Island of Death (UK DVD)

Island of Death UK DVDReviewed by Gareth Jones

Directed by Nico Mastorakis

Starring Bob Behling, Jane Ryall, Jessica Dublin, Gerard Gonalons

Distributed by Arrow Video

As one of the movies that sat proudly atop the UK’s infamous “Video Nasties” banned list before going on to enjoy increasingly more intact (yet still censored) re-releases, Island of Death’s reputation certainly precedes it. Now, for the first time, Nico Mastorakis’ blast of depravity is landing on DVD completely uncut courtesy of genre stalwarts Arrow Video.

Island of Death tells a very basic story: A young couple, Christopher (Behling) and Celia (Ryall), arrive on the beautiful Greek island of Mykonos for what appears to be a holiday. It doesn’t take long, however, for the pair to begin acting rather strangely – starting with Christopher calling his mother from a payphone so she can listen to him having sex with his companion. The call is traced, and we’re made aware that the police are also looking for the pair as a detective jets off for the island. As time moves on, Christopher also starts to make comments about the residents of the island, deeming them perverse, filthy and sordid. Eventually our protagonists (if you can call them that!) kick off a campaign of torture and murder across the island in an effort to cleanse it of those they deem impure.

An extremely low budget exercise in sheer exploitation, Island of Death’s reputation is well deserved. In an endless quest to shock the audience, director Mastorakis pulls out every kind of sexual perversion and act of violence he can, including gay sex, lesbianism, rape, bestiality (and the subsequent killing of the raped animal), urophilia, crucifixion and more. There really is very little point to any of the proceedings, but the ever escalating insanity of the situations that play out here manage to hold your interest in a sheer “what on Earth is coming next?” manner.

Despite being an amateur production, it’s surprisingly well shot and benefits immeasurably from the stunning locations. Having most of the film take place in shining daylight with plenty of brightly coloured clothing and set design adds to the breezy, flippant approach that also serves to make the film as subversive as it is. The music, however, betrays the miniscule budget when it isn’t repeating the Mastorakis-sang theme song incessantly. It’s a quirky, amusing song, but it’s repeated so often that it soon becomes annoying.

Despite how vicious and reprehensible much of the behaviour portrayed in Island of Death is, the film is actually pretty low on the gore score with most of the grue either glimpsed or taking the form of blood/brains splashing onto walls or faces. There’s a huge amount of naked flesh, both male and female, on display throughout, and while even mainstream filmmakers have certainly produced much more graphic material (on both fronts) in recent years, it isn’t difficult to see why the film caused such as stir back in 1977.

Director Mastorakis makes no bones about admitting that he only made the film as a concerted effort to out-do The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in terms of shocking material in order to make money from an ever-growing audience. He simply made a list of the most depraved sexual and violent acts he could think of and wrote the script in a week. This is probably Island of Death’s main downfall, as the story simply has no meat on its bones. It’s a random, meaningless exercise in savagery and audience-baiting held very loosely by a narrative thread. It certainly succeeds in its aim of being an ugly, disgusting piece of work and is a recommended watch in terms of its historical significance in the genre and censorship; but don’t expect anything approaching a developed, or particularly interesting, story.

Arrow’s DVD presentation of Island of Death is very good. The video is well restored, offering a solid and nicely detailed showing. Being an old flick, grain and occasional print damage are unavoidable, but both are handled very well. The original mono soundtrack is clear and light and does exactly what it sets out to do.

True to form for their back catalogue, Arrow have a whole host of extras on display here. Physically, there’s a fold-out poster in the box alongside a collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by critic David Hayles. These were not included with the screener so can’t be reviewed. On the disc itself, there’s a brand new audio commentary with director Nico Masterakis and journalist/critic Calum Waddell. The two have a great rapport, and Masterakis’ wealth of information and opinions means this is one of the best commentaries I’ve listened to in a while. In fact, it’s a perfect accompaniment to the film – probably better to listen to than the actual soundtrack!

Next is an interview with Masterakis which runs around 25 minutes or so. This one isn’t new and has been included on previous DVD releases of the film, but if you haven’t seen it, then you’re in for a treat as Masterakis’ attitude, openness and sheer down–to-earth attitude is extremely endearing. This is also seen in the next special feature – a recording of a Q&A session with him, moderated by Waddell at Dublin’s Horrorthon in 2010.

On top of this we have the original trailer for Island of Death, a featurette entitled The Music of Island of Death, which is literally just songs/music from the film played over various stills, and Re-Recording of Destination Understanding. This one’s an odd entry, featuring the previously mentioned theme song from the film being performed by five bands of various genres – Garage Punk, Indie, Riot Grrrl(?), Bluegrass and an unbelievably insane Extreme Noise rendition featuring a “dancer” donning a goat mask. If Island of Death were ever remade by Rob Zombie or Platinum Dunes, I could almost see it being the new theme.


3 out of 5

Special Features

4 1/2 out of 5

Discuss Island of Death in the comments section below!

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  • ruffbuffy


    Why did you include homosexuality and lesbianism as a “sexual perversion”?

    • Vanvance1

      Oooo, look out it’s the sensitive PC assholes sniffing at the review. They are always on the look out for ways of putting their own special interest group in front of the media and telling us all how we SHOULD feel about it.

      PC is the new religion and if you aren’t a liberal who agrees with them they have special words and terms they’ve invented to label you (i.e. homophobic). It’s a lot like Hitler making jews wear yellow stars.

      • The Woman In Black

        With all due respect, there is NO comparison between considering someone homophobic and what Hitler did to the Jews – as well as the gays, Poles, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. Sheesh – Talk about misplaced hyperbole!

        • Vanvance1

          I pointed to one aspect of Hitler’s approach. The labeling and laying of blame on a group. That’s exactly what is being done.

