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Lord of the Flies: The Criterion Collection

A faithful re-telling of William Golding's 1955 novel, Peter Brook's 1963 film Lord of the Flies is valuable, for where Golding may have used language to subtly convey the psychological turmoil and violent episodes of children who exist in a world without consequences, the skilled Brook brings these conflicts alive, aided by a solid production team, a capable cast of young actors, and stark black-and-white photography that effectively strips Golding's tropical paradise of anything resembling organic life. At an unspecified point in the future, a worldwide war has forced a group of English schoolboys to evacuate the country via a high-altitude jet aircraft, which inexplicably crashes over the south Pacific. Jettisoned safely to a small island, young Ralph (James Aubrey) meets the rotund, shy Piggy (Hugh Edwards), and with the call of a conch shell Ralph summons the other surviving boys. He quickly is elected as the leader (or "chief"), and a few rules of civilization are established, including regular meetings and the various duties that all will perform in the hopes of getting rescued. But, almost immediately, Ralph is challenged by Jack (Tom Chapin), the leader of the school choir, who declares that his group will be "hunters." Before long, Jack's bullying, exciting hunts, and wild ways seduce most of the other boys to see him as a leader, as they prefer his offers of fun and protection over Ralph's precocious ideas of democracy and rationalism. Allegorical on almost every level, Lord of the Flies functions literarily much like Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984, using a simple story to illustrate truths the author believed to be most relevant to his 20th century readers. But Golding's story -- and Brook's film -- approaches the nature of civilization and self-government from historical, anthropological, and sociological viewpoints, where the line between savage tribalism and ordered civilization is a much finer distinction than one might suspect. Criterion's DVD of Lord of the Flies is a definitive edition, with a good transfer (in the original 1.33:1) and audio in the original mono (DD 1.0). The print looks very good for a European film from the '60s, with many sequences free of damage and with strong low-contrast details. However, there are a few scenes that have substantial flecking and lines, and, while minor, it's unfortunate these elements couldn't be digitally corrected before the DVD release. Supplements include a commentary track with director Brook, producer Lewis Allen, director of photography Tom Hollyman, and cameraman/editor Gerald Fail; some home-movies and tests by D.P. Hollyman, along with outtakes and a production scrapbook; a deleted scene and a trailer, both with commentary; and an introduction and excerpts from the novel read by Golding himself on a third audio track. The final supplement, in and of itself, is priceless.

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