Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sea Sickness: "Rescue from Gilligan's Island" (1978)

I'll admit it. When I was a kid, I thought the show "Gilligan's Island" was a laugh riot. When this film, the first of three chronicling what happened to the castaways, came out in 1978, I was beside myself with anticipation. Now, I'm a 41 year old man, and this thing is one of the worst experiences of my life...little buddy.

You may remember the show. Seven people are stranded on an uncharted island after a storm wrecks their boat. You have Gilligan (Bob Denver), the lovable bumbling klutz. His boss is the Skipper (Alan Hale, Jr.). The Howells (Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer) are richer than God. Ginger (here played by Judith Baldwin after original cast member Tina Louise passed) is a famous movie star. The Professor (Russell Johnson) kept the group alive with his weird inventions and expertise with turning jungle items into food and shelter. Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) was the farm girl with a heart as big as the great outdoors.

When the film opens, the group has been stranded on the island for fifteen years. A Russian spy satellite has been destroyed in space, and a strange disc drops out of it right into the island's lagoon. The Professor figures out a way to turn the strange disc into a barometer, and forecasts a giant storm and accompanying tsunami will wipe out the island...what are you getting mad at me for? I didn't write this. The group lashes their huts together, the storm comes, and the Coast Guard finds the castaways and brings them to Hawaii, and they resettle back in the continental United States.

Don't go anywhere, we're only half way through this. The Skipper's insurance company won't pay for a second boat until he can collect everyone's signature on an affidavit saying the initial shipwreck was not his fault. Two Russian spies, Art LaFleur and Vincent Schiavelli (who looks and sounds exactly like Borat), follow the Skipper and Gilligan as they visit their old friends. The two need to get the disc back, and Gilligan is wearing it around his neck. The world of the late 1970's is a scary place, as Gilligan and the Skipper find out, and none of the other castaways seem to be doing very well.

I know. I know I'm not the audience for this made for TV gunk, I know I'm not a kid anymore, and I know the original show is now an icon to sitcom lovers everywhere. I know all that. I also know that it took four people to write this, it runs a little over an hour and a half, and I did not laugh once. I smiled when the Howells would make some remark about being so rich, but other than that, nothing. I didn't want Harold Pinter drama about the castaways readjusting to life on their return, but my God, this is just so badly written and shot, with an ending that might have you skimming "Final Exit."

I won't go into how the cast or crew does on the film, because it's all inept. Don't go into this expecting to feel a wave of nostalgia wash over you, I was distracted by the crappy public domain picture and waves of nausea. I also found myself pondering the question asked by other children of the '70's and '80's (and unoriginal stand-up comedians everywhere): how the hell did this spaz Gilligan survive for so long? How was he not strangled to death within a week of the shipwreck by the other cast members?

The television show's originators are still trying to get a feature film off the ground, now they want Michael Cera and Beyonce in it...hmm, that idea might be even worse than this thing. Stage your own rescue- don't watch "Rescue From Gilligan's Island." (*) out of five stars.