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Warner Home Video presents
Gilligan's Island: The Complete First Season (1964/1965)

Skipper: Ever since we got to this island, we've had nothing but bad luck, one disaster after another. What do you think caused them?
Gilligan: I thought we all agreed it was me.

- Alan Hale Jr., Bob Denver

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: February 04, 2004

Stars: Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Tina Louise, Russell Johnson, Dawn Wells
Other Stars: Kurt Russell, Hans Conried, Vito Scotti, Denny Miller, Harold J. Stone, Tom Forstor
Director: Ida Lupino, Richard Donner, Ray Montgomery, John Rich, Stanley Z. Cherry, Jack Arnold, Lawrence Dobkin, Abner Biberman, Tony Leader, Hal Cooper

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 15h:15m:48s
Release Date: February 03, 2004
UPC: 053939673425
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-A-A- C+

DVD Review

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship...

-theme song

The 1964 CBS television lineup would get a last minute entry with Sherwood Schwartz' now classic castaway comedy, Gilligan's Island. The show would get off to a rocky start, as neither Schwartz' agent nor the producers could fully grasp how a show about castaways could continue to be interesting week after week. A particular challenge was how to set up the situation every time without getting into time-wasting exposition, a challenge Schwartz overcame by using the show's theme song to tell the story of how the castaways became stranded after hitting foul weather while on a pleasure cruise, and also introduce the cast, an idea he would reuse later for The Brady Bunch. The show may be a comedy, but does have its fair share of drama, and, behind the humor and weekly antics, Schwartz imagined the series as a microcosm of society as a whole, demonstrating the need to cooperate in order to survive.

The mate was a mighty sailing man
The Skipper brave and sure
Five passengers set sail that day
For a three hour tour
A three hour tour...


The first season is unique in a couple of aspects. Folk group The Wellingtons perform the first season's opening theme, which would be revised at Bob Denver's request for the second season to credit the Professor and Mary Ann, who are referred to here as "the rest" (Schwartz didn't originally see them as important characters). It was also shot in black and white; the second and third seasons would be color. The series opens with Two on a Raft, in which our castaways awake to find themselves marooned, and make their first attempt to escape the island, meeting with the first of many failures. As things progress, the gang is faced with setting up house, dealing with food and water shortages, angry neighbors, and trying to be rescued. Even their best laid plans invariably lead to disaster, with Gilligan right in the middle of it one way or another. One of the strangest things about this show is how easily it makes you accept the many goofy and implausible scenarios it presents: whether it's Skipper believing his "Little Buddy" has turned into a chimp, or that the Howells would pack their entire wardrobe for a three-hour excursion, it really doesn't matter—anything goes on Gillian's Island. Among the many highlights here are Skipper's superstitions coming to life after disturbing a buried idol in Waiting for Watubi, Mrs. Howell playing yente for Gilligan and Mary Ann in The Matchmaker, the battle of the sexes in St. Gilligan and the Dragon, and Gilligan being groomed as the Howell's heir after being adopted (My Fair Gilligan).

The fantasy sequences take the cast into new character roles, like Gilligan's dream of duking it out in the wild west in The Sound of Quacking (filmed on the Gunsmoke set) or the Skipper's multiple hallucinations in Forget Me Not. A scattering of guest stars make appearances throughout the season, perhaps the most notable being a young Kurt Russell as a jungle boy, and, on the other side of the camera, Superman's Richard Donner directs the action on a few episodes.

The weather started getting rough
The tiny ship was tossed
If not for the courage of her fearless crew
The Minnow would be lost
The Minnow would be lost...


