Fantasy Island Pilot Film


FANTASY ISLAND (the original pilot film)

“New people, new problems…they are so–mortal.”  So says Mr. Roarke the very first time we meet him, and you get the feeling he relishes watching his guests go through their trials and tribulations while they’re living out the fantasies he’s granted them for such handsome sums.

Roarke and Tattoo were introduced to Americans on Friday, January 14, 1977, and in the beginning Roarke seemed almost a sinister sort: he was often sarcastic with Tattoo and tended to snap out orders at him (“Button your jacket!”).  Since the film was originally meant to be a one-off, many of the institutions and catchphrases we now associate with the series are missing–except for the most famous one, wherein Tattoo shouts out of the bell tower, “The plane!  The plane!”  Hervé Villechaize once claimed that he found the character stupid, and this appears to be established right from the start when Roarke introduces guest Paul Henley, remarking, “Hemingway would have loved him.”  Tattoo’s response: “Who is Hemingway?”  But he does keep up on current events: he knows that Eunice Hollander-Baines was Time magazine’s Woman Executive of the Year.  Maybe Tattoo just wasn’t very interested in classic literature.

Roarke occasionally seems almost cruel in the way he treats his guests throughout most of the film.  Paul Henley’s fantasy is to be the hunted, rather than the hunter, which to most would seem a very strange and masochistic fantasy indeed.  Roarke takes particular delight in reminding Henley of all the transgressions he allegedly committed in Africa.  When Henley protests, shouting over the roar of a chopper overhead, that the third phase of his fantasy is murder, Roarke calls tauntingly back, “Sorry, I can’t hear you, I’ve got a helicopter in my ear!”  He is easily a match for the blunt, cold Eunice Hollander-Baines when she confronts him about how her fantasy is to be granted.  He later issues a disclaimer when she complains about it: “Madame, I arrange these fantasies, but I am not, as the saying goes, responsible for their content!” And after he’s brought Arnold Greenwood to the perfect recreation of the British pub where he first met Francesca Hamilton late in World War II, we see him peering unnoticed through the pub door at Greenwood, with a knowing smile on his face.  Perhaps this vague sadism in Roarke was the inspiration for Barry Sonnenfeld’s 1998-99 reboot.

He maintains that mysterious air about him, and it provokes more than one person.  Greenwood keeps trying to get at the essence of whatever Roarke is.  He wonders whether Fantasy Island was Roarke’s idea, and is told only that “I was consulted.”  Impressed by Roarke’s assurances that everything will be exactly as it was when he met Francesca, he remarks, “You’re a magician.” Roarke only says, “Some call me that,” and departs, leaving Greenwood wondering.  And Paul Henley’s female companion, Michelle, having witnessed the entirety of Henley’s fantasy, wonders aloud, “Who is he?”  Henley sighs, “God only knows,” and Michelle muses, “I wonder if he does!”

But as the film progresses, we see a softer side of Roarke, and begin to learn more about the guests whose fantasies he’s set up.  We eventually find that Arnold Greenwood has been haunted for the last 30+ years by what turns out to be his murder of Francesca during an air raid; even on Fantasy Island, he can’t change what really happened (a theme that would crop up repeatedly throughout the series).  We learn that Eunice is worried about who’s loyal to her and whom she will be able to trust most with her business after her death: her  philandering husband, Grant?  Her introverted, inept brother, Charles?  Her long-lost sister Elizabeth, who suddenly and suspiciously turns up for the funeral?  Her secretary, Connie, who clearly is attracted to the boss’s husband?  (One does wonder why Grant and Eunice didn’t have kids; they must not have, since said offspring would have shown up for the “funeral”.)  And we discover that Paul Henley carries a boatload of guilt over various events in which he was involved during his years in Africa: a land deal gone sour, the serious injury of a small child during a reckless drive, an affair with a married woman.  And we even see that Roarke and Tattoo are actually good enough friends to tease each other.  Roarke, in making sure that Tattoo is carrying out his duties, asks, “You didn’t forget, did you?”  Tattoo retorts, “No, I didn’t forget.  Do I ever forget?”  To which Roarke quips, “I forgot.”  Tattoo winks, smiles and resumes his task, and Roarke’s amusement shows.  Why not admit you’re having fun granting these fantasies?  (Hey, wouldn’t you?)

