• Terminal Island

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: July 5th, 2017.
    Director: Stephanie Rothman
    Cast: Tom Selleck, Don Marshall, Ena Hartman, Phyllis Davis
    Year: 1973

    The Movie:

    One of a few pictures directed by former Roger Corman associate Stephanie Rothman for a then fledgling Dimension Pictures was 1973’s Terminal Island, a movie that’s remained fairly well known (at least in comparison to many of its counterparts) thanks to the casting of a young Tom Selleck, well before he became a household name thanks to Magnum P.I..

    The movie takes place in a California where the death penalty no longer exists. Rather than execute the baddest of the bad, the state instead ships off these inmates to the titular Terminal Island. Here they’re basically given free reign and left to do as they please, the only stipulation being that they spend out the rest of their lives here. The island is surrounded by mines to ensure that anyone foolish to escape won’t make it back to the main land. The latest female inmate to arrive is Carmen (Ena Hartman), here she joins fellow women Joy (Phyllis Davis), Lee (Marta Kristen) and Bunny (Barbara Leigh) only to learn that the guy in charge, a machinegun wielding asshole named Bobby (Sean Kenney), intends to use them as sex toys for the male inmates that he and his right hand man, Monk (another future Magnum P.I. star - Roger E. Mosley!), force to do hard labor.

    On the other side of the island exists a softer, gentler group of prisoners led by A.J. (Don Marshall). When they learn what’s happening to Carmen and the other women, they basically free them from Bobby and the others and bring them over to their camp. Soon enough, the women have teamed up with A.J.’s crew and another turncoat from the ‘bad side of the island named Doctor Norman Milford (Tom Selleck). Their plan? To lay siege to Bobby, who takes none too kindly to their meddling in his affairs. Before you know it, it’s one side against the other in a literal war to control the island and its inhabitants.

    Kind of a cross between Lord Of The Flies and Battle Royale with some female nudity thrown in for good measure, Terminal Island is a solid drive-in style exploitation picture that features a fine cast, some tight direction and some impressive location work. Rothman, no stranger to exploitation pictures by this point in her career, keeps the pacing quick and proves savvy enough to offer up enough action or sleaze -frequently enough to ensure the audience’s engagement stays strong. On top of that, we get some interesting characters as well. You can’t pretend that the movie is particularly deep or something that it’s not, but there’s enough background information on most of the principals here to make them intriguing, most of which is delivered early enough in the film to serve as a proper setup for their behavior to come. The movie also does a good job of setting up the basic premise of the island itself by way of a newscast that precedes the main action, again, so that we know what’s happening once the action kicks in and the plot starts moving.

    The cinematography here is pretty decent. Little details like the corpses that bob around early in the picture as Carmen arrives via boat complete with an armed escort. There’s also some inspired creativity shown in the various weapons that the inmates manage to come up with once they start waging their attacks - we even get some homemade grenades worked into the mix so that Rothman and company can deliver the requisite pyrotechnics and explosions. At to that a fine cast – it’s amusing to see Selleck and Mosley together here – and a genuinely cool score and it’s hard to imagine anyone with an interest in women in prison movies or seventies exploitation pictures in general not having a great time with this one.


    Umbrella Entertainment brings Terminal Island to DVD framed at 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen in a transfer taken from a print that, while not in perfect condition, looks reasonably good. Minor print damage is fairly common here but it’s not overpowering. Some color fading is noticeable throughout but if this is far from perfect, it’s at least and acceptable presentation of some unrestored elements. Keep your expectations in check and you’ll be fine!

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono mix on this DVD sounds okay for what it is. Don’t expect much in the way of range, things are a bit on the flat side, but the dialogue is easy enough to follow and understand. Levels are well balanced but there is some occasional hiss here and there.

    There are no extras on the DVD, not even a menu screen.

    The Final Word:

    Terminal Island is a pretty entertaining work of trash cinema, offering up thrills, chills and spills alongside some violence, some sex and a surprisingly engaging story with some genuinely interesting characters inside. Umbrella’s disc looks and sounds okay – not great, but okay – though it’s completely barebones.