Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WINTER OF DISCONTENT: Island of Death


I’m taking a wild guess here, but I very much doubt that Nico Mastorakis’s ‘Island of Death’ was bankrolled by the Greek Tourist Board.

Unless, of course, they wanted a 102-minute advert that basically says: “Come to the island of Mykonos, where the locals are friendly, sexually promiscuous and easy to kill if you decide their loose morals are an affront to the Lord God. Mykonos teams with wildlife, so if rampant goat-fucking before breakfast is the ideal start to your day, then don’t delay – book now. Mykonos, where life is cheap and the cops are remarkably ineffectual. Visit your travel agent today. Ask about special discounts for misogynists, homophobes and racists. Don’t forget to pick up our glossy, full-colour, blood-red brochure.”

Let’s meet the charming couple who have been the first to take advantage of the “see Mykonos and die” package deal. Christopher (Bob Belling*) is a handsome devil (nah, not really) who hates gays and foreigners and enjoys having sex with his consort in a phone booth while making a long-distance call to his dear old ma back in London. I use the term “consort” since Celia (Jane Ryall) is variously identified by Christopher as his wife and his niece. Truth be told, she’s neither, although they do turn out to be related. Less said about that, the better.

Christopher and Celia are on the run from an English detective of Caribbean heritage named Foster (Gerald Gonalons) – or, as Christopher wincingly describes him “that funny n*gg*r who thinks we’re killers”. Turns out, boys and girls, that actually they are killers. Although Celia’s not enjoying the carnage as much as she used to; neither is she too keen at being pimped out to a predatory drug-addicted lesbian barmaid just so that Christopher can convinced himself that said individual is lacking in virtue and therefore deserves to have her face burned off.

Oh, it’s a nasty little number, all right, is ‘Island of Death’. In addition to the above mentioned sexism, xenophobia, bestiality and a demonstrable absence of equality and diversity training, Mastorakis offers up a melange of rape, voyeurism, urolagnia, beatings, shootings, stabbings, hangings and incest. He also contrives to get his leading lady naked as often as possible, to the point where even a low-key scene of Christopher and Celia playing dimp-the-cigarette requires Celia to be outfitted in this ensemble:



While I’m tarnishing the already tattered reputation of this blog with images from this rancid piece of celluloid, it’s perhaps worth remarking that ‘Island of Death’ is the kind of film in which gay couples look like this …



… a lesbian seduction is depicted as thus …



… convenient murder weapons are just left lying around …



… and a retributive attack on two hippies who try to rape Celia concludes with this example of unsophisticated iconography:



These images, dear reader, may have hinted to you that ‘Island of Death’ is somewhat grubby piece of work. Alas! – the truth is far worse. Many, many things conspired to make this film one of the worst you will ever see. With almost reverse serendipity, these aesthetic failures – each of them ranging from noteworthy to utterly staggering on their individual merits – meshed together like the finely calibrated components of a huge and terrible machine.

Take Jane Ryall’s blank reading-off-a-cue-card performance. It could have killed any movie stone dead. Or the manic overuse of the fish-eye lens during most of the kill scenes. Or the offings themselves, shot with absolutely no flair or frisson and designed purely to provoke controversy. Or the last minute twist that completely obviates the religious dementia element and seems to have been incorporated for no other reason than to offend what few remaining masochists (or curious cinephiles – I’m still debating which category to place myself in) are still giving this POS their attention come the end credits.



Or take the unbelievably inappropriate score. That Mastorakis manages – within the same work – to prove himself staggeringly inept in three disciplines (writer, director, composer) is a jaw-dropping feat that all but demands respect … albeit in an Edward D Wood Jnr kind of way.

Now blend all of these elements into an hour and three quarters of tired, shoddy and desperately attention-seeking filmmaking. The result is something that, while it deserves both its bad reputation and its sojourn on the “video nasties” list, is more likely to induce tedium or a profound sense of depression than actively corrupt or deprave.



*i.e. Robert Behling, who appeared in ‘Smile’, ‘The Enforcer’ and ‘Cujo’ before committing suicide in the early 1980s.

3 comments:

Troy Olson said...

This is a film that I still can't believe was ever made. I remember watching it and just being in awe of the goat scene, and then in bewilderment at each subsequent death scene and the disgusting undercurrent of racism/homophobia that seemed to go with it. Yet, like you, I was the "curious cinephile" who couldn't help but finish the movie (and that ending with the limestone is nothing if not, um, unique). Truly a "special" piece of trash cinema.

And on a much, much, much lighter note, I must confess to having a smile when I saw the picture that was the header of your site today as I had just got done watching that film with my daughter and singing along to the songs with her. A movie that should be watched by everyone on every Christmas!

Neil Fulwood said...

Thanks, Troy. 'The Muppet Christmas Carol' is a festive tradition with me and my wife (and yes, we sing along with the songs as well!) It works so well because Michael Caine plays Scrooge absolutely straight - no nods or winks to the gallery.

Watching it again this Christmas Eve was certainly a change of pace to the stuff I've been watching for the Winter of Discontent!

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