Sure, it’s a B-movie as lost in the annals of film history as the beautiful Bahaman lagoon featured in the movie, but it deserves a more widespread cult status. John Rawlins’ film has a perfect cast and is curiously watchable from beginning to end—more than once.
Protagonist, Charlie Walker, is down and out and in need of cash to pay his insurance premiums for himself, his wife and two kids. While on a fishing outing, where he lowers himself to ask for a loan from his successful brother-in-law, Millard, a storm blows in, and Charlie is washed overboard with $10,000 of Millard’s money in an envelope that fell on the deck-floor as the boat rocked in the sweeping waves. Presumed dead, an insurance claim is opened by his wife and two kids.
Millard characterizes his disdain for Charlie to Bernadine, Charlie’s wife: “Lost at sea? Truth is Charlie was lost at sea all his life. Only this time, it took.”
Experiencing luck more profound than death, Charlie is cast upon a remote lagoon on a small island—a Caribbean paradise. The island’s only inhabitants are a beautiful young woman, Liz Moore, who is about twenty years Charlie’s junior, and the staff of her failing resort which has closed due to being “under-capitalized,” as she characterizes her predicament.
In one of the more curious aspects of the film, Liz suffered a shortened tendon after an accident when she was much younger. She now walks with a limp as one leg is slightly shorter than the other. In a sense, she’s as much an outcast as Charlie.
Charlie thinks out the situation and soon enough has no intention of leaving, but of helping Liz restore the resort and of staying forever.
Liz asks, “But your home…your family?”
He responds, “Let them find their own lost lagoon,” and continues, “The biggest part of my life is over. I don’t want to spend the rest of it for the sake of the latest car model, for insurance, for a future to be buried in a king-size family plot. Oh no. I want to live it my way for a change…Is that wrong?”
They dance, embrace and soon are kissing.
As he is somewhat concerned about their age difference, she counters, “You think your age is a handicap, well I have one too,” referring to her limp.
In another scene, they remove their clothes and swim together in the lagoon, soon lying in the sand passionately in each other’s arms, leaving the question of whether they made love or not.
He changes his last name from Walker to Smith, emphasizing his evolving from one who walks the daily grind to one who is safely hidden in a sea of same-named individuals.
Should Charlie return to his wife and two kids and the daily grind that tears at men’s souls, or should he hideaway forever in paradise with Liz and the resort profits? Therein lies the rub.
Aside from the story, the film has a very curious tone to it. For one, Liz walks with a limp. For another, Bernadine, Charlie’s wife looks strikingly unattractive, in fact, wearing her hair in a shortened version of the Bride of Frankenstein’s hair. The camera lingers on certain scenes, abandoning the choppy scenes of life in the fast lane. In two scenes, Liz’s fingers sensuously knead Charlie’s bare back while creepy organ music plays on the soundtrack.
In another scene, Liz recites the last lines of Matthew Arnold’s lyric poem, “Dover Beach” for Charlie:
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
The film is structured around a strophic form with a recurring chorus provided by a Calypso band. The film begins with a dance and continues with the recurring theme of the dance of men and women as they work out their relationships. At one point, the Calypso band plays dance music while the words are sung, “Work all day / Sleep all night / Drink black rum / Get real tight / Me go home / Fight with wife / Never had such a happy life.”
It wouldn’t be a good film without a twist. Eventually, Charlie Walker is discovered by a diligent insurance investigator who tracks him to the island paradise.
Millard nastily remarks to his sister, Bernadine, “I should have known Charlie wouldn’t die like some ordinary guy…on the ground…in a bed.”
Charlie is forced to confront his wife, who tells him, pathetically, “I need you Charlie. I don’t want to be alone.”
Once again, the question arises: Should Charlie return to his wife and two kids and the daily grind that tears at men’s souls, or should he hideaway forever in paradise with Liz and the resort profits? Therein lies the eternal rub…