But Roarke absolves his guests in the end.  Paul Henley was the one cheated in the land deal, wrongly took the blame for the child’s injuries, and wasn’t the only man with whom the married woman had been cheating on her husband.  He shows that Henley has too much guilt over things that weren’t his fault.  He is as sympathetic to Eunice as she will allow, when she is tricked into revealing herself to her treacherous sister and Elizabeth perishes in her own attempt to kill Eunice.  And he’s equally sympathetic to Arnold Greenwood when the man apparently kills the Francesca lookalike, but this fantasy doesn’t have as tidy a resolution as the other two.  When we last see Greenwood, he’s sobbing over what he’s done to the woman he fell in love with so long ago, yet he later departs the island with what looks like a wry smile.  One must presume he went home and started seeing a psychiatrist…that is, if he didn’t immediately fly to London and turn himself in for Francesca’s murder!

No matter how much we love a movie or TV show, we just can’t stop ourselves from picking nits.  It’s always fun to look for bloopers and technical glitches, and there are several in this film.  As Greenwood is examining the pub’s interior, one can see the reflection of a stage light in a window if one looks closely enough (it looks like a small white spot).  The “beach house”, where Henley spends the night with Michelle before his fantasy begins, is in fact a redress of the back side of the Queen Anne cottage that served as the exterior of the main house (look toward the top right of the TV screen during shots of the beach house exterior, and you’ll see the bell tower through the leaves).  Possibly the biggest goof is during Henley’s first hunt, in which he and Michelle are handcuffed to each other.  Admittedly, this is rather a lot of fun, what with all the taunts and insults shouted back and forth between Henley, Michelle and Roarke.  (For example, Henley warns Michelle to do precisely as he does, or he’ll cut off her arm and go it alone; and when she falls into a pit trap trying to run from a deadly snake, Henley pulls out his knife to use as leverage–and out of the speakers comes Roarke’s gleeful voice: “Good boy!  Cut her arm off!”)  But that doesn’t completely distract you from the fact that the twenty minutes allotted for this hunt elapses in very distorted fashion.  The first ten minutes of the hunt is gone in just over two minutes of real time; the next four minutes speeds by in a mere 45 seconds.  Then everything begins to grind along: in two and a half minutes of real time, two hunt minutes elapse; the next minute eats two more minutes of real time; and the last 45 seconds are evidently twice their actual length.  The net effect is that the entire twenty-minute hunt flies by in a little less than seven minutes.  They say time is subjective, but this is ridiculous…

But all in all, it’s enjoyable; the actors are competent and they do their best with the material.  Clearly the viewing audience took to it, what with the sequel and the series that followed a year later.  Maybe we’re just too cynical and jaded in this day and age.  This movie gives us a chance to suspend belief for an hour and a half or so, and just get caught up in the fun.


Opening credits (in red):

Fantasy Island
Starring Ricardo Montalbán

Bill Bixby
Sandra Dee
Peter Lawford
Carol Lynley
Hugh O’Brian
Eleanor Parker
Victoria Principal
Dick Sargent
Christina Sinatra

And Hervé Villechaize as Tattoo

Director of Photography Arch Dalzell
Produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg
Written by Gene Levitt
Directed by Richard Lang

Ending credits (in white), broken down by screen:

Associate Producer Shelley Hull
Executive Consultant Cindy Dunne

Also starring
Peter MacLean as the Last Hunter

Nancy Cameron The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
Cedric Scott 2nd Hunter
John McKinney First Hunter

Elizabeth Dartmoor Bar Girl
Ian Ambercrombie Bartender
Patrick O’Hara Air Raid Warden
Richard Ryal Dart Player

Music by Laurence Rosenthal
Executive Production Manager Norman Henry
Art Director Paul Sylos
Film Editor John Woodcock A.C.E.

