Island of Death is a film that has an automatic infamy in the UK because of its “video nasty” label, due to the fact it was banned outright on its initial VHS release in the 1980′s. Back in Canada, this film was made available on DVD a couple of years ago by a small distributor without much fanfare at all, and with what I would consider a complete lack of any box artwork at all. Here, in England, Arrow Video has provided cult fans with alluring lurid artwork and an impressively transferred 1.33:1 DVD print in all of its uncut goat-fucking glory. Yeah, you heard me. Well, not being from here, I wonder if any UK fans are even surprised at that. For me, Island of Death was a complete blind-buy. The artwork was what had really caught my eye. I’m a bit of a sucker for good old-fashioned marketing, and believe me, when it comes to Arrow their marketing as a fucking artform. Sometimes literally. However, after finally seeing this movie for the first time, I’m not even sure I could give it a firm review. If someone would to ask me, on a scale of one to ten, what did you think of Island of Death, I’d probably just stare at them for a few seconds before I’d likely just get back to drinking my beer or writing or whatever the hell it was I was doing before that annoying, unanswerable question had been put into my brain.
The film itself was amazing on many levels – and none of these levels are what any mainstream viewer would think of as “good” (or for that matter, amazing, in the contemporary sense of the word). What is amazing is the horrendous dialogue and acting from the lead male. First, the dialogue is so heavy-handed and obvious it comes off like it was written by a teenage boy taking his first crack at story exposition. The acting is so unnatural as to be comical, with utterly no finesse for the art of screen-acting. The story concerns two lead characters, Christopher and Celia, lovers who travel to a Greek island only to go on a homicidal rampage in order to rid the island of perverts. Even the premise itself and the character satire in this is obvious, as you can see from the last two sentences I’ve written. Need I mention that after each homicide the couple masturbate over the photographs they’ve taken of each murder and victim aftermath? The fact that this is the very least of their own perversions will be even more obvious. (See the goat-fucking comment). As for the acting, an example to illustrate the case in point: playing a professional photographer, Christopher snaps the prop-camera at anything in sight, with complete randomness and aloofness as though neither the actor nor the director cared to portray this character aspect with any sort of realism at all. But let me get back to what is indeed amazing about this film, which is that it all somehow works anyway! It honestly does, and I’m at a loss as to explain why. For all of its perversions and shock-for-shock’s sake endless string of scenes, Island of Death is, at the end of the day, completely engaging. Of course, to be fair to writer/director Nico Mastorakis, it also has something to say, a point to make, only did it have to make that point with a baseball bat pierced with rail spikes? As the film rolls on with all of its dumbfounding unsubtleties, your mind may actually start screaming, okay, I get the point, yes, I completely understand what you are trying to get at!. This, both thematically and plot-wise.
However, the idea at the end of the day is cinematic entertainment. While Island of Death may not be enjoyable to most, while it may only be a cult curio to some, it will al least be entertaining to others, and it is definitely a cult film that has enjoyed its longevity with some valid reasons – whatever those reasons may be (shock, horror, perversion, pure badness, its own infamy, or being on the Video Nasties list) – reasons that may or may not be fully understandable even after you’ve witnesses Island of Death in its entirety. In other words, you’ll just have to watch the film, so if you were ever curious about it, make the leap.