One of the original ‘video nasties’, Nico Mastorakis’ Island of Death is now available on UK DVD thanks to the Arrow Video. Long censored the film even has the dubious honour of receiving the following note when it was submitted for re-classification in 2002 (it failed to make it through uncut at that time),
The distributor was required to make several compulsory cuts to scenes of sexual violence, sexualised violence and a dehumanising sexual activity (urolagnia) in accordance with BBFC guidelines and policy.
Apparently the BBFC have softened on their approach to urolagnia (if you don’t know what that is your probably better off) and the film is now fully uncut. The film is described by its director as having been made for “people that have a natural curiosity for the unusual” and as the above note from the BBFC illustrates it certainly contains scenes of an unusual nature.
The film begins with the arrival of British couple Christopher (Bob Behling) and Celia (Jane Ryall) on a Greek island. After meeting one of the locals the pair rent a house and begin taking photos of the picturesque town. Waking in their new house for the first time Christopher feels a little on the amorous side but finds Celia unwilling so he wanders out into the garden. There he finds a goat which he proceeds to sodomise and kill with a knife. This aptly exemplifies Mastorakis’ approach with Island of Death; A sunny scene on the island followed by a depraved act involving sex and violence with a hint of religious symbolism thrown in.
This approach is repeated with varying degrees of ‘success’ as the couple wreak havoc on this small island, engaging in twisted sex and brutal murder. This culminates in a drawn out sequence in a barn that includes a twist that reveals their actions to be all the more unpleasant before the film ends with a return to the first scene and little sense of resolution. The almost 100 minutes spent in the company of the couple though are pretty hard to forget and whilst they mostly just contain sex and murder signifying nothing there is something about the lurid joy that Mastorakis takes in laying on depravity after depravity that makes Island of Death an entertaining novelty if nothing else.
The DVD is presented in 4:3FF and Mastorakis confirms on the commentary that the film was shot with the understanding that it would generally be seen on home video and therefore almost certainly in 4:3. The transfer is good and the print shows few signs of damage. The colours are adequate, Arrow have supposedly taken care with the colour in day for night scenes in particular, and for a film of this budget and low grade roots it looks surprisingly fresh. The audio, presented in the original mono form, is also clear and defined.
The film comes packaged with a suitably lurid sleeve designed by Rick Melton and Arrow have done a great job of adding to the release with a number of interesting extras. The main attraction is the commentary from director Nico Mastorakis and critic Calum Waddell which, despite being in the same unfocused vein as previous Arrow commentaries (do we really need another commentary that includes a discussion of the merits of Avatar?), is filled with interesting details and Mastorakis is amusingly prickly over the subject of humour in the film. The DVD also features an interview and a Q&A with Mastorakis which are interesting but cover a lot of the same content as the commentary. Rounding off the set is a compilation of music from the film and a short piece in which a variety of musicians take a crack at covering the film’s infectious theme song, ‘Destination Understanding’. These are mostly pretty dreadful but it’s a feature still worth checking out if only for Kylie Minoise’s entirely appropriate performance of the song.
Island of Death is available to rent or buy on DVD today. A complete list of the extras on the release can be found below and below that you can watch the distinctly NSFW trailer.
– Brand new audio commentary with director Nico Mastorakis and author and critic Calum Waddell
– Q&A with director Nico Mastorakis
– Interview with Nico Mastorakis
– Original Trailer
– The Music of Island of Death
– 2010 Re-recording of ‘Destination Understanding’ from ‘Island of Death’