Production Manager William Calihan
Assistant Director William Derwin
Script Supervisor Jane Ficker
Post Production Supervisor Dick Reilly

Set Decorator Jeff Haley
Property Master Ted Cooper
Costumes Robert Harris, Jeanne Haas
Make-Up Will MacKenzie
Hair Stylist Judy Alexander Cory

Music Supervisor Rocky Moriana
Sound Engineer Seymour Klein
Construction Co-Ordinator John Hollis
Sound Editors Michael Corrigan, John Strauss

Automobiles furnished by Ford Motor Co.
Filmed at 20th Century Fox Studios
A Spelling-Goldberg Production
@MCMLXXVII Spelling-Goldberg Productions All Rights Reserved

Uncredited credits listed at the Internet Movie Database website:

Toby Holguin Island Kid
Herb Mendelsohn Hollander Ghoast

Kalai Strode Second Assistant Director
Candace Suerstedt Assistant Direct
Kirk S. Heinlen Assistant Property Manager
John Sweeney Set Dresser
Larry L. Fuentes  Special Effects Coordinator
Marneen Fields Stunt Diver
Allan Gornick, Jr. Underwater Cinematographer
Kenneth Hall Music Editor
Lonnie Sill Music Coordinator
Rita Lundin Wrangler
Lee Sollenberger Animal Trainer

Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes 35 seconds on DVD


The first thing I noticed was that the opening credits were in red. RED?!? Well, it was a red-letter day, and many of the hallmarks of the series are evident even in this early pilot:

1) the opening shots of the plane flying over the island and the twin falls;
2) Hervé in the bell tower of the Main House ringing the bell and shouting his famous quote “Ze plane, ze plane!”;
3) Roarke introducing the guests to Tattoo and byplay between them, culminating with Roarke lifting his glass and welcoming the guests;
4) a welcoming buffet, similar to the evening luau, which was used a few times during the run of the series;
5) extensive use of the grounds of the Arboretum providing excellent color as the location;
occasional classic locations used for location shooting (in this case, Vasquez Rocks, which will be visited again in the series);
6) the attention to detail shown by Roarke’s planning in the details of the fantasies (an actress who looks like Francesca and having the three hunters come from Kenya) as well as the details of the physical environments when a guest requested a building as it was in the past (the British pub and Francesca‘s flat);
7) the Fantasy Island Stock Players Association (borrowed from a nickname for actors used more than once by legendary directory John Ford throughout his career, including John Wayne and Henry Fonda) makes its first appearance, with charter members Sandra Dee, Peter Lawford, Carol Lynley, Hugh O’Brian, Eleanor Parker, Dick Sargent, and Ian Ambercrombie; and

lastly, a closing segment where the hosts say goodbye to the guests.

The end credits are in the traditional white.


Arnold Greenwood wants to relive a romance in London during the closing days of World War II.
Paul Henley wants to be hunted and killed.
Mrs. Eunice Hollander-Baines wants to attend her own funeral, and see who likes her for herself.


Bill Bixby is Arnold Greenwood, World War II journalist and veteran
Sandra Dee is the Francesca Hamilton lookalike in Arnold Greenwood’s fantasy
Peter Lawford is Grant Baines, husband of Eunice
Carol Lynley is Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Hollander, sister of Eunice
Hugh O’Brian is Paul Henley, famous big-game hunter from Africa
Eleanor Parker is Mrs. Eunice-Hollander Baines, owner of Hollander Woolen Mills
Victoria Principal is Michelle, professional escort hired by Roarke to be Henley‘s companion in his fantasy
Dick Sargent is Charles Hollander, brother of Eunice
Christina Sinatra is Connie Raymond, the personal secretary of Eunice


Instead of the open-sided cars we would expect from the series, there are open-sided jeeps, painted red. They have bluish-gray seats. A note in the IMDB trivia section for the series indicates that these were Jeep CJ-7s (or possibly singular, as no more than one appears at a time in the pilot). They appear several times during the episode: when Roarke and Tattoo go to greet the guests, when we see the chapel where Eunice’s funeral is going to be, when they drop off Henley at his bungalow, at the start of Phase II of Henley’s fantasy,  at the start of Phase III of Henley’s fantasy, and at the end, when the guests are leaving and the next ones arrive.

