I settled on revisiting this Reed film for a variety of reasons. I wanted to include something from the eighties that wasn’t necessarily from his years of low budget fodder. Also because this isn’t a role where he is relegated to playing a villain in some far off country. Lastly because I remember when this film was released it carried with it a bit of fanfare focusing on Reed returning to form in a serious minded movie from respected film maker Nicolas Roeg. I even recall the original novel the script was based on being re released with Reed and his costar Amanda Donohoe on the cover.
In the opening scenes Oliver sporting a red beard with curly hair to match decides to post an add looking for a young woman to spend a year with him on a deserted isle off the coast of Australia. He’s looking for a 20 to 30 year old and like many middle aged men might do he scratches off his age of 45 and goes with 35 plus in reference to himself. As Amanda points out, “It’s the ultimate blind date.”
The courageous Donohoe answers the call and Ollie thinks he’s won a lottery when he gets a look at his partner in this life altering adventure. From their opening discussions over dinner the sexual innuendos and flirtations begin with a playfulness and in Oliver’s mind a hint of whats to come.
Once they begin their journey they find they must be married due to immigration laws which doesn’t sit well with Amanda. After giving in they arrive on their island paradise. She will soon come to realize that Reed is totally unprepared for his dream vacation. Not only is he a poor provider but would much prefer lazing about as opposed to seeking or constructing proper shelter and searching for food and or fishing. The fact is it won’t be long before the two of them become malnourished. They soon find their bodies covered in open sores and through some rather bizarre trickery with body doubles, director Roeg gives us the impression at various points that they see themselves growing skinny with plenty of hanging flesh and wrinkled bellies.
In fact Reed begins to both physically resemble and act like a lost sailor stranded by himself on a desert island waiting for a pirate ship to come along and rescue the crazed refugee. The once romantic notions they both had of an ideal paradise quickly loses it’s luster as they fall out of wedded bliss and become more argumentative as the plot moves along. She attacks his lack of drive while he just isn’t “getting any.”
The island does receive a few visitors including a couple of young men on a sailboat which creates some jealous moments and some missionaries who help bring our two island dwellers back to better health. Raining season and typhoons add to the drama of having mainly two stars carrying an entire film with some outstanding photography to add to it’s beauty.
Having seen this movie not long after it surfaced on VHS I admit to being disappointed at the time. I did see it a young age and was hoping I might appreciate it better since I am closer to Ollie’s age in the film. Ultimately I can’t say I liked it any better. I would be lying though if I didn’t admit to liking the central idea of Reed’s island fantasy. A beautiful young woman accompanying me to a secluded island where there is no need for clothing. And yes Amanda is topless most of the time and on more than one occasion is doing the full frontal. For those wondering if Reed gets to recall his nude wrestling scene from Women in Love, not quite the full monty this time.
Director Roeg had worked with Reed previously in 1964 on The System where he served as cinematographer for Michael Winner. Castaway didn’t put Oliver back onto the A list of actors. Probably due more to his off screen antics as he showed here he was still capable of doing more than just scowl and look mean. Looking mean is pretty much what he would be doing in product far beneath him in the ensuing years other than a few bright turns in bigger films though in smaller roles. Baron Munchausen, Treasure Island opposite old friends Charlton Heston and Christopher Lee. Then of course a return to form in Gladiator.
Interestingly Donohoe would turn up in a Ken Russell film who was of course closely associated with Reed for their controversial films together. Most notably The Devils. Donohoe played the vampire queen for Russell in the outrageous Lair of the White Worm. If your not familiar with Amanda then you may recall her from the Jim Carrey hit Liar, Liar where she played his boss and apparently wasn’t all that good in the sack when he was forced to be honest about their night of passion.
I guess I can’t fully endorse this one but for fans of Reed it should be added to your playlist to see him at a time when the roles were becoming one dimensional and rather stale. This role as Gerald Kingsland gave him something with range to play upon.