Island of Death (1977), they just don’t make em like this anymore!

island of death arrow coverAfter getting about 5 minutes into Nico Mastorakis’s Greek Exploitation film Island of Death it is not difficult to see why it was banned. It is now available on Arrow Video, in its full uncut glory, with a nice director’s commentary thrown in. I was delighted to see the UK Horror Channel recently showed it uncut. This only demonstrates how far we have come from the dark days of censorship. The story goes that after seeing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Mastorakis thought he could do one better and set out to make this island based shockfest as a result. Sadly though shocking it is not. But it is well worth a watch for its pure comedic value; that is saying if you find bestiality, stabbing, decapitation by bulldozer, death by flaming aerosol, people being urinated on, gun fellatio, hanging by plane, hippy rapists with flowers on their heads or being farted on after a session of forced buggery, funny  (and these being just a few of the highlights). It had been a while since I last saw this film but I knew I remembered it as being utterly hilarious. One would think from the list of depraved content I have just mentioned that this film could be anything but funny. However we can thank Mastorakis for his appalling cheesy script, fantastically ridiculous dialogue, awful actors, and barefaced ‘I am trying to shock you’ tactics for making this film anything but serious. The decapitation by bulldozer scene had me crying tears of laughter in my seat alone.

The story begins with British couple Christopher (Robert Behling) and Celia (Jane Lyle) arriving on a small Greek island, nothing wrong with this scenario- just a nice couple wanting to spend their summer in the sun. The island itself is beautiful, with rows of whitewashed stone houses and narrow streets. They stumble upon a gay guy who knows somewhere ‘fabulous’ they can rent, and proceed to take up residence in an apartment leased by a lesbian landlady. Things start to go a bit awry from this point when the lovely couple prove they are a bit naughty by getting it on in a phonebox and calling Christopher’s mother while they are doing it. ‘‘Guess what I’m doing mother?!’ Christopher screams down the phone, ‘I’m making love!’. Mother does not seem particularly shocked by this outburst and we start to suspect this is not the first time he has made a call like this. This is however the first time in the film we see lead actress Jane Lyle, who plays Celia, get her breasts out, but don’t worry if you miss it because from here on out she seems to spend every scene which follows in some sort of undress- including full frontal nudity. In fact every other cast member, apart from a few extras, also get their kit off throughout the film. So if you don’t like naked people this is not the film for you. Nudity is not just confined to the younger members of the cast, so be aware. It is certainly an eye opener. If this is supposed to be titillating, having the actors writhe about waggling their tongues like maniacs to suggest seduction, then I think we can consider this move a complete fail on the director’s part. Although I did find the scene when Christopher urinates in an old lady’s face before beating her to death particularly entertaining given the sheer ludicrousness of the whole event, the fantastically bad acting and even funnier dialogue.

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We discover that Christopher is a self confessed avenging angel- complete with a flaming sword, he declares- who tracks down perversion and punishes the wicked. He hates ‘perverts’ and we see him call a lot of people perverts as he continues his rampage through the village. The first illustration we get of this is when he brutally crucifies a pervy French painter after letting him sleep with Celia -all while sneaking about behind a wall photographing the action- before attempting to strangle the parched pervert who is all puffed out from a good old frollick in the sun. Christopher is capable of some compassion though and seeing the painter is thirsty gives him a nice drink of his own paint.

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The crusade of morality gives the old avenger justification for slaying the majority of characters who live on this island; including a gay couple, some lesbians, an old rich woman- who is also a lush and likes to lure people into bed for cash- and some rapists. Nevertheless he may be more convincing in his plight if he were not sleeping with his sister (Celia); or if he didn’t like to use her as a lure for some of the victims and lurk in the shadows snapping away on his camera while she goes the whole hog with some of them, before stepping in. And definately if he didn’t masturbate over said photos, or stick his unmentionables in a goats anus before cutting its head off. ‘This island is for the innocents’ he likes to proclaim and he has appointed himself their protector, to ‘clean up the shit’ as he so delicately puts it.

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‘Someone is feeling a bit ‘horny’

As for the gore factor, well it is slightly gory but a lot of the action shots take place off camera. I can only imagine this was to save Mastorakis’s very limited budget from being wasted on special effects. Another remarkable feature in this film is none of the victims seem to put up much of a fight, seen best in the crucifixtion scene. I know if someone was trying to nail my hand to the floor it would take those fuckers an eternity to get me to open my fist, I would not just let it flop open to recieve a pummeling by hardware.

So if bad taste, awful acting and ridiculous killings with a load of boobies thrown in is for you, check this out you will not be disappointed. For those with a deep sense of dark humour you should relish this. If you are looking for any artistic merit you will not find it here but that does not mean there isn’t a lot of fun to be found with Island of Death.  However for a prime example of how a directors contrived attempt to cash in can go so horribly wrong this film is a good demonstration. With the production values of a group of hormonal GCSE drama students they just don’t make them like this anymore, is that a good thing? You decide.

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Categories: 70's horror, Euro Horror, Reviews, Video Nasties

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