Although Arrow Video is perhaps best known for their restorations of films that fall into a category somewhere in-between horror “classics” and “must-see” B/C-movies, Nico Mastorakis’ Island of Death, out today, May 26th, on Blu-Ray and DVD in the US courtesy of the UK’s Arrow and our very own MVD Entertainment, manages to successfully uphold the status of both a true “classic” of horror and a “must-see” film, that just happens to be a B-movie.
The 1976 cult/gore/exploitation film’s original motivation was to out-do the then-recently-released The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which it does, but it also consists of nods to some of cinema history’s greatest experts on subversion: A blend of the kitschy cosmetics of both the mod and the psychedelic, that falls somewhere in-between Antonioni’s Blowup and Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain, but with the music video appeal of both; the cheaper, but beautifully cheap aesthetic of hyper-violence and hyper-sexuality most regularly throned by Herschell Gordon Lewis and Coffin Joe; and John Waters’ tongue-in-cheek commentary on wannabe gay bashers from a time when “gays” were still considered wonderfully weird in the eyes of the subcultural and a legitimate threat to “The American Family” by the mainstream (It’s clearly a red-state God that motivates the protagonist, who actually professes and carries out so many of the acts that the average ‘70s hillbilly, too lazy to put down their Budweiser or skimmed-Cliff’s-Notes-of-the-Bible to act up, would champion: “God punishes perversions,” “Children must be brought up in a proper way,” “She’s a lesbian and a heroin addict… She’s got two monkeys on her back. Let’s kill ‘em.” – I’m sure Mr. Waters actually wished he would have thought of this line…)
Island of Death boasts the tagline of “The Lucky Ones Got Their Brains Blown Out!!” and tells the tale of couple Christopher and Celia visiting the Greek island of Mykonos, who are as charming and lovely (both physically and otherwise) as they are classically conservative, sadistic, and murdery. It includes scenes of rough bestiality, crucifixion, hanging-by-way-of-private-plane-ride, hair-spray-blowtorching, and even masturbation brought on by these comically lovely atrocities. The film is a sort of Encyclopedia of cute, quirky, and cool ways to murder people… And while my first thought is to call the film, “A Bonnie and Clyde for midnight movie fanatics, fanatic fetishists, and freaks of all pedigrees,” due to the cleverness of its perversions and impressiveness of its cinematography, I’m more inclined to characterize is as a take on Godard’s Pierrot le Fou for those who would achieve “pervert” status in the eyes of Dante… But, let’s face it, for those interested in art of this nature, that’s practically something worth putting on your resume…