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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
Fantasy Island: The Complete First Season (1977-78)

"My dear guests! I am Mr. Roarke, your host. Welcome to Fantasy Island!"
- Mr. Roarke (Ricardo Montalban)

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: November 13, 2005

Stars: Ricardo Montalban, Herve Villechaize
Other Stars: Bill Bixby, Sandra Dee, Peter Lawford, Carol Lynley, Eleanor Parker, Victoria Principal, Dick Sargeant, Christina Sinatra, Adrienne Barbeau, George Chakiris, Joseph Cotten, Joseph Campanella, Pat Crowley, Horst Bucholz, Karen Valentine, Bert Convy, Robert Clary, Diana Canova, Georgia Engel, Reggie Nalder, Henry Gibson, Jane Powell, John Schuck, Lisa Hartman, Dack Rambo, Ed Begley Jr, Harry Guardino, Sheree North, John Gavin, John Saxon, Juliet Mills, Gary Collins, Howard Duff, Marjorie Lord, Jerry Van Dyke, Alan Hale, Carol Lawrence, Michael Callan, Gene Barry, Maureen McCormick, Dennis Cole, Marcia Strassman, Christopher Connelly, James MacArthur, Tommy Lasorda, Leslie Nielsen, Vera Miles, Stuart Whitman, Bernie Kopell, Nancy Walker, Don Knotts, Ray Bolger, Foster Brooks, Ton Ewell, Phil Foster, Barbi Benton, Pamela Franklin, Michele Lee, Sue Lyon, Lucie Arnaz, Ronnie Cox, Jim Backus, Diane Baker, Theodore Bikel, Jane Wyatt, Rich Little, Mary Ann Mobley, Lana Wood, Ken Barry, Caren Kaye, Richard Dawson, Kathryn Holcomb, Edd Byrnes
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for violence, adult themes
Run Time: 14:20:00
Release Date: November 15, 2005
UPC: 043396114906
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Fantasy Island sprang forth in 1977 as an Aaron Spelling-Leonard Goldberg co-production, and like its compatriot The Love Boat, used an anthology format to tell its weekly tales. On Fantasy Island, guests arrived on an island of indeterminate location, where, for a sum depending on their relative riches, they could live out their deepest fantasies. This being network television, none of these fantasies involve anything too prurient (alas), but it's a good idea that obviously struck a chord with audiences, as the series ran for more than 150 episodes, lasting from 1978-84. I recall being a devoted fan of the show as a kid, though these days I would be hard-pressed to remember any more than a couple of episodes, like the one where Mr. Roarke (Ricardo Montalban) battles Satan (a gold-plated shark-jumping moment, though I recall thinking it was extremely cool—don't look at me like that, I was 12). It was Montalban that made the show, thanks in large part to his charismatic portrayal of Roarke; at once solicitous, occasionally sinister, and cheesy, he deliveres the metaphorical brick to the head of many a clueless guest who have failed to understand themselves and the lessons they need to learn. Oh yes, there were many lessons to be learned. What, your fantasies don't revolve around fundamental, unrealized personal truths? Oh.

Mr. Roarke is assisted by Tattoo, played with fluctuating degrees of acting skill by Herve Villachaize, best known until then for his role as Nick Nack in The Man with the Golden Gun. Tattoo provided a comic foil to the unflappable Roarke, though he was his master's right-hand man in pulling off the guests' fantasies. Tattoo's primary characteristic is his perpetual horniness, as the character's main hobby seems to be lusting after the women on the show. He's a one-note cartoon of a character, but viewers liked him. When Villachaize left, the show suffered, especially as he was replaced by The Guy Who Played Mr. Belvedere. The rest of the cast rotated weekly, as new guests arrived at the island. The guest stars were usually pulled from the realms of second tier or has-been film and television actors. Each show begins with the seaplane carrying the guests arriving at the island, where Roarke would conveniently brief Tattoo (and us) on who each guest is, and why they are there. From there on, each guest is plunged into their fantasy.

The show actually began with two made for TV movies, which set forth the pattern that the series would follow. The first film is generally indicative of what would follow, so let's look at that one in more depth. Three guests arrive for their fantasies; the first is Arthur Greenwood (Bill Bixby in aging makeup), who wishes to recreate his one night during World War II with a long-lost woman (Sandra Dee); next is Eunice Hollander-Baines (Eleanor Parker), a fabrics mogul who wants to know which family members are loyal and which are backstabbers; and finally, Paul Hensley (Hugh O'Brian), a world-famous hunter and playboy who has come to island to become the hunted himself.

