In the Q&A (one of the extras on this new DVD release) with director Nico Mastorakis there’s a brilliant moment when he asks a member of the audience: ‘What made you want to see this movie?’ and gets the reply: ‘ Because it was banned’. No truer word was spoken. Originally on the British censors video nasty hit list for its depictions of bestiality and graphic violence, Island of Death has been missing some 20-minutes of footage since its original release back in 1977.
Passed uncut last year, Island of Death has been resurrected by Arrow Video, giving video nasty aficionados a chance to finally see what was missing. To be honest, I couldn’t see what the fuss was about – especially considering the sordid stuff you can find today on the internet.
Shot on the cheap, during the off-season on the Greek island of Mykonos, with a group of English-speaking non-actors (some also appear in the Peter Cushing Greek-set travesty, The Devil’s Men), this psycho-sexual thriller follows a psychopathic British couple, Christopher and Celia, as they attempt to cleanse the island of immorality and perversion by killing anyone (in particular homosexuals, middle aged nymphomaniacs and hippies) who don’t meet their crazed ideas of purity. As an added kink, the couple photograph their murderous acts that include crucifixion, paint poisoning, hanging (from a plane wing) and being hacked to death with a mighty sword (of justice).
Although the film boasts depraved acts of sex and rape, both human and animal, the results are little more than what you’d expect from a sex comedy, while the gore comes across as quite tame and cartoon-like. The travelogue-like cinematography, which perfectly captures Mykonos’s picture-postcard scenery, and the incongruous hippy soundtrack only serve to make this film campier than the director ever intended. Maybe that’s why Island of Death so deserves a re-release.
As well as a brand new transfer of the film, fully uncut, the Arrow release includes a host of extras including interviews with the director, double fold-out poster, and a collector’s booklet. But my favourite is the short video in which the original folksy theme song, Destination Understanding, gets re-imagined by five bands ranging from garage punk to extreme noise