Blu-ray Review – Island of Death (1976)

Cover art for the 2015 Arrow Films Blu-ray release of Island of Death

Genre: Horror
Certificate: 18
UK Release Date: 25th May 2015
Runtime: 108 minutes
Director: Nico Mastorakis
Writer: Nico Mastorakis
Starring: Bob Belling, Jane Ryall, Jessica Dublin, Nikos Tsachiridis, Gerard Gonalons
Synopsis: A pair of brutal lovers with murderous intentions descend on the island of Mykonos, determined to cleanse it of the depraved and immoral.

 

In the 1980s, the UK went to war on extreme horror cinema with the DPP’s video nasty list of notorious, banned movies. Amongst them was Nico Mastorakis’ Greek exploitation (Grexploitation?) movie Island of Death, which takes every kind of depravity and perversion imaginable and chucks it right into the face of the audience.

Island of Death was banned in the UK for years until its DVD release in 2011, but it now arrives uncut on Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Films.

British couple Christopher (Bob Belling) and Celia (Jane Ryall) arrive on the island of Mykonos as if they are normal newlyweds. However, it soon becomes apparent that their goal is a nefarious one – to punish those they see as impure and perverted, from the promiscuous to the homosexual.

| "God punishes perversion. I’m his angel with the flaming sword sent to kill dirty worms."

With rape and murder running through the project like blood in its veins, Island of Death is certainly not a film that is concerned with making friends. Writer-director Mastorakis has said that he was inspired to make the film when he saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and sought to top the gruesome nature of Tobe Hooper’s exploitation classic. That inspiration is clear as Mastorakis pushes the envelope of brutality and sexuality, setting the tone early as Belling’s character has sex with a goat before cutting its throat. Later sequences feature death by DIY blowtorch and decapitation via bulldozer.

All of this shock, however, is undercut by its context. Neither Belling nor Ryall are good performers by any stretch of the imagination, completely failing to convey with any intrigue the murky morals of their characters. Some of the line delivery is unintentionally hilarious, especially when it comes to the baffling finale of Island of Death, in which the true nature of the couple’s relationship is revealed as a final, depraved twist.

The real star of the film is the island of Mykonos itself. The photography in the film is beautiful, particularly as a result of Arrow’s brand new director-supervised 2k restoration. Stark white buildings and blistering daylight make the action even harsher than it would’ve been at night, giving Island of Death a unique visual aesthetic that probably deserved a better film.

| "If this island’s full of shit, I’ll help them clean it up."

By the time the credits roll, Island of Death has given up all notion of plotting in favour of becoming an exercise in shock. It’s not at the level of recent Arrow release Nekromantik in that department, but it does seem like a film that’s more interested in leaving the audience wincing than it is in telling a story.

Some video nasties were worth fighting for. The others, not so much.

 

Special Features

Extras are exhaustive and impressive, including a new four-part documentary on Mastorakis’ career, an exploration of the film with cinema historian Stephen Thrower and an interesting archive interview with Mastorakis. There is also the usual selection of trailers and music.

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!

One for splatter completists more than general viewers, Island of Death is a film more concerned with concocting gory, often sexually violent set pieces than telling a coherent story.

It’s visually appealing, but has a terrible script and worse acting. Against a backdrop of depravity, it needed to give the audience something brighter to latch onto.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

Island of Death is available on Blu-ray from Monday courtesy of Arrow Films.

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