Blu-ray Movie Review – Island of Death (1976)

Island of Death
Directed by Nico Mastorakis
Courtesy of Arrow Video and MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1976
Blu-ray Release Date: May 26, 2015

island

After ISLAND OF DEATH ended and the credits rolled, I had to sit there for a few minutes and think about what I had just witnessed. I had seen carnage and mayhem combined with dark humor and a lot of nudity. But was it good? I ultimately decided ‘yes’. It is a quirky and strange film, but both in a good way. The fine folks at Arrow Video and MVD Distribution certainly know how to pick them, and this movie is a perfect example of that!

If you are not familiar with ISLAND OF DEATH, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video:

THE LUCKY ONES GOT THEIR BRAINS BLOWN OUT!! Welcome to Mykonos, the holiday destination of choice for sun, sea and slaughter! From cult director Nico Mastorakis, Island of Death is a travelogue of atrocities with scenes so strong that the British Government was once compelled to ban it as a “video nasty”. Arriving on the idyllic Greek island, Christopher and Celia appear to be every inch the perfect, handsome young couple. Little do the welcoming locals realise that they are in fact a pair of murderous degenerates, determined to spread their own particular brand of perversion across the island. DIY crucifixions, opportunistic bestiality, sexual peeing and murder by all conceivable forms ensue – including death by makeshift blowtorch, samurai sword, dump truck and more! Shocking, brutal and totally politically incorrect in its outlook, Island of Death is a gruelling cinematic experience devised by director Mastorakis to out-do the excesses of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which he was hugely inspired by. Now fully uncut and newly-restored from the original negative, fans can enjoy Island of Death in all its sleazy, lurid glory.

I have to confess I had a lot of fun with this one. It pretty much starts off as a simple weekend getaway for ‘the couple next door’, but then turns south real fast. The resulting blood-drenched vacation is a thrill-ride of monumental proportions, and that is not something said lightly! But be warned: you’ll see MANY things in this film that you won’t be able to get out of your mind for a while.

ISLAND OF DEATH is shot fairly well, but the HD restoration makes the picture look excellent. I would have no problem believing it was shot in recent years, thanks to the painstaking Blu-ray transfer. From the corny 70’s music to the dated fashions, the high quality picture and sound of this film will transport you straight to the 70s.

The acting is decent, although it certainly could have been better. Still, it’s a higher quality than most B-movies, so I can’t complain about it too much. Co-lead Robert Behling went on to act in several projects after ISLAND OF DEATH, including THE BLACK STALLION RETURNS and Stephen King’s CUJO, however actress Jane Ryall (Lyle) pretty much fell of the planet. Interestingly, there are no supporting cast performances that jump out, either.

The special effects in ISLAND OF DEATH are pretty good, although they once again appear dated. The blood we get to see (and there’s a lot of it) is just a tad too bright, but this doesn’t really detract from the film as a whole. I like the ingenious ways the couple find to kill people, too. Some are just downright inventive.

The story in ISLAND OF DEATH is lacking because nothing is ever explained. We don’t know who the couple really is (except for the ‘big reveal’ at the end, which made me smile) or why they do what they do. Surprisingly, this doesn’t hurt the movie at all as a whole, but I personally would have enjoyed even a little bit of backstory.

I was interested to learn (from the Trivia section of the movie on IMDB) that director Nico Mastorakis was primarily motivated by money when he made this film. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE had raked in some big box office grosses, which is what prompted him to make ISLAND OF DEATH. But genre fans cannot deny the impact (and entertainment) this film has provided for the horror world. And thanks to Arrow Video and MVD Distribution, a new generation of fans will be able to enjoy it in a high-definition way.

I recommend ISLAND OF DEATH, and I suggest you pick up this excellent Blu-ray as soon as possible. Additionally, it features:

* Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative, approved by writer-director-producer Nico Mastorakis
* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
* Original Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
* Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
* Exploring Island of Death – film historian Stephen Thrower on the making of a cult classic
* Return to Island of Death – Mastorakis returns to the original Mykonos locations
* Archive interview with Mastorakis
* Alternative opening titles
* Island Sounds – five original tracks from the Island of Death soundtrack
* Original Theatrical Trailer
* The Films of Nico Mastorakis – four-part documentary charting the director’s filmmaking career [Blu-ray only]
* Nico Mastorakis Trailer Reel [Blu-ray only]
* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
* Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by academic and film historian Johnny Walker

MSB

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