Eye For Film >> Movies >> Island Of Death (1975) Film Review
Island Of Death
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
It's said that Island Of Death was conceived when frustrated television executive and sometime journalist Nico Mastorakis saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and decided he could make something much more offensive. To an extent, he succeeded - the film was banned in the UK for many years - but he seems rather to have missed the point. Whilst it contains a plethora of carefully selected offensive elements, this film is distinctly softcore in its depiction of sex, violence and all the rest. It's curiously bloodless, the story of a series of crimes of passion developed without the least bit of passion on the part of the writer/director or his cast.
Robert Behling and Jane Lyle (her career ended shortly afterward; he ended up in The Black Stallion Returns; say no more) are Christopher and Celia, a young couple looking to get away from it all on the quiet Greek island of Mykonos. It's a beautiful location, and Mastorakis reveals some talent as a director as his camera drinks it in, but our protagonists are not there for the scenery. One of the things they want to get away from is the law; they're wanted for a string of murders in London, and it soon becomes apparent that Christopher's desire to kill is compulsive, so there will be no peace here. He makes it his mission to wipe out everybody on the island whom he can label as a pervert, be they gay, adulterous, middle aged and still interested in sex, or simply attracted to his partner. She's afraid they'll get caught, but goes along for the ride - there's a sense that she has been abused too much, for too long, to have any real sense of herself as an independent being. Whilst he kills, she takes pictures. Because he isn't interested in having sex with anyone else (except, in one bizarre scene, a bored-looking goat), he sometimes uses her as a sexual surrogate, persuading her to make herself available to his intended victims.
This is a film that tries so hard to offend it leaves the viewer with two courses of action: laugh, or fall asleep. During the slow, 'moody' sequences it would be easy to do the latter, but the action, when it comes, is sufficiently pathetic to be richly entertaining. One apparently unintentional running joke involves the variety of potentially lethal objects left lying around the town so that Christopher can always find a weapon to hand when he gets that impulse. The victims are mostly sympathetic. A gay character whom we have time to get to know is ludicrously camp but quite endearing; the couple's landlady is sweet and helpful and devoted to her beautiful garden. 'Vice' is portrayed in an oddly distant way. Naked lesbians kiss before an open fire in a pose that seems designed to keep their genitals as far apart as possible. A heroin user injects in such a way that we can never directly see what she's doing, then conveniently passes out. All this has the effect of highlighting Christopher's insanity - provided, of course, that one is willing to suspend disbelief and accept that he has any real motive at all.
The only parts of this film that could still manage to offend are those involving violence against women, which may be cartoonish (Mastorakis couldn't direct actors to save his life) but which invite a degree of shared audience contempt for certain female characters. Beyond this, what we get is simply a parade of childish attempts to shock. There's urophilia (with distinctly unconvincing urine) and religiously-connected violence where symbolism overrides realism (ever tried to hammer a nail straight into stone and get it to stick?). There's also a scene with a home-made flamethrower which one suspects was made just the way it looks, with no regard for the risks involved and the actors' safety. There are several rape scenes, each with no apparent emotional impact on the victim. The final death scene has the potential to be truly grotesque but, lacking special effects, relies entirely on the actor involved, a big mistake.
Island Of Death certainly packs in the exploitation clichés, and could be great material for a drinking game, but it doesn't have much character of its own. Try as it might, it will never really get anyone's goat.Reviewed on: 25 Oct 2010