Blu-Review: Island of Death (Nico Mastorakis, 1976) – Arrow Video


by Jason Suzuki

When you hear a film has been influenced by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre you most likely will figure that the film will at least have something shocking in it. As to what those shocking things might be you would never in a million years think of the crazy shit that goes down in this Greek “video nasty” Island of Death.

Christopher and Celia are a British couple who have just arrived in Mykonos. On the outside they are a perfect match for the island destination, calm and peaceful. As we spend more time with them (about five minutes) we realize they’re perverted to the nth degree. And it’s their religious-based judgments of others’ perversions that they perceive to be the reasoning and justification for the atrocities they commit. While the film may not be entirely graphic, it is what scenes are suggesting that turns the stomach and creates the unease. The bizarre qualities of how Christoper and Celia (effectively portrayed by Bob Belling and Jane Ryall for differing reasons) kill their victims goes way beyond what a chainsaw can do.

Even though the film is critical of this hypocritical couple, it is not afraid to let information be filtered through their perspectives. It’s a weird line that you wouldn’t think could be tiptoed across: how can a film convey its negative feelings towards its protagonists while at the same time never looking at them from director’s subjectivity but rather the characters’. Even the film’s soundtrack has been filtered through Christopher and Celia’s warped sensibilities as can be heard through the odd lyrics. For an example check our “Destination, Understanding.” Thankfully Arrow has included an option to listen to five of the film’s songs on their own. This psychotic filter is probably the strongest argument to be made for the film as more than the simple Texas Chainsaw money-grab that the director sometimes claims it to be.

This disc does a similar thing that Mondo Macabro’s release of Der Fan did, it created an interest in the film’s director Eckhart Schmidt despite whether or not his other films share similar content to the one just seen. A good portion of the disc’s special features are dedicated to giving an overview of Mastorakis’ career. A particularly great feature is the Mastorakis trailer reel, featuring a good dozen trailers to some of his other films. Hopefully all this context to Mastorakis is to help gauge interest in more of his work being released by Arrow (Blind Date and The Zero Boys were my favs from the reel). Johnny Walker’s piece on the film’s release history and legacy included in the accompanying booklet answers questions you might have as to how a film where a man fucks a goat in the first twenty minutes is received if its received at all thanks to the video nasty classification the film got in the UK. On top of the features mentioned we also get an interview with the director himself, a video of him revisiting the island of Mykonos, film historian Stephen Thrower discussing the making of the film and its flaws/merits, and a four part documentary series on Mastorakis’ careeer which is well over four hours long.

As you can tell Arrow Video has given this film a top level treatment with a wealth of substantial extras. So come for the depravity and stay for all the background, retrospection, and beyond.

Jason Suzuki is co-editor to Cinema Adrift.