Directed By: Leslie H. Martinson
Starring: Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus
Trivia: Due to the incredible ratings it garnered, the network wanted the producer of this TV movie to turn it into a series
When I was a kid, I used to love watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island, a U.S. television sitcom that originally aired between 1964 and 1967. The continuing story of seven people stranded on a desert island, Gilligan’s Island featured comedy geared towards a younger audience, and, over the years, I’ve probably seen every episode at least five times. 1978’s Rescue from Gilligan’s Island was a made-for-TV movie that picked up where the show left off, with one slight change: as suggested in the title, the seven Castaways are finally rescued, and return to their lives on the mainland. When this movie was first announced, I was beside myself with excitement, and being only 9 years old when it aired, I really enjoyed Rescue from Gilligan’s Island. Today marks the second time I’ve seen this movie and the first since its initial broadcast all those years ago. Needless to say, time has not been kind to it.
For the last 15 years, the seven Castaways: Gilligan (Bob Denver), The Skipper (Alan Hale, Jr.), Mr. and Mrs. Howell (Jim Backus and Natalie Schaeffer), Ginger (Judith Baldwin, filling in for an absent Tina Louise), The Professor (Russell Johnson) and Mary Ann (Dawn Wells), have been marooned on an uncharted island in the Pacific. When a spy satellite belonging to an undisclosed foreign country (that looks and acts a lot like the Soviet Union) explodes in space, it sends a metallic disc hurtling towards the island. Gilligan, while out walking, finds the disc and immediately takes it to the Professor, who uses it to repair his homemade barometer. And just in the nick of time, too, because as soon as it’s repaired, the barometer starts spinning wildly, indicating that a huge storm, one capable of producing a tidal wave, is heading their way. Taking advantage of the situation, the castaways spend the next few days tying their huts together, forming one humongous life raft. That way, they’ll not only survive the tidal wave, but ride it into the shipping lanes, where a passing vessel might pick them up. Sure enough, the plan works, and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter spots their unusual craft floating in the middle of the ocean. Back on the mainland, all seven are given a hero’s welcome, and then silently return to the lives they left behind. Unfortunately, the world is a much different place, and the Castaways have a hard time readjusting. To add to their troubles, two foreign spies (Art LaFleur and Vincent Schiavelli) are sent by their Government to retrieve the satellite disc, which Gilligan now wears around his neck as a good-luck charm!
Nowadays, it’s easy for me to pick apart Gilligan’s Island, which, from a logical standpoint, has many flaws (despite the initial voyage being only a “three-hour tour”, as the opening song suggests, the Professor brought every one of his scientific journals along, while the Howells have a trunk load of cash and a teddy bear. Even Mary Ann and Ginger possess a seemingly unending wardrobe. The only two on the island who have nothing but the clothes on their back are Gilligan and the Skipper, and they practically lived on the damn boat!). Still, the show, ridiculous though it may be, has an endearing quality that I can’t resist. The same cannot be said for Rescue from Gilligan’s Island. In fact, this movie sucks on just about every level. Most scenes stretch on way too long (while floating in the ocean after the tidal wave, the gang has a run-in with a shark, a sequence that’s neither brief nor funny, and is so poorly shot that, despite being set in the middle of the Pacific, you can see buildings and trees reflected in the water). The entire satellite / spy angle should have been tossed out as well (the special effects showing the satellite blowing up look as if they were done in someone’s garage). I did enjoy some of the side stories involving the Castaways’ re-adjustment to society (Ginger gets a role in a new movie, but is shocked when they ask her to do most of it in the nude), yet it’s not enough to save the film.
In short, Rescue from Gilligan’s Island is a total disaster. Instead, I recommend watching an episode of the TV show that inspired it. Sure, it’s just as stupid at times, but at least it’ll be over in 25 minutes!