Island of Death (1977)
By: J.R. McNamara on October 28, 2011  | 
Arrow Films (UK) | All Regions, PAL | 4:3 | English DD 1.0 | 101 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Nico Mastorakis
Starring: Bob Belling, Jane Ryall, Jessica Dublin, Janice McConnel
Screenplay: Nico Mastorakis
Country: Greece
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I admire director Niko Mastorakis more than I admire almost any other director. All too often we hear that a horror or exploitation film was made as the writer and or director wanted to create a discussion about some ill in the world. Mastorakis has no such delusions of grandeur: as a matter of fact, he openly laughs at those who would attempt to find absent subtext in what I choose to call one of the greatest exploitation films ever made: Island of Death. Mastorakis admits that the script is based around a series of murderous and perverse ideas brought to him, and that the only reason he made it was because he heard that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was made for almost no money, but earned a heap of it.

Our film starts with a man trapped in a lime pit, begging for assistance from a girl sitting on the edge, which she denies him. We suddenly flashback to a few days earlier, where we meet the couple, Christopher (Bob Belling) and Celia (Jane Ryall) landing on the Isle of Mykonos for a bit of a holiday . After getting some accommodation on the island, they call Christopher's mother, as he wants his mother to hear him and Celia screwing in the phone booth.

As the story unfolds we learn that these two are…well, crazy. They refer to each other as husband and wife, and then cousins (the real truth is revealed later), and start to rape, molest and kill their way through the islands denizens, and its goats.

Immediately, I have to comment on both the acting and the direction: both fucking terrible. Half the time it feels like the actors learnt their script a half an hour earlier, and may have idiot cards to help them with their lines (funnily enough, the worst actor is probably Mastorakis himself: a true crime against good acting). That is not to say all the acting was dire. Belling (aka Robert Behling) is sufficiently devious and menacing, and the pretty Ryall (aka Jane Lyle) maintains an amazing sense of innocence through the entire proceeding, even during any acts of perversion in which she is involved.

In general Mastorakis' direction is OK, but now and again, the camera drops out of focus, or the initial set-up is at odds with what may be deemed 'good cinema'. He does however have some picturesque scenes that show of the beauty of Mikonos.

The thing is though that none of that matters. The film is just nutty enough that one can't keep their eyes from it as the unfolding tale is ridiculous and I for one, think it is a great example of what 'exploitation' should be. All of us fans of sick cinema should thank both Mastorakis and Arrow films for the opportunity to see this film uncut.
Considering this film is over 30 years old, the image is amazing. It is presented in 1.33:1 and whilst there is an occasional sequence that is artifact heavy, in general, it looks solid.
This film is only presented in mono but it is a decent and clear soundtrack. There are occasional audio sync issues, but I think that is the original mastering rather than anything Arrow have done.
Extra Features
The Directors Commentary is performed by Niko Mastorakis and is hosted by Calem Waddell. It's an excellent commentary that discusses all sorts of things, including Freud, psychoses… so many subjects are covered and Mastorakis' tongue in cheek humour is wonderful.

Interview with director Niko Mastorakis is quite possibly one of my favourite interviews ever. Mastorakis discusses his motives for making the film, and his career in general. He also talks about something all viewers who have seen this film are aware of: he is a shit actor!

Live Q & A is a hilarious discussion Mastorakis has with an audience before and after a viewing of the film. He is very self-depreciating and amusing.

Original theatrical trailer is just what it says it is, but the film is under the title Cruel Destination.

The Music of Island of Death is really nothing more than a musical interlude with stills and footage from the film as visual cues for it. I actually like the music accompanying this film, especially 'Destination Understanding'. Speaking of which…

Re-recording of 'Destination Understanding' is a look at the garage punk band Acid Fascists, indie band Sea Bass Kid, riot grrl band The Fnords, bluegrass band The Southern Tenant Folk Union and Extreme noise band Kylie Minoise (with Goat) recording the title track from the film. All the bands find a different voice within the song and are barely comparable. However, that being said: the Acid Fascists version is the best, by far.

In addition, this DVD has a reversible cover with different artwork on each side, an Island of Death poster, and an 8 page booklet featuring an essay by David Hayles.
The Verdict
At first I wasn't sure if this film was so bad it only deserved one star for being sick, depraved and horrible, but then I realized that it deserves five stars for exactly the same reason. This is a fascinating film packaged with a great collection of extras. Well done, Arrow!
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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