The Blue Lagoon appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Much of the picture looked excellent, but some inconsistencies occurred.
Sharpness varied slightly throughout the film but it tended to be crisp. Only on rare occasions did definition seem slightly soft. Instead, the flick usually came across as detailed and concise. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and only a sliver of edge enhancement manifested itself.
Print quality occasionally betrayed some problems, though they mostly resided in the first act. I noticed periodic examples of specks, grit, and slightly excessive grain. Though they never became intense, they led to a few minor distractions. Again, these occurred mainly in the flick’s initial half-hour or so, as the rest of it looked cleaner.
Colors generally looked bold and were a strong point. The movie’s tropical setting offered much "eye candy". At times hues seemed ever-so-slightly flat, but those examples were the exception. Black levels usually seemed tight, but some day-for-night shots led to a few low-light images that lacked great clarity. Since the vast majority of Lagoon occurred in daylight, that was not often a concern, but it did mar the nighttime scenes. Nonetheless, the image of The Blue Lagoon seemed reasonably above average.
I received a pleasant surprise from the atypically strong Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack. The audio offered a much more vibrant and flamboyant presentation than I'd expect from a 1980 release. The front soundstage seemed nicely active, with a fair amount of audio localized to the right and left speakers. Not much panning occurred between channels, but the image nonetheless seemed pretty wide at times. The rear speakers also provided a moderately active component. The surrounds didn't compare with modern movies, of course, but they offered some decent ambient effects and helped bolster the musical score.
That music was the strongest point of the soundtrack. The score sounded very lush and rich and it spread out nicely through all of the channels. Dialogue and effects didn’t appear quite as true and natural as the music. In general they were acceptably clear and distinctive, though without tremendous definition. The score really impressed me, though, and it helped bolster my grade to a “B+”. Again, the mix didn’t compare with modern efforts, but it was much more impressive than usual for a 25-year-old flick.
The DVD’s producers haven't exactly knocked themselves out for the supplemental features of The Blue Lagoon, but there are a few choice extras here. The biggest draws are the two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Randal Kleiser, writer Douglas Day Stewart, and actor Brooke Shields, all of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion. Shield doesn’t appear until around the start of the second act; essentially, she comes into the chat at about the same time she enters the film.
A strong commentary, this one covers all sorts of useful topics. Notes about the location abound, as we find out all of the various challenges presented by the primitive setting. We also learn a lot about the script and changes from the original novel, casting issues, the film’s look, its music, and general thematic notions.
In addition to a lot of concrete data, we hear many fun anecdotes. Shields proves most effective in that regard, as she tosses out enjoyable stories such as how the movie’s baby went to town on her blossoming bosom. A few short spots of dead air occur, and the praise becomes a little thick at times, but this remains a likable and informative piece.
For the second track, we hear from Kleiser and actor Christopher Atkins in another running, screen-specific chat for which the pair sit together. Even more anecdotal than the first commentary, this one covers a little of the same material but usually manages to avoid repetition. Among topics discussed, we hear about casting, cinematographer Nestor Almendros and the movie’s look, issues connected to the nudity, location challenges, and the movie’s success.
Kleiser and Atkins interact well, and the actor manages to become a very active part of the proceedings. He tosses out many entertaining stories about his experiences and makes this a fun chat. If Atkins had been half this personable and charming in the movie, it might’ve been effective. In any case, the commentary presents a nice mixture of production notes and loose anecdotes to become very useful and enjoyable.
We also see a nine-minute and five-second featurette that comes from the period of the film's 1980 release. Called An Adventure In Filmmaking - the Making of The Blue Lagoon, it's fairly interesting. Obviously its brevity precludes it from offering an in-depth detailing of the film's creation, but it hits the important notes via comments from Kleiser, Atkins and Shields. It also offers some cool bits like Atkins' unsurprisingly poor screen test and a scene from the original 1948 Blue Lagoon. We learn most of the information in the commentaries, but this one includes some nice archival shots.
Next we find Brooke Shields' Photo Album, a collection of 50 still photographs taken during the production. Other than some mildly sexy bikini shots of Brooke, I thought these were less interesting than most production photos, and I'm not a fan of the genre as it is.
My dislike of the pictures may have been exacerbated by the DVD's weak execution. The braintrust at Columbia can't leave well enough alone and present still photos in a normal, user-friendly manner. Here they create an animation of a photo album and a page "flips" when you go to the next picture. This is cute for about five seconds and then just becomes annoying, especially since this slows down your access; it takes much longer than it should to skip from picture to picture. Also, the "photo album" frame means that the pictures themselves rarely take up more than half of the space available on your TV. This is annoying because it makes the photos much smaller than they should be.
Finally, the DVD includes a silly trailer and some poorly done talent biographies for actors Shields, Atkins, Leo McKern and William Daniels plus Kleiser and Stewart. They offer nothing more than very basic facts and filmographies.
Recommendation time, and you don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows. You don't need Roger Ebert to tell you that The Blue Lagoon blows as well. The film caused a smutty sensation in 1980 but stands as a simply atrocious movie when divorced from those issues. The DVD presents generally solid picture and sound along with a roster of extras that includes two very entertaining audio commentaries. I can’t complain about the DVD, as it works well. Too bad the movie itself is a disaster.
Note: this version of The Blue Lagoon came to me as part of a “double feature” package along with the 1991 sequel Return to the Blue Lagoon. It’s also available on its own, and I believe both DVDs are identical; I think that the “double feature” simply pairs the two in one set for a bargain price.