Conversation before we meet the guests informs us that the fantasizers pay $50,000 for a three-day stay.

Roarke tells everyone “Smiles…company’s coming”, then tells Tattoo to “Button your jacket”.

The plane left ominously after the three fantasizers got off.

Tattoo used a remote control to activate the music played for the arriving guests.

There was an arrival buffet.

When Roarke “accepted a check” he “accepted the fantasy”.

Roarke tells Eunice that his organization is larger than meets the eye.

A man dressed as a butler briefly appeared in the scene where we meet Eunice’s family.

The building with the pub had frosted glass windows, with a design of the classic ‘happy/sad or humor/tragedy’ theatre masks on it that Roarke watches Francesca and Arnold through.

Tattoo was in need of a shave when he set up the nice meal for Henley’s dinner the night before the fantasy began and probably drugged the wine himself.

Roarke tells Henley that “there are no rules on Fantasy Island except as I make them!”

During the first phase, Henley goes past a grass hut which is on the grounds of the Arboretum.

Roarke makes a joke about how much time is left in the first phase of the Henley fantasy, saying they were on “Jungle Standard Time”.

The scene of the Hollander dinner, at the main house, appears to be out of sequence; it comes after the first phase, but should have come before the first phase of Henley‘s fantasy.

Roarke tells Eunice, when she is dressed as Ms. Martin, the maid, “You’re in my world, Ms. Martin”.

Phase III takes place at Vasquez Rocks.

Another goof was that when we first see Henley and Michelle, they are perfectly coiffed from the make-up folks, despite having spent the night in a tent in the desert area of Fantasy Island.

When Roarke knocks the gun out of the third hunter’s hands, he tells him, “I make the rules on this island…all of them, all of the time. Only I break them, nobody else.”

At the funeral for Liz, Roarke stated that “In the absence of an ‘ordained’ minister, I shall conduct the service myself.”

Roarke mentions to Tattoo that the next group of fantasizers had their schedules rearranged and have arrived on the arrival leg of the flight that their current guests are leaving on. Tattoo says, “Another day, another dollar”. That did not typically happen.

In the next group of fantasizers, there is Miss Angel Sherman, described by Roarke as “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”; Mr. James Hoyt, “a penniless ranch hand who inherited $2 million last week”; and Dr. Martin Soronsky, “who thinks he’s Dr. Frankenstein”.


Mrs. Eunice Hollander-Baines was Time Magazine’s Woman Executive of the Year. In real life, Time only selects a Person or special category of the Year. She is from Pennsylvania. According to Greenwood, she said nothing on the plane. Hollander Woolen Mills is the third-largest fabric manufacturer in the United States. The business was started by a Hollander, then handed down father-to-son and then father-to-daughter. The mourners at her funeral were going to be her husband, her brother, and her personal secretary. An unexpected mourner, her younger sister, Elizabeth, was coming as well. Eunice states that Elizabeth “left the family a long time ago”, then Roarke states that he heard that Elizabeth “was thrown out”. Roarke concocted a story that Eunice had died in a boating accident and arranges for Eunice to appear as a maid around her family. Her personal secretary, Connie Raymond, has been in her employ for six years. Connie hated the job, especially Eunice’s sharp tongue and short temper. Connie admitted she tried to use Grant to make Eunice suspicious by acting as though there was something going on between them–but Grant apparently noticed nothing. Her brother, Charles, is the executor of Eunice’s estate. He appreciated her because “she had the brains, drive, and guts to run the business”. Eunice raised Liz ‘like a mother’, but threw her out of town for being the town drunk. As it turns out, Liz is having an affair with Grant, and once she discovers Eunice is still alive, tries to kill her—only to kill herself accidentally. Charles is relieved, saying, “I’d’ve ruined the mill in three weeks”.  After a reconciliation where Eunice tells Grant he has to be the perfect husband or she’ll go to the police, Roarke says “I now pronounce you still man and wife”. But Eunice does fire her personal secretary.


