Island of Death (1976)

The lucky ones simply got their brains blown out.
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Island of Death - The lucky ones simply got their brains blown out.

Nico Mastorakis is the first to admit that his motivation for making Island of Death was money. This highlights that maybe other directors have the same motivation and just like to grease the wheels of the marketing machine with bullshit as Island of Death still stands out as one of the more notable entries on the Video Nasty list. His inspiration came from seeing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and his eureka moment was that controversy sells. He took that motivation to a whole new level by simply listing controversial subjects and wedging as many as possible into his formula. It is the audience that find meaning in a film whether the creator intended that meaning or no meaning at all and Island of Death provides many non-existent lines to read between.

The formula is very apparent with the majority of the scenes in the film being the main character, Christopher (played by Bob Belling), perceiving a sin, eradicating the sin in a sinful manner thus restoring balance to the universe and then celebrating with a few extra sins of his own. Mastorakis’ sin list is not something he should have left around should it get confused with his list of things to do. Homosexuality, rape, voyeurism, masturbation, golden showering the aged, incest, goat fucking, drug use and being from London are all taboos that are touched upon. Combine this with some sadistic murders and more boobs than a mastectomy ward dumpster and you instantly have a movie that will advertise itself, whether that be by way of positive or negative promotion.

Despite the director’s claims that there is no purpose to Island of Death there are numerous twisted morals to be over analysed. This is by no means a shallow montage of sex and violence and provides a depth (even if unintentional) to the characters. Their inner workings are much more distressing than the onscreen violence and even though the majority of the cast were plucked from the streets, they still manage to extrude some rather nasty insights. Christopher justifies his actions as doing the work of god (a common real life issue since the British monarchy first invented religion) yet cannot see the slightest amount of hypocrisy as he enjoys his actions as the self proclaimed angel of death. His partner Celia is just as twisted, probably more as she looks way too cute to be evil. They both exhibit a total lack of compassion and are convincingly psychotic in their normality, much more unsettling than a shifty looking cackling antagonist. The rest of the cast are just fodder. Even the police inspector from London only makes a brief appearance as the normal retributions that films usually resort to are brushed aside for something a bit more sinister.

This isn't high budget in the slightest but still manages to exhibit a degree of professionalism easily missed on numerous low budget affairs. The actors are all amateur except for the shepherd at the end (who is an established Greek actor and isn’t Hugh Jackman), yet they still manage to inspire empathy and a notion of what an outrageous stereotype they are. This is possibly due to the non-actors being way out of their comfort zone but nonetheless this discomfort is projected onto the viewer. The butchery is mostly off screen yet what is seen is believeable. Mostly due to budgetary constraints the horror happens “in the mind” and some of the scenes are so morbidly perverse (for the seventies) that it is probably better that the imagination does the special effects.

The story is quite shallow with the character's motivations providing the depth. A couple of crazy fugitive Brits flee to a small Greek island with the intention of carrying on their perverse lifestyle and hoping to replace being on the lam with being on the goat. Realising that the inhabitants of the island are far from pure, Christopher and his lover wreak havoc in the name of god to try and give the island back to the innocents and take it away from the sinners. As a keen photographer, Christopher ensures that no one will ever be bored of his holiday slideshow again. The couple see more and more perversion on the island and they have their work cut out purifying the place in their own perverted ways. The final sequence provides a twisted form of half retribution with the revelation that the couple are offending god in their own way. This ticks another taboo off the list. The film ends abruptly but there is probably no other place the story could go without cleansing the audience of some of their dirty feelings.

For a movie motivated by gold coins and the simple objective to shock, Island of Death ticked the boxes. Above this it inadvertently provides a lot to think about beyond what is thrust in the face and, even if these notions of depth are imaginary, it still shows that there is an element of talent mixed in with the haphazardry.
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