ISLAND OF DEATH (1975) Blu-ray/DVD Combo
Director: Nico Mastorakis
Arrow Films and Video USA

Inspired by the shock impact that TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE had on thrill-seeking audiences, Nico Mastorakis's 1975 Greek-lensed cult/gore oddity is an indescribable exercise in over-the-top depravity.

Taking place on the island of Mykonos, a swinging young vacationing couple, Christopher and Celia (Bob Belling and Jane Ryall, both from the Greek-lensed horror film THE DEVIL’S MEN/LAND OF THE MINOTAUR) rent a home to embark on an extensive series of sicko actions. It begins with the couple (who happen to be brother and sister) having sex in a phone booth while the mother is forced to listen in from London! Next morning, Chris is aroused, but Celia is too tired to give in. Chris' alternative is to impose himself on a tender-looking goat (yikes!). After he's through, he slits the poor thing's throat (don't worry, no harm actually came to the little animal). The human killing starts with a horny French house painter. After Celia seduces him, she and Chris nail his hands down to the ground and pour a bucket of white paint down his throat to the point of bloody suffocation. By the way, the couple loves to take snapshots of all their nasty doings!

Next up is a middle-aged American homosexual who resembles flamboyant singing legend Tiny Tim. On his wedding night to a younger Greek man, Chris (who believes he is punishing immoral islanders in the name of God) and Celia quickly disrupt the honeymoon. Chris chases the older guy through the streets, slaying him with a sword, while Celia blows the head off the other with a shotgun. The killing of the gay couple is then conveniently staged as a double suicide, much like in HEATHERS some 15 years later. Other victims include a private eye named Foster (Gerard Gonalons, DEATH HAS BLUE EYES) who trails them from London. He ends up hanging from the wing of a jet plane. An aging hussy (Jessica Dublin, also in THE DEVIL’S MEN/LAND OF THE MINOTAUR) gets a surprise golden shower from Chris who then beats her and decapitates her with the blade of a bulldozer! A young lesbian barmaid is assaulted with her own heroin needle and has her face burnt by a flamed aerosol bottle. You then think the couple is going to get their just-desserts when two hippies attempt to rape Celia, but Chris walks in to stop them, harpooning one of the long-hairs, while the other is drowned in the toilet. For Chris and Celia, the "self defense" murder of the two hoodlums is a perfect alibi, as it now looks as though they're the ones responsible for all the previous carnage.

I don't want to give away too much more, but things get even more bizarre at the end when Chris and Celia encounter a dim-witted shepherd (played by Nikos Tsachiridis, apparently something of a well known actor in Greece). Director Mastorakis (who appears briefly on-screen as a PI. posing as a crime writer) also wrote, produced, photographed (he even co-penned the songs) using mainly locals and actors who have done little else before or since. The intention was to break every taboo in the book, and Mastorakis clearly does that here (and I must admit, I've never seen a guy get farted on before in a horror picture!). Although there's plenty of sex and violence on-screen, much if it is implied or not excessively displayed, so the ideas in the film are more unsettling than what you actually do see. This one will be on your mind for a while, but you probably won't have to shower after viewing it.

A former "video nasty" in Great Britain, ISLAND OF DEATH was previously released in the U.S. on DVD by Image Entertainment and Allstar Pictures Ltd (who previously had it out as a PAL release in the U.K.). For this updated Blu-ray release (which includes a standard definition DVD of the same transfer with most of the same extras), Arrow Films and Video can boast a brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative, approved by Mastorakis. Like with the previous DVD versions, the image is presented full frame (open matte) as it was shot, with the compositions looking to be correct throughout. Colors here really stand out in a very well-detailed 1080p HD transfer which is clean and largely blemish free (there’s only a short patch towards the end of the film where there’s heavier speckling and some minor discoloration) and the day-for-night scenes look pretty convincing as well. The clean-sounding English track (it was shot in English) is presented in the film’s original mono (uncompressed PCM) and optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.

Extras include “Exploring Island of Death” (38:26) where British author/exploitation film historian Stephen Thrower examines the film’s theatrical history (and its many re-titlings) the director’s career (starting as a Greek television host), and he touches upon the various other film projects Mastorakis was involved with. Thrower also thoroughly examines the sexuality, brutality and shock value of the film, as well as the film’s general tone, the directorial style, the soundtrack music, the lead performers and the supporting characters. The on-camera archival interview with Mastorakis (23:44), available on the previous DVD release, is extremely solid and informative. Mastorakis starts by saying that he made the film simply to create a moneymaker and give himself a name in the industry. It certainly worked since it was a big hit in many countries (but rarely seen in the U.S.), allowing him more lucrative, mainstream work. After seeing how intelligent the director is and what his intentions were, you'll feel more at ease after watching a sick flick such as this. “Return to Island of Death” (16:57) has Mastorakis returning to the original Mykonos locations in 2015, talking about the shoot and showing how things looks pretty much the same there as they did 40 years later (well, maybe more freshly painted). At one point, Mastorakis reminisces about the crucifixion scene with one of the locals, who was also seen in the film briefly.

Running well over two hours in total, “The Films of Nico Mastorakis” is a four-part 2002 documentary charting the director’s filmmaking career, and is available on the Blu-ray portion only. Mastorakis narrates this clip heavy docu piece about all the films he’s directed and/or produced, including CHASE (1972), DEATH HAS BLUE EYES (1975), ISLAND OF DEATH (1975), THE LAST TYCOON (1977, which was directed by J. Lee Thompson), BLOODTIDE (1978), THE TIME TRAVELLER (aka THE NEXT ONE) (1983), BLIND DATE (1984), SKY HIGH (1985), THE ZERO BOYS (1986), THE WIND (1986), TERMINAL EXPOSURE (1987), NIGHTMARE AT NOON (1988), GLITCH (1988), GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE (1989), DARKROOM (1989), BLOODSTONE (1990), NINJA ACADEMY (1990), HIRED TO KILL (1991), IN THE COLD OF THE NIGHT (1991), THE NAKED TRUTH (1992) and .COM FOR MURDER (2002). Among the anecdotes (and the revelation that he’s obsessed with helicopters), Mastorakis tells tales of working with such well-known names as Kirstie Alley, Meg Foster, Keir Dullea, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Adrienne Barbeau, Jose Ferrer and Oliver Reed (he stood up to his bad-boy reputation and the director’s expectations). There’s also clips of Mastorakis’ television work, as well as him directing on the set of NIGHTMARE AT NOON, and there’s also some interview footage of George Kennedy and the late Brion James from the same set. Other extras include two alternate title sequences (under “Island of Perversion” and “Devils in Mykonos”), “Island Sounds” (24:02), which is a selection of original pop tunes from the film’s soundtrack, a trailer (under the title “Cruel Destination”), and over 30 minutes of trailers from Mastorakis films from his Omega Entertainment company (this extra is also exclusive to the Blu-ray). The cover sleeve features reversible artwork, and also included is a fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by film historian Johnny Walker. (George R. Reis)