Arnold Greenwood quit being a journalist two months after the war ended because he “couldn’t spell, let alone write”. As a journalist in an army uniform, with the rank of lieutenant, he was probably assigned to the service newspaper Stars and Stripes. After the war, he made a fortune as the owner of a chain of wholesale drugstores. He is rich, and alone; his wife is deceased and his kids are grown. After the pub comes to life in Greenwood’s memory (along with removal of the excellent moustache and makeup that aged Bill Bixby 30 years, courtesy of a dissolve effect), the bartender calls out a few specific names as he is trying to round everyone up for the shelter because the air raid sirens have gone off: Daisy, Sis, Bill, Rose. Then, he met Francesca. Greenwood didn’t go down into the shelter because he was claustrophobic. Francesca, apparently, wasn’t worried. Her folks moved over from the US a few years ago and loved London. (They probably moved over quite some time before the outbreak of war in September, 1939, since they were clearly too attached to leave and take their daughter with them, whereas a number of Americans did flee Britain at that time. Francesca also was greatly attached to London.) She was a professional dancer in a ballet chorus. Greenwood commented that he spent more time watching “Fred Astaire movies instead of training films” and had gained an appreciation for dance, although he didn’t know what the names of specific moves were.  She inadvertently called him Alan, but he forgave her. Greenwood was on a two-day pass. Her grandfather was Russian (obviously not her father’s father). They eat a meal of home-cooked lasagna. There is a headline in the newspaper he reads while she is cooking–the London Register–that states “Allies Repulsed at Nettuno”. The newspaper doesn’t exist in the real world, but there is a Nettuno in Italy, near Anzio, 38 miles from Rome. The battles of Anzio, however, took place between January 22 and May 1944, as part of Operation Shingle, so the newspaper is probably a year old, since Greenwood specifically states that the event he wanted to recreate took place in the last couple of months of the war. Greenwood is neither engaged nor married at this time. He is a combat correspondent attached to General Eisenhower’s staff. He had earlier been on his college newspaper till he was kicked out of college. Greenwood was 4F and couldn’t serve active duty as infantry due to bum eardrums. Most likely, his college journalism experience got him picked for working on Ike’s staff. Francesca is neither married nor engaged nor going steady…however, we discover she really is married, to a man named Tim Hamilton, and picks men up for kicks. After Greenwood strangled Francesca in his rage, a German bomb scored a hit on the building, and he decided to make her death look like a casualty of the bombing. Then it turns out the actress playing Francesca is also married, and Greenwood, who’d been falling for her, reacted as he did 30-plus years ago, killing her. But lo! She isn’t dead, and Roarke reveals she left earlier in the day. The room that was her flat now has a beautiful modern décor, with an Egyptian motif wall hanging over the bed.