On the face of it, this last story sounds the most promising, but it turns out to be the lamest, as Roarke's series of hunts are fairly routine, and Hensley's reason for wanting to die is predictable. Victoria Principal plays a woman "given" by Roarke to Hensley the night before his hunt begins, which has the uneasy feeling of sleaze about it, but the show soft-pedals it for the most part. Everything works out in the end, though, needless to say.

The story of the fabrics mogul is fairly dumb too, sad to say, as her "clever" plan to find out who is loyal blows up in her face in fairly unbelievable ways, and the ending is ludicrous, if pragmatic. Carol Lynley, who would return for several more guest stints on the show, plays the younger, booze-guzzling sister of the main character, and Peter Lawford plays Parker's husband. Dick Sargeant appears as well.

The creepiest and best of the three is the Bixby-starring tale, which turns into something completely unexpected by the end, although the nature of his fantasy is left open to question, with the viewer able to interpret it how they wish: did he arrive to change what happened, or re-live it? Bixby's makeup looks pretty bad, but he's good. Sandra Dee, ravaged by drugs and booze over the years, is fairly unbelievable as a professional dancer.

That initial movie succeeded enough with viewers to spawn another, and from there, a series was the next logical step, with quality levels rarely rising above the average. The debut weekly episode features two eye-rolling tales, with Bert Convy as a renowned escape artist wishing to pull off the greatest escape ever, and Georgia Engel as one of a pair of dowdy twenty-something wallflowers wishing to become "jetsetters". Convy's escape turns out to be from a prison that is supposed to be Devil's Island; now correct me if I'm wrong, but usually, escape artists just escape from some kind of lock or holding device, not from a prison with guards toting machine guns. But, he learns a lesson and everything is peachy keen at the end. As for the two wallflowers, they each get what they want and everything is peachy keen, too.

The problem with the series proper, and this is mentioned in one of the featurettes, is that ABC felt the first pilot movie was too dark for audiences, and wanted something more suited to general tastes. In an age where you can watch 287 different shows about grisly murder investigations, the complaint about Fantasy Island being too dark is quaint, but that modicum of an edge gave the pilot film something interesting. The regular series is so watered-down and wimpy that it quickly grated on my patience. Watching one or two of these provides a cheesy time capsule to the past, but trying to ingest 16 episodes in a short time is like mental punishment, frankly. If you have fond memories of the show, I'd suggest giving this a rental before you buy, and may I suggest to the powers that be a release of the 1998 revamp of the series, with the always watchable Malcolm McDowell as Mr. Roarke in what was a show with something of the edge this one never had.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The pilot film and the series itself look pretty good. Colors look rich and bright. The second pilot film looks like it was sourced from a bad video copy, as it is washed out and dull, with low detail. This is the only really problematic part of the set, though.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanish, Portugueseyes

Audio Transfer Review: Clean, unadorned sound is the rule of the day here, and the show doesn't merit anything special. Alternate tracks in Portuguese and Spanish are provided as well, with a couple exceptions on the initial movies.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 0 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
0 TV Spots/Teasers
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
4 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Of main interest are two featurettes, Creating the Fantasy (14m:50s) and Spending a Day at Fantasy Island (09m:17s). The former interviews co-producer Leonard Goldberg, writer Ron Friedman, and director Cliff Bole among a couple others about the origins of the series and their work on it. It's fairly interesting for a capsule history of the show, though no major revelations are unearthed. Of course, the question that must be asked is, why no participation from Montalban? The other featurette includes interviews with a handful of the guest stars, who all seem to have fond regards for their time working on the show. The interviewees include Adrienne Barbeau, Ken Barry, Mary Ann Mobley, and Joe Campanella. Also included across the discs are several episode previews, as used on network promos. If you want to see how the show was previewed most weeks, here's your chance.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Ricardo Montalban remains as watchable as ever, but the rest is a big cheesy mess for the most part. A lack of spine on the part of the network to make something even remotely edgy consigns this to weekly moral lessons and a time capsule of awful fashion choices. Still, the episodes look good for the most part, and there are a couple interesting featurettes about the making of the series.


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