          • Ultimo Franco

            Ruffbuffy wasn’t labeling or laying blame “on a group.” He was addressing one specific person, the author of the review, who himself acknowledges that it was nothing more than an awkward proof-reading error on his part.

            Ruffbuffy’s comment bares no similarity whatsoever to “Hitler’s approach.” No offense, but that comparison is, IMHO, utterly idiotic. Referencing Hitler in a case like this not only cheapens whatever point you may have been trying to make, it also diminishes the outright evil and horror that the man wrought on the world. In short, you not only do yourself a major disservice when you bring Hitler into an argument that doesn’t specifically revolve around things like mass extermination, you do everyone else in the world a disservice too.

            By the way, Ruffbuffy didn’t “label or lay blame” on anything. He merely asked a question. Please note the two question marks that he used in his comment. He read an awkwardly written sentence that sounded vaguely homophobic and asked for clarification. That’s all. Pestilence, the author of the review, graciously provided him with said clarification. End of issue.

            Like Woman in Black said: Talk about misplaced hyperbole!

          • Vanvance1

            The group in question is anyone who doesn’t line up and nod yes for the thought police. In the past (and present) people were tortured/killed and censored by religion. In the now the new religion is political correctness and it has spread it’s tentacles into every media orifice.

            You can choose to ignore my clarification that I was referencing a single aspect of Hitler’s approach (and you did). It doesn’t change the fact that the PC folk are interested in negatively labeling those who disagree with them.

            Censorship of this sort hobbles both art and science.

            Seeing homophobia in this review is hyperbole if that’s what you’re looking for.

          • Ultimo Franco

            Oh! Now I see your point. Sorry, it just took me a little while to catch on.

            I totally agree with you!

            In fact, when you put it as clearly as you just did, I’d take your comparison a few steps further. Not only was Ruffbuffy’s use of the word “homophobia” a lot like Hitler making Jews wear yellow stars, it was also a lot like what Jack the Ripper did to those prostitutes in Whitechapel! Come to think of it, it was also a lot like what the Khmer Rouge regime did in the killing fields of Cambodia! Not to mention the fact that it’s virtually identical to the ethnic cleansing that took place in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

            The more I think about it, your Hitler comparison just doesn’t go far enough. By using the word “homophobia” in his comment, Ruffbuffy is clearly doing exactly what Stalin did when he instituted the forced famine that ultimately led to the deaths of 7 million people.

            Thanks for all the insight!

          • Vanvance1

            Satire is only effective when someone understands their target. Thanks for a ‘Scream 3’ worthy response.

            I’ll make it simpler: Fuck political correctness, it has no place in art or reviews of art.

          • Cinemascribe

            Given the point of contention here , I just HAD to post this link. Leave it to Lewis Black to coin the term “Nazi tourettes.” :)

            I actually get where VanVance is coming from. The slightest perceived slight-intentional or not- has people up in arms crying homophobe, racist, or whanot these days. Political correctness has gotten so out of hand that, any day now, I expect to hear about a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against anyone who refers to James Cameron’s “Avatar” as “Dances with Smurfs” due to perceived racial profiling in that the comment A) suggests that it is derogatory to have a film about smurfs and B) assumes that anyone with blue skin is either a smurf or is otherwise smurf-related.

            On the flip side, I cannot possibly overstate my weariness with the Hitler analogy. Anytime anyone does anything involving censorship or persecution of a people, Hitler comes up.

            Fuck it. From now on I’m gonna start exercising a little variety in my hyperbole. It’s time to bring Jim Jones and David Koresh back to the table of allusion ,damn it.

            Anyway, here’s Lewis Black:


            Do you wanna party? It’s PARTYTIME.

      • GJW

        I’m not exactly referring to this instance alone, but this is an awesome and unfortunately VERY true (and getting worse) point. Funny I came into DC and this right after I left CNN as I was reading an article about the migration of “blacks” into suburban neighborhoods and the increase on “illegal” immigrants and the % of immigrants that receive GOVERNMENT SUPPORT, anyway, I digress,(I’m just stating what I was reading not making comments on the article here) the point I was making was there were 4357 comments on the article, 4356 of them were about what someone said and how it was offensive and what they should have said etc., etc. and not even the story itself. Come on, WTF CAN you say anymore without someone needing a tissue, getting his/her panties in a bunch, or wanting to rant and rave. Now granted, some terms are downright offensive and should not be used in discussions, I understand that, but this “tippy-toeing” through dialogue anymore is getting a little out of hand.

        I’m not gonna kill you. Your job will be to tell the rest of them that death is coming for them, tonight. Tell them Eric Draven sends his regards.

    • Uncle Creepy

      While I can’t speak for Gareth I’m about 99.9% certain he didn’t mean any harm, and merely worded his sentence awkwardly while trying to convey the type of content contained within this film.

      That being said … we here at Dread Central don’t give the slightest shit whether a person is gay, straight, democrat, republican, black, white, purple, or fucking Klingon. However, we don’t recommend ever fucking a Klingon as those head bumps tend to cause scorching rashes that no salve on earth can sooth.

      If you love horror movies or if you love the horror genre in ANY way … you’re more than welcome to find a home here.

    • Pestilence

      Not meant in any derogatory way at all, my friend. In fact, the homosexuality and lesbianism in the film is viewed as perverse by the CHARACTERS (I’m loathe to refer to them as protagonists!).

      Take it as a proof-reading fail on my part, no offence meant.

  • Masked Slasher

    Good review, man!

    This is an odd film because, for me, it sounds way more extreme than it actually is. Considering the outrageous content, it feels a little … tame? For lack of a better word.

    I’d still like to get this Arrow release, though.

Gareth Jones

Horror is my jam, yo.