This is the first pilot film for the television series, and it's often praised by critics (who all seem to love the dark side exhibited by Mr. Roarke in this introductory outing) for its emphasis on the less-than-happy execution and ending. The fantasies looked harmless enough on the surface: a World War II veteran wanted to revisit the interlude he had with a young American woman in London; a rich woman wanted to attend her own funeral, to find out who truly cared about her and who didn't; and a hunter wanted for once to become the hunted. But each story had a twist...did the hapless WWII vet really kill that poor girl in the middle of a bombing raid? Could the rich woman put even the least trust in her relatives, who had good reason to hate her for her overbearing control of the family company? What was the true reason the hunter wanted to be the one under the gun? Roarke teased and taunted sometimes, but when things got down to the wire, he revealed a caring side after all. His midget assistant, Tattoo, looked on with a mysterious gleam in his eye and the barest ghost of a smile, keeping his own counsel. When these two brought your fantasy to life, that was it: you were stuck, and you had to see it through to the bitter end. The concept clicked so well with the TV-viewing public that another pilot movie was filmed, and that led to the weekly series, which went on to run for seven seasons.
If you're familiar with "Fantasy Island" only through the series and think it's just too saccharine, give this movie a whirl (it's available on the first-season DVD of the show). You just might change your mind. (Besides, what's wrong with happy endings? We need more of them in this world!)
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