Note: Jim Plath provides his thoughts on “Fantasy Island” while William Lee contributes the episode rundown as well as the video, audio, and film value portions.
“Fantasy Island” according to Jim:
For a time, everything that producers Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg touched turned to gold. Seventies’ gold—which makes it open-shirt, heavy-link, neck-chain gold, meaning Spelling and Goldberg managed to tap into the viewing public’s penchant for kitschy melodrama infused with a heavy-metal dose of camp. They straddled the one-hour drama and half-hour comedy genres, turning out “Starsky and Hutch” (1975), “Charlie’s Angels” (1976), “The Love Boat” (1977), and “Fantasy Island” (1978) in rapid succession.
The year that “Fantasy Island” debuted, “Charlie’s Angels” finished #4 in the Nielsens, while “The Love Boat” cruised in at #14 with Mr. Roark and Tattoo following in their wake at #17—the highest the show would place.
Though “Fantasy Island” was popular for a time—Consider how many can still visualize little person Hervé Villechaize pointing to the sky and shouting, “Da plane! Da plane!”—Villechaize’s departure from the show and the writers’ pandering to the public’s sense that Fantasy Island host Mr. Roark (Ricardo Montalban) had a dark side eventually led to a ratings drop and the show’s demise. It also hurt that the producers kept reusing the same stars, so that their characters and performances seemed even more difficult to believe.
Like “The Love Boat,” and before that, “Love, American Style,” the format called for several plots to be showcased in a single episode. When the show officially became a mid-season replacement, the producers scaled back to two plotlines for the remaining seasons.
It was pure “Gilligan’s Island” mind-numbing escapism, with plane after plane of B-list celebrities visiting the island to have their wildest fantasies fulfilled. That was part of the fun, in fact, seeing who would turn up on the set. It was like a light-drama version of “Hollywood Squares” with its rotating stars. But the moral was always “be careful what you wish for,” because once a fantasy was set in motion, Mr. Roarke’s disclaimer was that he could not be responsible for the way things played out. “Do you still want to do this?” he’d ask every guest whose fantasy had a dangerous element to it. The plots resolved themselves way too quickly most of the time, so it felt like the kind of fantasy you have in a dream that you barely remember. Guests kept turning up again in different roles, and the same fantasies started to be reused. But the formula is right there on the surface, and so none of the plot lines carry much surprise with the baggage that visitors bring to the island. In truth, many of the episodes are so obvious and the acting so B-level that they can become tedious as quickly as you can say “Da plane! Da plane!” Or “Da hot air balloon.”
“Fantasy Island” according to Will:
One of the appealing aspects of “Fantasy Island” is its steady stream of guest-stars, which was a formula Spelling also used for “Love Boat.” Guests this season include: Peter Graves, Leslie Nielson, Yvonne De Carlo, Patty McCormack, John Saxon, Robert Goulet, Britt Ekland, Joan Collins, John Larroquette, Annette Funicello, Larry Storch, Roddy McDowall, Don Adams, Shelley Fabares, Sonny Bono, Sugar Ray Robinson, Fred Williamson, Vic Tayback, Jayne Meadows, and Michelle Phillips. Though not quite a crossover with “Gilligan’s Island,” the millionaire, the movie star and Gilligan himself, Jim Backus, Tina Louise and Bob Denver, drop by to pay Mr. Roarke a visit.
Shout Factory has released season 3 of “Fantasy Island” in a new 6-disc set. The episodes included are:
- “The Swimmer/The Hit Man” – An Olympic swimmer hopes the island holds the key to cure her paralysis while a desperate man hires a hitman for himself so his family will collect the insurance money.
- “Stuntman/Goose for the Gander” – A world famous stuntman tries to reunite with his estranged son as a cook from New Mexico tries to save her diner.
- “Tattoo: The Love God/Magnolia Blossoms” –Tattoo gets more than he bargained for when he becomes a love god to the native women while two female guests look to experience love in the time of the Civil War.
- “Marathon/Baby” – Two ladies hope to win the prize money necessary to save their hometown plant and Tattoo wants to adopt a baby whose parents were recently killed.
- “The Boss/The Chain Gang” – A switchboard operator fantasizes about being the head of a corporation and a man goes undercover in a chain gang in order to clear his father’s name.
- “The Red Baron/Young At Heart” – A historical buff dreams about experiencing aerial combat during WWI as a 50-year old librarian wants to be half her age.
- “The Wedding” – Mr. Roarke prepares to marry Helena Marsh (Samantha Egger), despite knowing their time will be short due to her brain tumor.
- “The Handyman/Tattoo’s Romance” – A witness to a gangland murder seeks refuge while a woman takes advantage of Tattoo in order to turn her niece into a country music star.
- “Nobody’s There/The Dancer” – A clumsy private investigator wants to solve her first case and a Texas millionaire hopes to find the ballerina that he has secretly admired.
- “The Class of ’69/The Pug” – An overweight woman wants to be thin to avenge her high school humiliation while a boy wishes to see his father win the heavyweight championship.
- “The Victim/The Mermaid” – A lovestruck woman ignores Mr. Roarke’s warnings in pursuing her dream man while a marine biologist must choose between his crumbling marriage and an alluring mermaid.
- “The Cheerleaders/Marooned” – Two best friends wish to be cheerleaders for their favorite football team as a truck driver gets shipwrecked with a famed movie starlet.
- “The Inventor/On the Other Side” – A professor is unprepared for the attention he receives for his rejuvenation formula and a widow hopes to contact her long-dead husband.
- “Lookalikes/The Winemaker” – A salesman wishes to live a more glamorous life by switching places with a lookalike while a nun hopes to win a wine tasting contest to save her church.
- “Unholy Wedlock/Elizabeth” – David Cassidy guest-stars as a man who gets more than he bargained for at his bachelor party and Tina Louise is possessed by an ancient spirit from Mr. Roarke’s past.
- “Stark Terror/Rogues and Riches” – A mute girl wants to relive the night her mother was murdered to uncover the truth as an attorney travels to the 18th century to find his wayward partner.
- “Playgirl/Smith’s Valhalla” – A beautiful centerfold wants to turn the tables on sexist men and a middle-aged man wishes to lead a team of commandos on a daring rescue mission.
- “Aphrodite/Dr. Jekyll & Miss Hyde” – A picky professor is on the hunt for the perfect woman while a female psychiatrist seeks to learn more about the relationships between men and women.
- “The Swinger/Terrors of the Mind” – A divorced man wishes to return to his younger days as a bachelor while Lisa Hartman plays a guest who wants to see into the future.
- “Nona/One Million B.C.” – A blind detective regains his eyesight for 48 hours to search for a missing actress while two women inadvertently wind up in the prehistoric age.
- “Mary Ann and Miss Sophisticate/Jungle Man” – A ventriloquist fears she is losing herself to her dummy while a down-and-out actor fantasizes about living out his dream role once more.
- “My Fair Pharoah/The Power” – Joan Collins finds herself in Ancient Egypt when she wishes to become Cleopatra and another guest asks for the power of telekinesis.
- “Eagleman/The Children of Mentu” – A father wants to win his son’s love by becoming the boy’s favorite superhero and an aspiring journalist hunts for the story of her life while searching for a wanted fugitive.
The video is presented with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The transfers are decent though the colors are faded.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. The sound is flat, but without any tininess and perfectly adequate.
I agree with Jim’s assessment of the show. The exotic locales and the presence of Ricardo Montalban and Hervé Villechaize are part of the reasons for the show’s longevity. However, the episodes do get repetitive with the theme of “be careful what you wish for” being constantly hammered home.