As controversial shocker ISLAND OF DEATH has been given the HD treatment, we spoke to director Nico Mastorakis to find out more about the former VIDEO NASTY...
STARBURST: What was the Greek film industry like at the time you made Island of Death?
Nico Mastorakis: In the seventies, Greek cinema made a shy transition from conservative to provocative, when from mainstream melodramas, comedies and pseudo-historical epics, a section of the Greek film makers turned to soft porn - with survival being their only motivation. Soon they were making money, not only domestically but also abroad (where the soft version included some clumsy hardcore stuff, shot separately and in the absence of the key actors). Maybe I too made a miniscule change in the going trends, with Death Has Blue Eyes, the first parapsychological thriller and then with Island of Death, which was a shock to the industry. Not just the local industry though. I remember that in the first screening, during the Cannes market, distributors left the theatre half way through feeling sick! And those who left disgusted were the ones who came back to buy the movie the next day.
How does it feel that so many critics and commenters have found artistic merit in Island of Death when it was made solely for financial means?
The end justified the means - or vice versa? As in the thin plot of Island of Death, where indeed, the means justified the end! The fact is that when I read the first review in Screen International there was so much praise and the reviewer had discovered so many metaphors, that I thought they made a mistake and I had to read the title twice! Critics have the right and the duty, actually, to dig deeper into a movie, ignore the motivations of the filmmaker and find their own values. Most of the time, they discover crap instead of diamonds, sometimes they find diamonds in the crap. So, to interpret another Nico (Machiavelli) into cinematic lingo: “Actions can only be considered artistically right or wrong by virtue of the art of the outcome.”
Did you have to consider any kind of therapy after making the film?
for a week before my DP showed up, casting the locals, setting up a decapitation, crucifying an actor on the front yard of the church, operating a blood pump and even playing a small part to the dismay of my crew and friends. The audience has a misconception about writers and directors, who write and/or make violent movies, they think that they’re nuts. But it’s usually the opposite, it’s the violent wackos who make pretentiously normal films!
How (if at all) have your opinions of censorship changed in lieu of the BBFC passing Island of Death uncut?
I’m stunned, I marvel at their bravery! Opinions changed? Not at all, I still believe that the Brits, a truly progressive audience, do not deserve such a typically medieval institution, to tell adults what they can watch and what they shouldn’t. It defies logic and when that happens, I consider censorship a much more dangerous kind of violence than the one portrayed on film. I suspect that, through the history of censors in the UK, someone who may had cut out a bestiality scene, maybe went to his country home and fucked his goat.
You made a list of depravities to include in the film before making it. If you were to make it now, are there any more you would add, or anything you wouldn’t do?
There’s nothing new I could do, as depravities have been overdone as TV’s playground for over a decade. Watching CSI and its spinoffs, one can make a list of the best of the worst depravities ever filmed. TV has outdone Island of Death and anything else in this genre. And when it comes to graphic violence, splatter, blood and guts, there’s a plenty of them every day in the evening news. The pretence of “making the audience aware” is such a fucked up device for networks to legally play endless decapitations, child porn and kinky sex on primetime.
What would your attitude be if someone wanted to remake the film?
All offers welcome! However, I’m planning to shoot Island of Death 2 this summer! It will be totally different in tone, theme and mood. More sophisticated. A kind of study of the density of violence ordinary people carry throughout their existence, until they break the wall which separates true good from pure evil. All that, in a world where true good is unethical and outlawed and evil is the only moral status quo. I’ll make it without philosophical or artistic bullshit pretences, but with the true, one and only motivation commercial film producers have: To make money. We’ll later know if, in this case too, the end justified the means or if it was, once more, the other way around. Really, wouldn’t it be fun to see Island of Death 2 win the Cannes Film Festival?
Arrow Video’s extras-packed Blu-ray ISLAND OF DEATH is out now and is reviewed here.