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Papillion a Big Hit as Both Novel and Film

Paul Ambrose
Paul Ambrose
Recommended: Papillon
Recommended: Papillon

Here’s a case of a film that is just as good as the book and still deserves a recommendation thanks to the genius roles of both Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. 

Many fans may not be familiar with how these great actors got their start and how the lead role met his early demise.  In fact, Steve McQueen was in his prime during the filming of Papillion and this movie is a great place to find out about him first hand.

Papillon is a true memoir by convicted felon, which became an instant bestseller during its time. It is an incredible story that was later adapted for a Hollywood film and led by Steve McQueen in the title role along with Dustin Hoffman as supporting actor.

The book accounts for a fourteen-year period in the prisoner’s life when he was wrongly convicted of murder in France and sentenced to a life of hard labor at the Devil's Island penal colony.  He eventually escaped to Venezuela but not before an amazing tale which is great to experience in both film and book form.   

This amazing journey takes us, not only into the depths of the penal colony system but to various other stages like a remote island with shark-infested waters, a death defying mass of quick sand and an insane asylum among many others.

Charrière later requested that he be transferred to Devil's Island in the true life account and this is known to be the smallest and most "inescapable" island known to that part of the world. Today, a famous song "Devil's Island" written by the band “Megadeth” is modeled after the Steve McQueen film.

In the film, Devil’s Island is surrounded by a high cliff that causes strange phenomenon to occur in the water currents below. In the story ‘Papillion’, the main character eventually discovers that every seventh wave which hits the beach is large enough to carry something out to sea and drift it towards the mainland.  He experiments by throwing sacks of coconuts into the inlet and the movie ultimately leads him to a fateful ending which concludes a majestic tale of survival. 

McQueen was later nominated for Best Motion Picture Actor in a Drama and Papillion is a great place to see him do his stuff. Whether you choose the film or the book, you won’ be disappointed.

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Does anyone remember the name of the medic who escapes over the wall with Papillon and Dega - is it Maturette? In any case, he may mark the first time Hollywood created a gay character - at least in a big-budget film - who is sympathetic, not stereotypical or ridiculous or treacherous, and is given his fair share of personal dignity.