ISLAND OF DEATH (1976)
Of all the Director of Public Prosecutions’ notorious 39 outlawed videos, Island of Death was the most tasteless, controversial and depraved. Director, writer and producer Nico Mastorakis might have made the film purely for financial means, but it’s since become one of the most lusted-after cult films and a definitive exploitation flick. And it’s cleaned up pretty well on Blu-ray.
The film is overshadow by its chequered past, where it was notoriously cut to be passed X for its theatrical release, before being declined classification on home video on multiple occasions. With cuts and title changes (Island of Perversion being our favourite) it managed to slink around the censors. That was until 2010, where the BBFC finally gave up the goose and passed the film uncut. Since then, Mastorakis’ nasty little masterpiece has enjoyed a renaissance and you don’t feel half as dirty watching it.
The plot, what little of it makes sense, follows sibling lovers Christopher (Behling) and Celia (Lyle) who arrive from London to the Greek island of Mykonos. Christopher is a self-styled avenging angel, sent to punish the inhabitants for their perversions and sexual depravity. This amounts to provoking the locals into sex acts and then offing them in inventive and eye watering ways, taking photos all the while. Between them and the locals, an impressive rap sheet of violence and depravity soon adds up, from golden showers to bestiality and decapitation and much more besides.
Even before the killing spree gets underway, the cinematography lulls you in with inviting shots of the town with its white buildings, tight streets and twinkling seas. For all its media baiting antics, it’s beautifully and confidently shot. Mastorakis was uncredited as cinematographer alongside Nikos Gardelis, and between then they’ve created a postcard in motion. The bizarre soundtrack has weathered well, the folky infused songs adding a curious juxtaposition to the antics onscreen, with sly lyrics from Mastorakis himself.
The film may seem tame by today’s standards, it’s hardly torture porn, but the rape scenes in particular are still intensely visceral. Christopher ends up getting his comeuppance by the time the credits roll, but the motives, means and reasons behind his actions are ambiguous and largely amount to nothing. Island of Death is a curiosity, one that fans of exploitation should all see once. But with the extras included in Arrow’s Blu-ray release, it’s one you’ll want to own too.
Extras: director-approved 2K restoration / Exploring Island of Death – film historian Stephen Thrower on the making of a cult classic / Return to Island of Death – the original Mykonos locations / Archive interview with director Mastorakis / Alternative opening titles / Island Sounds – five original tracks from the soundtrack / Trailer / The Films of Nico Mastorakis – four-part documentary /Nico Mastorakis Trailer Reel / Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet.
INFO: CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: NICO MASTORAKIS / SCREENPLAY: NICO MASTORAKIS / STARRING: ROBERT BEHLING, JANE LYLE, JESSICA DUBLIN / RELEASE DATE: MAY 25TH