ObscureHollywood.net’s review published on Letterboxd :
In 1902 Sir James M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, wrote a play
entitled The Admirable Crichton. The play deals with four members of an upper class English family and three of their servants, all of whom become marooned on an uninhabited island while on an ocean voyage. Despite the rigid class distinctions initially observed by all members of the group, it soon becomes obvious that the rich folk are helpless in such a situation and that Crichton, the butler, is the only one intelligent and resourceful enough to save them from starvation.
Crichton is a natural-born leader, and the others, some reluctantly,
come to recognize him as the leader of their little community. The
plot of Swept Away is basically a rip-off of The Admirable Crichton, but nowhere is Sir James given a credit; he should consider himself lucky!
The castaways in this film are but two: a man and a woman. The woman, Rafaella (Mariangela Melato), is a wealthy Northern Italian blonde. She, her husband, and a group of their rich friends, have chartered a yacht for a Mediterranean cruise. Rafaella is a garrulous ball-breaker who enjoys lording it over her inferiors, particularly crewman Gennarino (Giancarlo Giannini). Gennarino, a black-haired, swarthy, lower class Sicilian, is in all ways the opposite of Rafaella.
Inevitably, through plot machinations too tedious to relate, Rafaella
and Gennarino find themselves marooned on an uninhabited island (of
which, I believe, there are few, if any, in the Mediterranean Sea). As
expected, Rafella is unable to survive on her own under these
conditions and comes to depend completely on Gennarino. Gennarino, naturally, expects to be treated with deference now that the tables have been turned. Deference to Gennarino, however, means total submission. He literally forces her to kiss his feet, brutally slaps her when she displeases him and, inevitably, forces her to have
physical relations with him on his terms. Incredibly, Rafaella comes
to enjoy her new role as sex slave, and the two enter into a
thoroughly sick relationship for the remainder of their sojourn on the
island. Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome! Director Lina Wertmuller,
although a woman, does not seem to be a feminist.
They are finally rescued and returned to port. Here we meet the only
sympathetic character in the film, Gennarino’s fat, homely wife, who,
amazingly, seems happy to see him. 'Why' is unclear, because he is a
totally despicable lout. In fact, both he and Rafaella are without any
redeeming qualities, lacking any trace of human kindness or
consideration. How we are to empathize with either of these monsters
is hard to figure.
A few other random observations: The island seems at times to be a
mostly barren rock with only minimal vegetation, and and other times
to be a lush semi-tropical paradise. Also, despite being repeatedly
cuffed about the face, our “heroine” never shows signs of bruising.
In fact, aside from the hair lengthening slightly, Rafaella always
looks as though she had just stepped out of the beauty salon. Ah, the
wonders of Hollywood (oops, I mean Rome) makeup artistry!