Feb 14, 2020
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Revisiting ‘Fantasy Island’: What to Watch

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On “Fantasy Island,” the weird-wonderful ABC series that aired from 1977 to 1984, fantasies were to die for. In the new horror film “Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island,” fantasies are to die in.

First, a look back. On the series, guests traveled to the bucolic Pacific Ocean location to find a lost love, be a playboy or live out some elaborately produced dreamscape that ended in an uplifting life lesson. They were welcomed by the island’s mysterious overseer, Mr. Roarke (played by the dashing actor Ricardo Montalbán), who had godlike powers to predict outcomes and turn back time. His sidekick, Tattoo (Hervé Villechaize), provided aggressively sexist comic relief.

“Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island,” directed by Jeff Wadlow and now in theaters, reimagines the lush title isle as a playground of terrors. The place is again overseen by Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña), but this time he has more nefarious plans for his guests, including fantasies of torture and revenge from the grave.

Unlike the recent horror movie reboot of “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour,” a children’s TV show, it’s easy to imagine “Fantasy Island” as a horror property. The fantasies depicted were encyclopedic in their macabre scope, including murder, séances, ghost hunts, telekinesis, black magic, Nazis, lycanthropy and a visit by Jack the Ripper.

For horror fans, “Fantasy Island” remains an oasis of scares told in the style of old-school, family-friendly Hollywood horror. Here are five creepy story lines from the fifth and sixth seasons of the original series, now streaming on Crackle. Spoilers ahead!

SEASON FIVE (1981-82)

Horror Genres: Monsters

Dr. Carla Frankenstein (Lynda Day George), a genetic researcher, visits a reconstruction of Baron von Frankenstein’s castle and learns that he was real when she meets Frankenstein’s monster (William Smith), who has lived there for 150 years. She and the monster become friends, and thwart a plan by bumbling spies from a competing genetic laboratory to kidnap and turn the creature into a sideshow attraction. Carla leaves the island knowing that in Mr. Roarke’s hands the monster will care for his chickens in peace.

Horror Genre: Spirits, curses

Amanda (Tanya Roberts), a Baltimore secretary, has a fantasy to win the $100,000 offered to the person who can stay two hours in a haunted manor. Undeterred by screaming skulls that accost her inside the mansion, Amanda meets Timothy (Dack Rambo), a handsome 18th-century ghost who has haunted the home since his admiral father cursed him for fleeing a duel. Winning the prize money, Amanda gives Timothy a handsome makeover. Mr. Roarke summons Timothy’s dead father and they reconcile, lifting the curse. Timothy is made human and, forgetting he was once a spirit, leaves the island with Amanda.

Horror Genres: Haunted houses, creepy kids

Shipwrecked as children, Jason and Beth (Stephen Shortridge and Dianne Kay) were raised by their uncle, Richard Martinique (Richard Anderson). Their fantasy is to learn what happened the night their uncle and his housekeeper, Blanche (Elinor Donahue), were murdered. At their uncle’s creepy mansion, the ghosts of Richard and Blanche re-enact the fateful night when Blanche accidentally shoots and kills Richard after he laughs when she tells him she loves him. In her haste to protect the children from seeing the body, she falls to her death. Mr. Roarke appears and tells Blanche that Richard actually loved her back, and the two ghosts make peace and disappear arm in arm. Then, Mr. Roarke reveals that Jason and Beth are not siblings after all, and they express their own love for each other.

SEASON SIX (1982-83)

Horror genres: Plagues, witchcraft

Carl’s fantasy is to find Ally (Crystal Bernard), a young woman who disappeared soon after they met. When he (Dean Butler) finds her in a small town on Fantasy Island, she urges him to leave. It turns out that a witch who was burned at the stake put a spell on Ally’s family and the only way to break it is to put an arrow through Carl’s heart. When Mr. Roarke diverts an arrow that someone shoots at Carl, it plunges into a monument that spews plague-healing water. (It’s a long story.) The curse lifted, Carl and Ally become lovers.

Horror Genres: Zombies, mind control

Erica (Gayle Hunnicutt) travels to a small island in search of her fiancé, Richard (Christopher Connelly), who she suspects is in the nefarious hands of his scientist partner, Lewis (Randolph Mantooth). On the island, she escapes from a barefoot warlock who summons zombies with a flash of light from his forehead. Mr. Roarke reveals that Lewis controls Richard’s mind and practices “a black art that turns its victims into the walking dead.” Erica breaks Lewis’s spell by applying a rare salt, found only on Fantasy Island, to Richard’s lips. Erica and Richard leave the island again a couple.

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