Island of Death on DVD

Sunday, 20 March 2011 12:48

The last film I reviewed (“The Beyond”) was a resurrected ‘video nasty’ that some critics felt had come of age and deserved a fresh look. “Island of Death” is the exact opposite. It is an ugly movie with few redeeming qualities and the director knows it. Nikos Mastorakis admits on the DVD extras that he deliberately made the $35,000 movie as outrageous and shocking as possible, primarily to make a quick buck. He succeeded.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The plot, such that it is, concerns siblings Christopher (Robert Behling) and Celia (Jane Lyle) who take a holiday on the small Greek island of Mykonos. What follows is scene after bewildering scene of soft porn (often incest), hate-fuelled and senseless murder, rape and even bestiality. Christopher and Celia are on a mission to cleanse the island of depravity, and yet they are the chief instigators!

Island of Death on DVDIntrigue and a vain hope that the movie has something of value led me and many others before me to give this movie a chance. I regret it, but I implore anybody reading this not to fall for the same cheap tricks. The meagre budget is self-evident: The ‘actors’ were mostly models or people Mastorakis dragged in off the street, and none of them is able to act for toffee; the dubbing and dialog synchronisation is laughable; the characters’ motivations and actions seldom make the slightest bit of sense and are constantly hypocritical; the action is frequently offensive or repetitively dull, and the ending is hilarious. Okay, that last part is a minor (very minor) redeeming quality as I think it was intentional.

In its favour, the movie does look nice. The video transfer team have done a quality job on the new DVD and many of the scenes resemble a very inviting promo for Greek holidays. It is a scenic island with a glittering blue sea, lush green hills and clean white villas reflecting back the warmth of the sun. Those people that are not slaughtered are smiling and generally having a great time.

The music is also pretty good, consisting of a number of hip and catchy 70s pop songs. The bizarre incidental music takes some getting used to but grows on you a little as the movie progresses.

The special features are by far this release’s strongest bargaining chip, and I am almost tempted to recommend it purely on their strength alone (providing you avoid wasting time on the main feature!). In the commentary, the interview and post-screening Q&A, the director comes across as a warm, intelligent, candid and funny man. As mentioned above, he acknowledges that he made the movie in reaction to the stunning success of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, and that the money and recognition it brought him helped him progress in his career. He owes it a debt for that.

He debunks those critics who have found hidden value and intentional artistic merit in the film. He also pronounces those who enjoy the movie as ‘sick’. Such honesty is genuinely refreshing to see, and Mastorakis should be commended for it. He is also a staunch advocate of the freedom of choice, and despises censorship. Adults should be able to see his movie if they like, but he admits that children certainly should not have access to it. As time has passed, it has gone from being banned, had 45 minutes cut from it to the uncut state it has finally reached.

The full list of extras is as follows:

  • Brand new audio commentary with director Nico Mastorakis and author and critic Calum Waddell
  • Q&A with director Nico Mastorakis
  • Interview with Nico Mastorakis
  • Original trailer
  • The Music of Island of Death (which is basically a sequence of pornographic stills and edited scenes from the movie, set to the songs featured within it)
  • 2010 re-recording of “Destination Understanding” by Garage Punk band Acid Fascists
  • Double-sided fold-out poster
  • Collectors’ booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by critic David Hayles
  • Brand new transfer of the film
  • Original mono audio

“Island of Death” (1975) is out now, courtesy of Arrow Video. The main feature has a running time of 108 minutes approx, carries an ‘18’ certificate and retails for £15.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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