Lord of the Flies (1963)

lord of the flies poster 1963 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great telling of the story

Not everyone's type of movie

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Lord of the Flies

Studio:   Two Arts Ltd.

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   May 1963 (Cannes Film Festival)/August 13, 1963 (US)

MPAA Rating:   Not Rated

lord of the flies jack make-up tom chapin 1963

Nope…not crazy at all

Fleeing a war, a group of English schoolboys find themselves stranded on a tropical island without adult supervision.  As Ralph (James Aubrey) tries to establish order among the boys, choir leader Jack (Tom Chapin) takes a more primal survivalist mode to the reality.  With the children trapped between the two ideologies, war breaks out among the kids…and only the strong can survive.

Directed by Peter Brook, Lord of the Flies adapts the acclaimed 1954 novel by William Golding.  The independent film was released at Cannes Film Festival in 1963 to positive reviews and received an X in Britain (meaning many of the actors in the film couldn’t see it in the theater) while it was not rated in the United States.  A remastered version of the film was released by Criterion (Criterion #43).

My first introduction to Lord of the Flies involved a short adaptation in a reader featuring pictures of this film.  The film wasn’t readily available at the time but the 1990 version of the film was released soon after.  Thought the 1990 version of the film might take a more traditional approach to filmmaking, this version of Lord of the Flies is superior.

lord of the flies simon pig head tom gaman 1963

Poor Simon…and his pig head

Lord of the Flies is a difficult book to adapt in that the idea of children becoming ruthless killers after isolation scares adults and much of the book is about concepts and themes instead of dialogue and plot.  Here, the visuals overtake the story but it works because the visuals wrap back around to the idea of themes and concepts.

The cast were novices that hadn’t done much acting (if any) at the time of the film.  The cast were treated like they were at camp and hours and hours of footage were cut down into the short film to give them a more natural “kid” feel.  James Aubrey emotes a lot in face which works for the character that is trying to be the adult while Tom Chapin is good as the brash Jack.  It is ironic that Hugh Edwards is “Piggy” (who isn’t ever given a name here or in the book) because by today’s standards, he isn’t that heavy.  Tom Gaman is also good as the wide-eyed “innocent” of the film Simon who tries to find a balance between the two parties (and pays for it).

lord of the flies piggy ralph james aubrey hugh edwards 1963

Piggy, you had one order…”stay quiet” and you couldn’t do it.

With the children actors and a largely conceptual script, the visuals tell a lot.  The movie was shot in Puerto Rico (the Bay of Pigs actually had injured evacuated to a naval hospital on the island during the first week of filming).  It gets the ideas of madness and craziness of the situation.  The movie almost has a documentary-esque look to it and the black and white adds to the starkness of the film.

Lord of the Flies isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite films.  It has a very odd tone to it and the subject matter can be off-putting to some.  The film’s rawness and ability to capture some very loose ideas is impressive along with getting a group of kids to convincingly show how society can break down under pressure.  The 1990 version may be sleeker and smoother, but this one captures the essence of Golding’s story.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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