, so it's highly unlikely their wardrobes would shrink as fast as they did.

THE WINNER-- It's a tie! Both these films knew nudity (real or imagined) was the selling point, so how "realistic" it was for Brooke and Chris and Phoebe and Willie to start showing some skin was irrelevant. These couples could have been stranded in Antarctica and the producers would still have found a way to get them naked.

ANIMAL INSTINCTS-- Both "The Blue Lagoon" and "Paradise" take place during the Victorian Era, a time of extreme sexual prudery and general disgust with the human body and its functions. Because of their isolation from society and supervising adults, our young protagonists have not been influenced/corrupted by these prevailing social mores. Thus, when Brooke and Chris and Phoebe and Willie discover you know what, their respective films insisted they were sin-free innocents only doing what God intended, not a bunch of horny kids getting their peppers popped.

However, the kids do pick up some pointers from Mother Nature, specifically their animal friends. For Brooke and Chris, it's seeing sea turtles and fish hook up that inspires them. Phoebe and Willie, however, put two and two together after they catch their pet chimp pleasuring himself.

THE WINNER--For being the only film in the history of the universe to show a monkey monkeying around with himself (not even "The Planet of the Apes" series sank so low), "Paradise" wins.

BAD GUYS--Every drama comes with conflict. In the case of our two films, the couples' idyllic life is threatened now and then by evil forces. In "The Blue Lagoon", it's a tribe of cannibalistic head hunters who live on the other side of their island. Unfortunately, the natives never get around to making ham hocks out of Chris and Brooke. Over at "Paradise", the bad guy is a nasty Arab named "The Jackal", who kidnaps and sells women. He has his eye on Phoebe, whom he wants for himself.

THE WINNER--"The Jackal" in "Paradise" is your typical lip curling Arab stereotype, a meanie who sneers at Europeans ("The King's English is for pigs!") and treats women like dirt. The Jackal is so determined to snatch Phoebe ("such a desert flower!") that he chases her and Willie all over the dunes. In fact, no sooner do Cates and Aames think they are safe enough to set up house, get naked and frolic under the sun than Mr. J arrives, forcing them to flee once more. For engaging in stereotypes, "Paradise" tramples the competition.

SPECIAL FEATURES-- In "The Blue Lagoon" Brooke eventually becomes pregnant as a result of all the "natural" sex she's been having. Since she has no idea what has happened to her, Brooke's labor provides one of the flick's hilarious highlights: the pains start, Shields squats in the dirt, squeals like a stuck pig and out pops a baby. The whole process takes about 20 minutes or so.

Because they are constantly on the move to avoid The Jackal, the "Paradise" duo don't have the time or the energy to make a baby. Instead, Willie and Phoebe's pet chimp finds himself a lady friend who promptly gives birth to a bouncing baby...baboon.

THE WINNER--For showing the world that chimpanzees can give birth to baboons, "Paradise" racks up another win.

Personally, I can just imagine the producers of "Paradise" dismissing any concerns that a chimp giving birth to a baboon would harm the artistic integrity of their film. "This isn't a National Geographic Special!" the producers would thunder. "Everybody is waiting to see the kids naked! Trust me, nobody is going to care!"

AWARDS--Perhaps because it came out first and garnered more publicity, "The Blue Lagoon" was justly honored with several dubious citations. The Golden Raspberry Awards voted Brooke Shields as the "Worst Actress" of 1980. In fact, her repeat appearance in the annual Razzie run-down of the year's worst films during the 1980s earned Brooke (along with Madonna, Faye Dunaway and Pia Zadora) a coveted "Worst Actress of the Decade" nomination at the Razzie's 1990 gala celebrations (the winning basket of berries went to Bo Derek).

That doesn't mean that "Paradise" skirted by unnoticed, however. Roger Ebert chose "Paradise" as his pick for "The Dog of the Week" on "Sneak Previews". The Golden Raspberries, meanwhile, would single out Willie Aames as a "Worst Actor" nominee for both "Paradise" and the putrid "comedy" "Zapped" in 1982. Incidentally, Chris Atkins of "The Blue Lagoon" was also up for a Razzie that year for his performance in the misbegotten musical monstrosity "The Pirate Movie". The "Worst Actor" winner would be Lord Laurence Olivier for "Inchon", a film lovingly conceived, financed, produced and promoted by the Rev. Moon.

So movie lovers, which cinematic suppository is the worst film ever made about stranded kids who "naturally" discover sex?

DRUM ROLL PLEASE...

It's "PARADISE"!

Yes, this was a tight, tight race with one talentless (but photogenic) couple pitted head-to-head with another talentless (but photogenic) couple.


However, Willie and Phoebe carry the day because while "The Blue Lagoon" is indeed an awful movie, "Paradise" is even worse! What's more, "Paradise" managed to toss in racial stereotypes, masturbating chimps, a cross-species birth and lines like "I can't control the camel!" with the requisite peek-a-boo nudity and philosophical silliness to create a singularly rotten movie mongrel. Or, to paraphrase John Barbor, if "Paradise" was any more of a dog, it would shed.

So until next time movie lovers, keep a song in your heart and a bad movie in your VCR--and save the movies!