• Island Of Death (Blu-ray)

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: May 26th, 2015.
    Director: Nico Mastorakis
    Cast: Robert Behling, Jane Lyle, Jessica Dublin, Nikos Tsachiridis
    Year: 1974
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    The Movie:

    Written and directed by Nico Mastorakis, 1977’s Island Of Death earned itself a bit of a reputation during England’s ‘Video Nasties’ craze for its shocking content. The film has since gone down in cult cinema history as a bit of a lightning rod for controversy, but it remains a well made and, at times, legitimately unsettling film.

    The main story follows a tourist couple played by Christopher (Bob Behling), a bit of a shutterbug, and his pretty blonde wife Celia (Jane Ryall). They travel to the small island of Mykanos where, once they find a place to stay, get into all manner of perverse mischief. When we meet them they’re screwing like rabbits in a phone booth (‘We’ll call my mother and let her hear everything!’ – and they do!!) – we then learn that they’re brother and sister. They wander the island and punish those they see fornicating, but hypocrisy rears its ugly head when Christopher has sex with a goat and when Celia refused to put out for him.

    At any rate, they travel around doing wrong to anyone they see as a pervert – be they gay, lesbian, or just simply black or hippy – though eventually their family back in England wonder what they’ve gotten up to. To try and track them down, they hire a private detective to track the pair down. As the newlyweds kill their way across the island, a lowly shepherd (Nikos Tsachiridis) comes into play and may prove to be their undoing.

    Made fast and cheap with an emphasis on sex and violence, Mastorakis’ picture is a pretty sleazy one. Though the movie manages to work in some nice travelogue footage that shows off the beautiful locations where all of this horrific content plays out, it’s very much a film of contrast in that regard. A exhibition of taboo sex and violence plays off against a beautiful series of scenic backdrops. Mastorakis cast the leads with established actors but used English speaking locals to fill in the blanks, so there’s an air of awkwardness to the whole film that mixes with the perversion and bloodshed in an almost surreal way.

    The movie sounds far more sensational than it really is, however. While it’s certainly true that, yes, there is a good bit of sex and violence here, much of it plays out quite humorously. While it may have seemed like a film capable of wreaking havoc with the moral fabric of society a few decades ago, it now seems rather amusing, at least it will if you’ve got a twisted sense of humor.

    Mastorakis (who also shot and edited the picture himself) does manage to create some interesting atmosphere throughout the picture and it’s interesting how the movie asks us to question the morality of the different characters that populate it. As sleazy and depraved as it all is, the film is relentlessly entertaining.


    Arrow presents Island Of Death in a brand new restoration from the original negative framed at 1.33.1 fullframe and looking quite good indeed (though some will lamant the option of a widescreen version, which is a valid complaint as the director has stated in the past it was meant to be widescreen). The healthy bit rate ensures that there aren’t any compression problems while color reproduction looks great. The movie still has that gritty, dirty feel to it that it’s always had but the increase in detail and clarity is consistently impressive here for what is a fairly obscure, low budget oddity. Grain is obvious but never overpowering and while some print damage does creep into the image, it’s never a distraction. Skin tones look good too, as do black levels. This is quite a nice upgrade.

    The only audio option on the disc is an LPCM Mono track, in English, but it sounds nice. There’s a bit more noticeable depth and better range here when compared to the previous DVD release. Some scenes do sound a little flat, but there aren’t any problems with any hiss or distortion to note. Nothing to complain about here, the movie sounds just fine. Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.

    There are a lot of extras here, starting with Exploring The Island Of Death which is a featurettes with Stephen Thrower that runs just under forty-minutes and which provides a pretty thorough rundown of the making of the film. Here Thrower covers the different titles that the movie played under, the distribution history of the film, what inspired Mastorakis to make the movie, other projects that Mastorakis was involved in, the efforts of the cast and crew, the locations and quite a bit more. As always, Thrower has done his homework and he offers some welcome insight here.

    Return To The Island Of Death spends seventeen minutes with Mastorakis himself, touring the locations used in the film and comparing them now to how they appeared in the film. Along the way he offers up some commentary as to why the different locations were chosen and sometimes what went into shooting on them. Mastorakis also appears in the appropriately titled Mastorakis Interview, a twenty-four minute piece in which he explains how the story behind the movie is more interesting than the movie itself. He talks about his experience leading up to this project, the film’s low budget, how certain shots were attained while running out of money and where he stood in for an actor to save some money, and of course, the film’s sexual content.

    The Films Of Nico Mastorakis is a four part documentary that covers the man’s entire career – From The Very Beginning To Sky High (58:29); From Zero Boys To Terminal Expose (23:40); Nightmare At Noon (35:44); Final (40:46). Mastorakis himself hosts this, and he explains in his own words how he got into filmmaking, what led him into directing, and how each of his core projects came to be. He goes into quite a bit of detail here and this is a lengthy but worthwhile piece that does a fine job of documenting this underrated filmmaker’s output. Mastorakis effectively describes his career as a series of ‘B-movie adventures’ which seems like a pretty accurate summary! Clips from pretty much anything the guy has had a hand in are used quite liberally here to paint a very colorful portrait of his films.

    Rounding out the extras we get the alternate opening titles for both the Island Of Perversion and Devils In Mykonos retitlings, an Island Sounds section (isolated bits from the film’s score including the tracks Do You Love Me Like I Love You?, Destination, Melodica Theme, Can You Call It Love?, and Action Theme (percussion), the original theatrical trailer, trailers for a bunch of other Mastorakis features (over thirty-four minutes of bonus trailers!), animated menus and chapter selection.

    The commentary track that was on Arrow’s past DVD release has been left off of this disc.

    The Final Word:

    Island Of Death holds up and if it’s not quite as shocking as its reputation might have you believe, it still packs a sleazy punch and Arrow’s Blu-ray presentation is a very good one. The transfer improves considerably over previous DVD versions and there are quite a few interesting and entertaining extras here as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. AngelGuts's Avatar
      AngelGuts -
      Terrific take on the film, Ian. I like the strange atmosphere of the film, and the air of almost humorous amorality.The new transfer looks pretty amazing.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Nice review, Ian I was really pleased with this release.