Island of Death Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Written and directed by Nico Mastorakis
1976, 108 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on May 26th, 2015
Bob Belling as Christopher
Jane Ryall as Celia
Jessica Dublin as Patricia
Gerard Gonalons as Foster
Janice McConnel as Leslie
The Greek island of Mykonos is the setting for the latest stretch of the international crime spree wreaked by the notorious Christopher and Celia. Having recently fled England ahead of a determined police investigator named Foster, the happy couple sets out on a restful vacation. The duo take lots of photographs, have fun interacting with the locals and spend plenty of time in bed together. Other enjoyment comes from such delights as raping and slaughtering a goat, crucifying a painter, murdering homosexuals and hanging people from low-flying aircraft. Island of Death does not make the effort to develop much of a plot, despite the bloated 108-minute running time. Instead, the filmmakers pad the movie with scenarios filled with archetypes that tend to show up on screen long enough to get killed, but just shy of receiving a character name. Viewers won’t be burdened with heady symbolism or social commentary either, as the script is essentially a string of vignettes that merely advance the movie from one murder set-piece to the next. Bob Belling (Cujo) and Jane Ryall (Erotic Nightmare) star as Christopher and Celia respectively, but don’t expect this film to top either’s résumé.
Writer/ director Nico Mastorakis (In the Cold of the Night) is a better showman than filmmaker, and has repeatedly stated that the reason he made Island of Death was because he once caught a screening of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and was impressed by the financial success and notoriety of such a small movie. Mastorakis was inspired to try his hand at exploitation cinema because, as he reasoned, he could emulate the tone of American films, and by upping the level of offensive material, he would reap even greater revenue. He ignored all of the merits that make Tobe Hooper’s film legitimately scary and focused only on the box office receipts. By baiting the censorship board, Mastorakis practically guaranteed himself a slot on the dreaded BBFC “Video Nasties” banned titles list and accurately predicted that controversy would lead to an increase in audience curiosity. For decades the reputation of this sleazy gem has had gorehounds searching high and low for a bootleg of the uncensored cut of this flick. Murky VHS dubs floated around the grey market of tape-trading circles that kept the title alive.
Island of Death now joins the bizarre world where the most outrageous films ever made are lovingly restored and remastered for discerning twenty-first century audiences. Once-forbidden titles like Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Nekromantik, Bloody Moon, The Burning, Don’t Go in the Woods, Evilspeak and Contamination have all been taken off the banned list and placed on Blu-ray Collector’s Edition discs readily available at most video retailers. The beauty of most of these films is that they are all essentially critic-proof. The worse the reputation, the more fans want to see it. If you tell me something like Guinea Pig is going to make me fill my shoes with vomit, then show me where I can snag a copy right now. Island of Death has a guy fucking a goat and then chopping off some chick’s head with a bulldozer? Cool! Mastorakis knew the power of word-of-mouth and loaded his flick with so many outrageous moments that genre audiences tracked it down even when it started turning up under assorted titles like Devils in Mykanos and Isle of Perversion.
I cannot recommend this movie to viewers dedicated to mainstream entertainment, but fans of the underground scene are in for a treat. Judging this through the prism of sleaze cinema, Island of Death is a meandering tale that slows to a crawl when trying to maintain a throughline of action. It is at its best when the characters are at their worst. The kills are creative and fun despite some lacking effects work and there’s even some nice gallows humor to break up the routine. If you are looking for a thoughtful meditation on the cruelties of man or a well-written character piece filled with heroes and villains, look elsewhere. If you want to see what this film looks like when it hasn’t been dubbed down about six generations on VHS, then race to the folks at Arrow Video and give them your money wrapped in a big hug and thank them for delivering this long overdue delight!
Video and Audio:
This new special edition of Island of Death is, quite simply, stunning. The uncensored version is presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with unbelievably rich colors and solid black levels. There is a tiny bit of print damage in the final reel, but the overall transfer is such an upgrade over all previous (bootleg) versions that it is hardly worth mentioning.
An English LPCM 1.0 mono track gets the job done, as music and effects do not impede dialogue levels. Things get occasionally tinny, but honestly this is a solid counterpart to the video elements and I have no real complaints.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Arrow Video pulls out all the stops and delivers a stunning package loaded with special features.
Starting things off is the comprehensive documentary The Films of Nico Mastorakis (160 minutes) that covers the life and extensive career of the filmmaker. This is an incredibly thorough work that will serve as the perfect introduction to a director with whom many contemporary audiences are unfamiliar.
Nico Mastorakis sits down for an interview (24 minutes) that focuses specifically on Island of Death and how the film got made and how it was received.
Return to Island of Death (17 minutes) finds the director revisiting original shooting locations and hanging out with some of the locals that appeared in the film nearly forty years ago.
Exploring Island of Death (40 minutes) is an interesting tutorial in which film scholar Stephen Thrower shares an overview of the film’s production, the trouble with censorship and how the film has endured over the years. This is definitely a piece worth checking out, as the information is both thorough and entertaining.
The film was released under numerous titles and we are treated to a pair of alternate opening title sequences that identify the picture as Island of Perversion and Devils in Mykonos.
Island Sounds offers a few audio selections from the motion picture soundtrack.
The original theatrical trailer included is full of spoilers and not surprisingly highlights the film's violent content.
An extensive (35 minutes) trailer gallery for additional Mastorakis films completes the special features on this disc.