Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Blue Dolphin" Good Fare for Children

Cleveland Press August 27, 1964

All too often, what is passed off as a children's movie is 90 minutes or so of pap consisting of heavy handed moralizing and sticky sentimentality. The situations are generally an affront to youngsters who are a good deal more sophisticated than movie makers believe.

"Island of the Blue Dolphins" avoids these pitfalls, and should fill the bill for those who cry that there is no family entertainment while hoping for something better than television drivel.

An island off the California coast is occupied by a small tribe of Indians. The spot is visited by otter hunters who bargain with the Indians for hunting rights, then renege on the agreement.

IN THE ENSUING fight, most of the Indians are killed. The tribe gets word of its plight to a mission on he coast and a ship is sent to take off survivors.

During evacuation, a girl Karana (Celia Kaye) discovers that her six-year-old brother has been left behind. Unable to convince the men to turn back to pick him up, she leaps out of the boat and swims back to the island.

The ship sails away and the only humans left on the island find their existence threatened by a pack of wild dogs. In an attempt to kill the dogs the boy is killed.

Karana's entire existence revolves around her desire to revenge her brother's death by killing the leader of the dog pack.

She hunts down the dog, succeeds in firing an arrow into its chest. A day later the dog is still alive. Karana removes the arrow and nurses the dog back to health. The girl and the dog soon become loyal friends and she comes to learn the meaning of trust, about which her father had tried to tell her in gentle parables.

LATER MORE hunters come to the island. Among them is a girl of another tribe and though they cannot speak each other's language they become friends. When the hunters depart, Karana refuses to leave her island. Another ship bearing missionaries arrives and she decides to leave.

The film is based on Scott O'Dell's multi-award winning novel which in turn was inspired by the true story of the lost woman of San Nicholas Island.

The incident occurred in the early 1800's and the woman spent 18 years in a Robinson Crusoe existence.

THERE IS NOTHING in the film to suggest the length of time and the actress remains young throughout. The lack of character change and development and the muddy chronology are faults of both script and performance. Without such development the film lacks some of the novel's quality.

"I've never been on the road with a play like this, he said. "Once when I replaced Elliot Nugent in 'The Male Animal' in New York we took it out to Chicago and Pittsburgh: Of course, back when I was dancing with my sister toured regularly."

Those dancing days will be recalled for audiences who see "The Apple of His Eye," though not as part of the play.

"I do a little afterpiece,' he explained. "I dance after the play is over. it's kind of a nostalgic touch."