Peter Brooke (director)
Criterion Collection (studio)
28 August 2017 (released)
12 September 2017
Peter Brook’s highly acclaimed 1963 film adaptation of William Golding’s novel LORD OF THE FLIES still ticks the right boxes after all those years. The stark b/w picture and the visuals may appear as ‘primitive’ as the primeval behaviour of some of the stranded school boys but the story itself serves as a timeless reminder for the disturbing fact that, given the wrong circumstances, the beast lurks in all of us!
When a group of English students are evacuated from the British island during a (fictitious) war, it doesn’t take long until the aircraft is fired at by enemy fighters and it crashes. This sequence is achieved by using what looks like photo-copied images and sound effects suggesting the crash. The pilot loses his life but the students make it to a deserted island. Initially, the general mood is one of “Let’s make the best of the situation and let’s hope a search party is on its way”. With the stranded pupils in agreement that a leader ought to be appointed, the initial choice falls to Ralph (James Aubrey) whose logic and calm thinking translates as ‘the voice of reason. He is the only one who doesn’t indulge in contantly bullying the chubby and bespectacled Piggy (Hugh Edwards). Soon though the first cracks appear when a boy called Jack (Tom Chapin) displays disturbing skills with a knife and kills a piglet. He and some other boys are appointed as hunters but soon indulge in their violent behaviour and form a tribe of their own – resulting in a guarded fire, which is supposed to signal any plane flying across the island, going out. After Ralph confronts Jack over his irresponsible behaviour things only worsen and get worse still when another pupil, Simon (Tom Gaman) discovers a pigs head on a wooden spike surrounded by flies. It was left by Jack as a sacrificial offering to the ‘Beast’ – something he imagines to haunt and control the island. Soon the first deadly accident occurs and Ralph realises that it is only him, Piggy and a few others who need to take a stance against Jack’s tribe if they want to survive. Meanwhile Roger (Roger Elwin), another member of Jack’s clan who by now behave like primitive warriors (even their faces are painted) functions as self-appointed torturer and executioner. Soon, the next victim falls prey to the increasingly violent group lead by Jack and Roger…
With the exception of the late James Aubrey (who went on to find success as a professional actor particularly during the 1970’s/80’s) and Nicholas Hammond (in the role as pupil Robert), the rest of the boys were all non-actors and remained so. It is down to the skill of director Brook that his little protégés imagined themselves to be in such a situation as acted out their emotions accordingly, though some of the dialogue comes across as improvised.
LORD OF THE FLIES is newly restored as a Blu-ray Special Edition and contains plenty of bonus material such as interviews, audio recordings with author William Golding, Behind the Scenes' featurette, trailer, as well as an illustrated booklet.