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Monday, April 15, 2013

Fantasy Island (1977)

Three people pay $50,000 each to have their fantasies fulfilled at a mysterious tropical resort called Fantasy Island run by a mysterious man (Ricardo Montalban): a wealthy businesswoman (Eleanor Parker) wants to attend her own funeral and observe the reactions of the mourners, a great hunter (Hugh O'Brian) wants the tables turned and to become the hunter's prey, a WWII vet (Bill Bixby) wants to return to wartime England to reunite with his lost love (Sandra Dee). Yes, before the long running kitschy TV series, this was the telefilm that started it all which proved popular enough to spawn a sequel (RETURN TO FANTASY ISLAND) before its six year run. Since it's a movie, it had more time to develop the storylines and characters than the 50 minute TV episodes and it has richer production values. Of more interest, however, is that the undertone is more sinister and two of the storylines have darker endings than would ever have been allowed on the series. Montalban's "Mr. Roarke" is more arrogant with suggestions of mystic powers. But the plots are still on the trite side, the acting ranges from phoned in (O'Brian) to downright awful (Bixby, hampered with an awful aging make up job). Only Parker and Carol Lynley as Parker's evil sister hit the right notes. Directed by Richard Lang. With Peter Lawford, Victoria Principal, Dick Sargent, Tina Sinatra and of course, Herve Villechaize as Montalban's dwarf sidekick.

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