The first hunter fires a shot at the ice bucket during the arrival buffet, demonstrating his qualities as a marksman. None of the three were professional hunters, but they were dedicated to the task of hunting Henley. Henley has been a hunter and a mountain climber, and is described as a ‘jet-setter in khaki’. The wine bottle is from 1961, ‘a very good year’, according to Henley (although whether the year was good for him or he referred to the vintage, we can’t be sure—but knowing Roarke, probably the vintage). During the Henley fantasy, every day started at 8 AM sharp. He was allowed only a hunting knife. He would be given the option to quit before each phase, but he would forfeit his money. The first night, he and Michelle spent in a bungalow close to the beach, referred to as “The Beach House” (which was a redress of the back side of the Queen Anne cottage). During each phase, Henley has to go 100 yards from the starting point to a red flag on a pole. The first hunter is Mr. Hugh Addams of Kenya. He was cheated out of $100,000 of land by Henley in 1966. The first trap is two snares, one high and one low, which send an arrow into a tree after Henley finds them and safely triggers them. Right after that, we see a giant snake in a tree, either a python or a boa, which scares Michelle; she falls into a pit trap (filled with stakes at the bottom!) but is barely saved by Henley. After going across the river, they find a tiger on a chain. The hunter for Phase II is Mr. Gitu Umbah. He was away from his village on a safari, when a drunken Henley showed up, driving recklessly, and hit a truck that Umbah’s toddler was playing in, breaking both legs. In Phase II, Henley has to go down a steep slope to the next red flag. He cleverly flips over a solid wooden table and rides it down the slope like a toboggan or bobsled. After at least five missed shots by the hunter, Henley arrives.  In Phase III, the hunter shows up in a helicopter. The number of the helicopter is N200B. Henley has chased antelopes, lions, and giraffes by chopper, but now it is his turn to be hunted that way. Worse, the hunter has an automatic rifle. Trying to escape the chopper and reach the red flag, Henley apparently injures his leg. The hunter squeezes off 7 shots, yet manages to miss every single time. The hunter turns out to be Alex Davidson. Henley had slept with Davidson’s ex-wife, Priscilla, and ruined her by stealing her away, after which she disappeared. Henley managed to beat Davidson to the flag, but the third hunter was going to shoot him anyway. At that point, Roarke grabbed a rifle (probably left over from the second hunter) and accurately fired, knocking the automatic rifle out of Davidson’s hands in a spot of excellent marksmanship. As it turns out, Addams lied–he tried to cheat Henley out of the deal; Umbah lied—his child was injured because of his own neglect, as he was drunk in his girlfriend’s tent on the far side of the village; and Davidson had lied—his wife, Priscilla, had cheated on him many times before. As it turned out, Henley was a good guy. His conscience got to him–all that killing. If he’d really been a bad man, the killing wouldn’t have mattered to him at all.


Greenwood calls Roarke “a magician”. This is a probable reference to Bill Bixby’s previous series, The Magician, which aired during the 1973-74 season. There are no jokes related to getting angry, which would be a reference to Bixby’s role in The Incredible Hulk, because that series would not air its first television movie/pilot until November 4, 1977, several months after the Fantasy Island pilot film aired on January 14.

Greenwood gets very angry at Francesca when he discovers a photo of her husband, Tim, a serviceman. Tim is another reference to a role of Bill Bixby, that of Tim O’Hara, the reporter who befriends the alien ‘Uncle Martin’ in My Favorite Martian, which aired from 1963-1966. (I suppose Greenwood’s anger management problem could be viewed as an accidental foreshadowing of Bixby’s upcoming role in The Incredible Hulk, but definitely not an in-joke now.)

  1. Just watched tis pilot on Netflix last night. First time ever.
    My conclusion?
    Greenwood Did kill the actress playing Francesca.
    The look on Rourke’s face tell it all.
    He lied when he says Francesca left on a plane.
    Remember ‘Francesca’ shouted ‘Rourke! This is Not Real!’ When Arnold was chasing her in the flat. And as Rourke promised, Greenwood’s fantasy will be recreated ‘Exactly’.
    Unfortunate for the person playing Francesca; whose head was probably also bash in by a beam, just like what happened 30 years ago. One of the Dark sides of Fantasy Island. Rourke letting someone die to recreate a sad guy’s Fantasy.
    Not sure how he got Michelle to be the Suicidal Hunter’s evening companion, but at least they might become a couple after leaving the island.
    I kinda like the Dark tone of this pilot episode. I distinctly remember the series beling like an Island Love Boat, so was pleasantly surprised with this pilot’s themes.

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