Gilligan's Island is one of those rare shows that just never seems to get old. No matter how many times I've seen these episodes over the past thirty years, they are still refreshingly funny. The formula just works, due to the show's brilliant writing, great characters, and exceptional cast. Bob Denver and Alan Hale Jr. team up as one of the best comedy duos of all time, with much of the show's humor coming in the form of their slapstick routines and ongoing love/hate relationship. You always know that Gilligan is going to screw everything up, and that the Skipper's frustration is about to explode, but the parts are played with a finesse that leaves the viewer sympathetic to both of them, and there is that underlying bond between Skipper and his "Little Buddy" that tempers the inevitable flare-ups that result. Millionaire couple Thurston and "Lovey" Howell (Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer) add another comedic layer with their elitist attitudes and snobbish mannerisms, and the complete impracticality of their attempts to reestablish their posh surroundings makes for more continuing fun.

The remaining characters were all last-minute additions, redeveloping after the original pilot had been shot and screened. Ginger transformed from a secretary into the glamorous movie star for the opening episode, a role Tina Louise would play to the hilt using her high fashion and feminine wiles to goad Gilligan and his male companions into serving her every whim. Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) also began life as a secretary before becoming the down home girl next door in contrast to Ginger's flamboyance. She would become the cast's resident cook, with a flair for coconut cream pies. The Professor (Russell Johnson) was recast and had his scholorly credits upgraded, becoming the undisputed brains of the bunch. His homebrewed concoctions remain a staple of the show's sight gags. Panned by the critics but loved by audiences, Gilligan's Island weathered three seasons and 98 episodes before being cancelled in 1967 to allow a slot for the long-running Gunsmoke. Its continued popularity in reruns attests to the show's timelessness.

So join us here each week my friends
You're sure to get a smile
From seven stranded castaways
Here on Gilligan's Island!


Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Although they were later colorized for reruns, the first 35 episodes of Gilligan's Island were shot in black and white, which is how they are presented in this set. While there are a few minor defects here and there, the image quality is surprisingly good. The image is very clear and sharp, almost excessively so, contrast for the most part is excellent, as is greyscale. Blemishes are fairly minor and infrequent, grain is moderate and well rendered. There is the odd bit of aliasing or shimmer in complex patterns, but again this fairly uncommon. Stock shots seem to fair the worst in terms of quality, but the on set sequences look very nice overall.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Mono audio is well presented, and free of any major defects. There are a few technical deficiencies in the source, primarily a very slight oversaturation, a limited frequency response. Dialogue is well distinguished, but does exhibit some excessive sibilance at times. I am happy Warner didn't try to make a surround track out of this, but could do without the rather annoying laugh track.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 35 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: Digipak
Picture Disc
3 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: DVD-18

Extra Extras:
  1. Unaired pilot with commentary/trivia notes
  2. Survival guide
  3. Character treatments
Extras Review: Gilligan's Island contains a few interesting extras, which are found on the first side of Disc 1.

The original "lost" series pilot (23m:22s) is included, which offers a much different show than the one we have all come to know, including its Calypso theme music. Tina Louise, Dawn Wells, and Russell Johnson are nowhere to be found, and in their place are a much younger writer and a pair of secretaries who would be redeveloped and recast before the first episode aired.

The pilot also contains a commentary track by series creator, Sherwood Schwartz, who offers a number of interesting comments about how the show made its debut, and the changes that would occur before it launched.

The official first episode, Two on a Raft, includes an optional popup style trivia feature, which exists as a second video track. There is a fair deal more information provided here, but the feature does obscure a good third of the screen.

The Gilligan's Island Survival Guide, (7m:31s) hosted by one Buck Thomas, is a campy look at some of the situations the castaways find themselves in, and their possible outcomes. Silly, but fun.

Before the Three-Hour Tour (4m:28s total) includes mini features on each of the seven roles, noting how they were developed from the original treatment.

The set is packaged in a slipcovered, foldout digipak housing the three double sided discs, and including the episode guide. There is a "play all" feature on each disc, and my only real complaint is a lack of chapter stops within the episodes.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

There are very few shows that have the lasting appeal that Gilligan's Island does—it is entertainment, pure and simple. Forget the plot holes and the implausibility, and just sit right back, pour yourself some coconut milk, and enjoy the hilarity. A great value for this much fun, this full season set comes highly recommended.

 


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