Sunday Afternoon with Criterion: Lord of the Flies Edition


I: Intro
II: Desert Island Criterion Movies
III: Lord of the Flies
IV: What’s New?
V: Links


Welcome to Sunday Afternoon with Criterion, a series of fortnightly posts on covering everything Criterion—the company’s newest releases, just-announced projects, reviews, lists, links, and more.

I caught up with Peter Brook’s Lord of the Flies earlier this week. It was a first-time watch that shook my to my core, but more on that later. Today, I’m leading with something profoundly silly but tangentially related to Lord of the Flies: a Criterion-specific version of the game Desert Island. And following my thoughts on Brook’s film, I’ve got some on the Criterion Collection‘s just-announced October lineup, and I leave you today, as always, with links to your Criterion-related pieces.

Desert Island Criterion Movies

Before I get into my thoughts on Peter Brook’s Lord of the Flies, let me share with you my theory on why the young boys on the island devolved into murderous savages: They didn’t have any good movies to watch! Now, throw me on an island like that, and I wouldn’t exactly thrive. With some quality films to keep me entertained and busy…well, I still wouldn’t thrive, but it’d buy a few days…maybe…

You’ve all probably played Desert Island, so you know the rules—five movies (or music or anything really) that you’d want to have with you on a desert island. This is my Criterion edition of said game. These aren’t necessarily the BEST movies in the Criterion Collection, but the five I’d want to watch until I died of starvation or whatever…

5.) Armageddon — No, you read that correctly. If I can’t escape my truly horrible situation, I’d want at least one good bit of action escapism with me. I adore Michael Bay’s space-set epic, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks. So there.

4.) Metropolitan — This spot could also easily go to The Royal Tenenbaums (or any other Wes Anderson movie), but I’ve seen them all so many times, I thought they might wear out their welcome faster than Whit Stillman’s hilarious debut film, which I’ve only seen once and loved, even though I sort of hated it, too. Hated myself for loving the characters, I guess is more like it.

3.) Days of Heaven — Ask me on any given day what my favorite Terrence Malick movie is, and you might get a different answer each day. Days of Heaven is probably the answer you’d get more than any other, though. Whenever I finish watching that movie, I want to watch it again…and again…and again…

2.) The Third Man — A stalwart entry on my all-time top ten, Carol Reed’s unforgettable noir isn’t available on Criterion any longer, but for the purposes of this game, let’s pretend there was a copy of the old DVD on the plane with me. Almost makes the crash worth it?

1.) The Wages of Fear — Another all-time top ten (probably all-time top five) entry. Clouzot’s film is the thriller. I almost feel sorry for any other director attempting to make one.

Lord of the Flies

William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies is required reading for almost every American high schooler, and for good reason. Its story is one that will shake anyone of any age to his or her core, but it does so in a way that’s steadfastly resonant and deeply meaningful.

Peter Brook’s film of the same name—the first adaptation of the novel I know about—is just as resonant, just as scary. It opens niftily with still photos and angelic choir music telling us how the boys we’re set to spend the next 90 minutes with arrived on their tropical island hell. The live action picks up with Ralph (James Aubrey) and Piggy (Hugh Edwards) meeting and discovering a conch shell. Ralph blows into it, and out rush a couple dozen other youngsters including Jack (Tom Chapin), a domineering young boy with aspirations to lead the group. They seem to prefer Ralph’s gentle, democratic style more, so he becomes chief, but it isn’t long before Jack starts undermining him. He leads a group of hunters who, literally, bring home the bacon (“Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Bash him in!”), and he strikes fear in the hearts of the others with talk of a beast that’s stalking them from the wood.

It’s enough to call Ralph’s leadership into question; after all, what has he gotten done in their time on the island? But the more control Jack seizes, the more everyone—or mostly everyone—behaves like a savage.

Brook is smart in not asking his cast of young, unknown actors to do too much heavy lifting. Don’t get me wrong, Aubrey, Edwards, and especially the sniveling Chapin are all just fine. But it’s Brook’s direction (and Golding’s source material, of course) that gives the film its bite. He uses quick cuts and dark lighting that maximize confusion and tension during some of the film’s most intense scenes. It’s a simple choice that might not sound like it accomplishes much, but if you watch this film, you won’t forget it anytime soon. It’s quite a cinematic achievement and exactly my kind of horror film.

What’s New?

I tweeted shortly after Criterion made its October titles announcement that the general reaction to the lineup seemed like “OK, but where’s my David Cronenberg?” It’s true, I and many others were expecting at the very least Scanners, maybe The Brood as well. David Lynch’s Eraserhead is another title that seems like an inevitable addition to the Collection. October lineups are usually horror-centric, and this one is no different, it’s just the films announced weren’t the ones many expected.

Which isn’t to say any of these titles are uninvited, and with that predictably awful segway, we get to the first new title and the one I’m most interested in Lewis Allen’s 1944 horror flick The Uninvited with Ray Milland. Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, Criterion #260, receives a Blu-Ray upgrade. And Rene Clair rounds out the “horror” trio—or more accurately, the Halloween-appropriate trio—with the screwball comedy I Married a Witch.

The final new title in the bunch is Antonioni’s La Notte. The less said about my ignorance toward Antonioni and his films, the better. Finally, there’s a Blu-Ray upgrade of the John Cassavetes: Five Films box set—something I’ve got my eye on for Criterion’s next half-off sale…but more on that next time.

My thoughts on this lineup as a whole? Kind of meh, but only by Criterion standards. I listened to the Criterion Cast’s rundown of the first half of 2013, and there really wasn’t a weak month to be found. Then there’s July: strong. August: terrific. September: incredible. There’s nothing wrong with October’s titles, but there’s nothing there that I’m incredibly excited for.


I leave you this week (as I will every week) with the always thoughtful words of some admired friends and contemporaries:

Surrender to the Void tackles a blind spot (and a personal favorite of mine), John Ford’s Stagecoach.

The Warning Sign features a new review of Rififi.

Finally, “Let’s Not Talk About Movies” recommends Fritz Lang’s Ministry of Fear, calling it “one of those that ‘got away’ from The Master of Suspense.”

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3 Responses to Sunday Afternoon with Criterion: Lord of the Flies Edition

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