Although I tend to stay away from extreme horror, it still takes a lot to shock me. After years of being exposed to Eurotrash and many infamous entries in the genre, I have become pretty desensitized so it is a good that every so often, a movie like Island of Death comes along and reminds me that I am not completely numb to disturbing images. This is one of those movies that you watch and really wonder if there was any point other than to shock the audience. In the case of Island of Death, I don't think there was. Director Nico Mastorakis had seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, knew it was a financial success, and decided to try to make something more shocking. He certainly succeeded as this movie would repulse most viewers even though it is quite beautifully shot in Greece.
The movie opens by introducing us to the main characters Christopher (Robert Behling) and Celia (Jane Lyle) as they arrive on the island of Mykanos and look for a place to stay. Although something seems off about these two, it is hard to place. Their sociopathic nature is soon revealed when they have sex in a phone booth while Christopher's mother listens and we start to see Christopher's negative side very quickly as the couple encounters different island residents. Any connection we have to Christopher is quickly broken (hopefully) after a scene where Celia is not in the mood for lovin' so he goes out, has sex with a goat, and kills it. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie and one scene after another of depravity is committed by the couple including a crucifixion, the slaughter of a gay couple, an airplane hanging, a bulldozer decapitation, and a makeshift blowtorch to the face. There's nothing to like about these two and the movie does what it sets out to do by giving the audience a lot to be disgusted and disturbed.
The interesting thing about this flick is that I found the whole thing oddly compelling. Even though I was offended on a fairly regular basis (believe me it takes a lot), I stuck with this flick until the end. The big difference between this movie and a lot of other horror movies is that much of it takes place in a beautiful location during the day providing a stark contrast to the dark things that are happening. Although some of the nastier sequences are shot at night (or day for night), I was quite conscious of the blue skies and white buildings that make up the background of the majority of scenes. Although the beauty of the scenery is noticeable, it does not diminish from the flood of offensiveness including multiple rape scenes that make it easy to understand why this has the nasty reputation it has. The score is also a contradiction to the onscreen hijinks with 70s music that sounds like it would be more at home on the Hair soundtrack or a John Denver tribute than in this movie. This brought to mind the music from the original version of The Last House on the Left. Overall this is a difficult movie to rate as on the one hand it feels like it is exploitation in its purest form but there are some elements that make this feel like Mastorakis wanted to make a better movie but got too caught up in the desire to be offensive.
Behling is very convincing as Christopher and is a commanding presence on the screen even though he constantly reminded me of a sadistic Christopher McDonald (Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore). Maybe it was the hair. Even though there was nothing to like about this character, Behling held my interest even when he was peeing on a someone, chasing a naked woman with a sickle, and being a complete ass to Celia. It's a shame he didn't go on to do anything of note but he may have decided that he didn't want to be typecast in the way that David Hess made a name for himself. Lyle was a model before this movie (and was obviously comfortable with nudity) and didn't pursue an acting career although she did appear in Land of the Minotaur with Donald Pleasance and Peter Cushing. Behling and Jessica Dublin (the Miley Cyrus-tongued older woman who is on the receiving end of Christopher's water sports) also have small parts in this film. Dublin would later appear as Melvin's mom in Toxic Avenger 2 and 3.
Overall, Island of Death will offend pretty much everybody but if you are curious about this infamous 70s Greeksploitation flick, Arrow has done an incredible job of bringing this to Blu-ray. Mastorakis went on to make a number of low budget movies in the 80s including The Zero Boys and Sky High. (Josh Pasnak, 8/5/15)
Directed By: Nico Mastorakis.
Written By: Nico Mastorakis.
Starring: Bob Belling (Robert Behling), Jane Ryall (Jane Lyle), Jessica Dublin, Gerard Gonalons.