Where exactly do you begin with a film like Island of Death (Mastorakis, 1975)? Widely banned because of its content, if one film is going to make you wonder why on earth you sat down to watch something it’s going to be this. I was intrigued. So many people had told me to give it a go, ‘I think you’d really like it’ was the phrase mostly used. And so I gave in… And I’m still wondering why I bothered, and still trying to work out why so many people thought I’d really dig it (Answers on a postcard please). It’s not that the film was bad (although arguably many people won’t like it because of its themes), I’ve seen a lot worse, but it wasn’t any good either. It was just weird. Really weird.
Island of Death concerns a young married couple, Christopher and Celia, who go on holiday to a Greek island. Whilst looking relatively normal, normal isn’t a word they clearly understand and instead they slowly start killing off people they don’t like in a bid to rid the island of perversion and make it pure again. This is a little strange because they don’t come across as being overly religious either but since when did plot details start to become important to bad movies?
In fact, that’s the issue with Island of Death. There isn’t much of a plot, more like a threadbare story created to link together shocking set pieces (a little like the Saw franchise but less gory and a lot stranger…). So you get a scene like Christopher humping a goat because Celia is too tired to have sex with him (this is why so many of you told me to watch it isn’t it…). Or Christopher crucifying and poisoning a painter the couple befriend after he’s had sex with Celia. They kill a gay couple, a drug addicted lesbian barmaid, an older female socialite (with a pretty neat and inventive beheading scene involving a bulldozer). You get the idea. Pretty much anyone on the island they can kill, they do. Christopher also happens to be a photographer and likes to photograph scenes of the crime, both during and after, to masturbate over later. Sadly, there’s so much going on during the film that these scenes just aren’t as shocking as maybe the production team had hoped they’d be. It’s a bit like that saying, too many cooks spoiling the broth. At what point does shocking become not shocking? When you watch Island of Death.
Making a list of everything controversial about the film doesn’t really prepare you for the film itself. I’ll say it again, the film isn’t bad. It has some dodgy acting (what exploitation film doesn’t?!), some really cheesy one-liners (‘God punishes perversion. And I am his angel with the flaming sword sent to kill dirty worms!’) and some unintentionally hilariously awful scenes, such as an incredibly unsexy sex scene in a phone booth (True Romance did it better) and some fellatio techniques on a gun (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls did it better). The problem is it isn’t very good either but somehow has a bizarre charm about it, probably down to the cinematically naive director Nico Mastorakis biting at some big ideas he didn’t quite know how to chew.
Island of Death is a film that you can’t turn off, something about it is compelling and makes you watch it all the way to the end. It doesn’t repel you, it doesn’t make you laugh, it’s just a very strange film. I defy anyone who watches it to not feel confused, a little dazed and (although no one will admit to it) a little turned on. By the time you get to the final fifteen minutes of the film and find out that Christopher and Celia are brother and sister, it doesn’t surprise you. In fact, one you start watching the film you realise that it could throw anything at you and you wouldn’t be surprised. Hell, the only surprise for me is the fact that I don’t know how to write about it!
Island of Death is just… weird. If you like weird then maybe watch it once in your life. If you’re completely narrow-minded, easily offended and live in a sterile bubble of a life, I wouldn’t bother. The film stays with you, for days. If not forever…