[During which Grampa Kurt goes back on another nostalgia trip, mooning about the Good Old Days of exploitation cinema.] Island Of Death is one of those sleaze classics once whispered about in disbelief. And even though its content has now (and frankly had been then) outdone many times over in terms of explicitness and transgression, the movie still makes your jaw drop like the microphone of an angry poet. So sail on up to the Island Of Death to enjoy your outrage the way we old folks do.
Nico Mastorakis' catalog of perversions sports a pretty simply set-up: a British couple, Christopher (Robert Behling) and Celia (Jane Lyle) travel to the Greek island of Mykonos for a little 'R 'n' R'. That's rape 'n' righteous retribution, don't ya know. And of course there's nothing righteous about their forms of retribution, nothing at all. It's likely you already know much of the fun stuff you'll find on this Island, but it wouldn't be a proper review without a list of some kind. What do you get? Goat-rape and murder, surprise watersports, vindictive farting, blowtorch-to-face, loaded-revolver-fellatio, and so much more! Time has passed, special effects have gotten more explicit, and we've all seen worse.
However, the reason Island Of Death still packs a punch, (for those willing to look past their own jaded, hipper-than-thou attitudes) is its complete lack of moral center.
Mastorakis was inspired to make Island by Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, that movie which has yet to be equaled in its depiction of bedrock insanity. Though he mostly just wanted to equal Hooper's money-making success-through-exploitation, Mastorakis gives Saw a good run in terms of directing a movie whose sole purpose is to be shocking. To wit, the protagonists we're forcibly thrown in with are total scumbags (Law Enforcement chasing them represent bit players at best). The best chance we have of identifying with anyone on this Island is represented by the flamboyant gay men who rent Christopher and Celia a room, and those men function mostly as victims. Nope, we're thrown in with a pair that only wants to kill everyone they deem to be 'guilty' in life, in other words, those who represent various aspects of Chris and Celia, the biggest hypocrites on the Aegean.
Behling wholly owns his part as Christopher; he's utterly unlikeable, petulant, egotistical, and takes way too much pleasure in all the killing, raping, and general douche-baggery to which he commits. Lyle is a different story, a model who couldn't act (per the extras, but it shows regardless of foreknowledge). Her stilted line readings do however lend a weird gravity to her character. It's as if she's entirely disconnected from her life and actions. The movie is also frickin' gorgeous, shot by Mastorakis and Nikos Gardelis in woozy whitewash wide-angle shots with plenty of disorienting day-for-night action. It's a lovely fever dream, with Mykonos absolutely playing a vital role, and (thankfully) losing none of its appeal despite the nasty qualities of the movie. And oh yes, there is also plenty of nudity and soft-core sex; goats, rape, watersports, buggery, and more! (Hey, gotta please the exploitation fans!)
Though special effects may have come a long way in the last 40 years, (and were in truth easily more explicit when Island was made) and movies may have gotten more savage, Island Of Death still represents a high-water mark of exploitation. There aren't many more 'daylight horrors' like this one, with a laundry list of awful things done by awful people. Without any ethical grounding, we kind of have to wonder if maybe it isn't OK to pour paint down a fornicator's throat, or shack up with a developmentally disabled shepherd, or rape and kill whomever you please. Leave your need for explicit gore at the ticket office, forget that Hostel was ever made, and luxuriate in the warm Greek sun, where jerks run free with sickles in their hands, and spiritual redemption is but one murder away. Highly Recommended for discerning sleaze enthusiasts.