"They don't make them like they used to." It's a common refrain, and perhaps it is relevant to Nico Mastorakis' 1976 exploitation masterpiece Island of Death, except it's fairer to say that no one ever made them like this, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
After seeing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a friend and hearing how much money it made, Mastorakis decided that he would make a movie for even cheaper, and have it be even more outrageous, believing he was sure to make a profit. He was right.
The story, such as it is, revolves around a couple, Christopher and Celia (Robert Behling and Jane Lyle) who travel to Mykonos in search of some kicks. Unfortunately, the kind of kicks they enjoy are not exactly in line with the current mores of the tiny island they are visiting. Christopher in particular is a religious fundamentalist (though hypocritically violating Christian moral precepts on a daily basis) and he enjoys raining down vengeance on those he considers immoral. He starts off with a French painter, who makes love with Celia outside of a church he's painting, even though he believes her to be married to Christopher. The appropriate punishment for this peccadillo? Crucifixion and forced ingestion of paint, of course.
Christopher and Celia wreak havoc through the island, all the while laying the blame elsewhere or misdirecting inquiries. Their relationship begins to fray, though, as Celia is not as enthusiastic about their adventures, though she certainly joins in readily enough. They kill a gay couple, a lesbian heroin addict, and an older woman who trolls the town for young men. Their lives are chaotic, and they are suspected by some at least. Their adventures do not end well.
There isn't really a story to Island of Death, more just a series of sexual adventures punctuated by violence. It doesn't make sense, and isn't necessarily meant to. There isn't a philosophical underpinning to the film. Mastorakis has said that he just threw in what he thought would be shocking and marketable. As a result, the film is surprisingly nihilist. The murderous couple do get their comeuppance, but not in a way that really implies that they had it coming. It's just another random event in a chaotic universe. In no sense do the "good guys" win. And that's not really the point. From a certain perspective, Island of Death isn't a work of art at all. It was a commercial endeavor from day one. It does exist as a historical curio, and there is value in that. And the people who seek this out aren't necessarily looking for meaning.
Island of Death is interesting, but it goes places unashamedly, that most films don't, even in our jaded environment today. This is a full throttle exploitation film, and if that's not a genre you enjoy, I'd advise you to steer clear. For fans of the genre, this is a must see film, if only once. Recommended, but mostly for true fans.
Exploring Island of Death
Return to Island of Death
Nico Mastorakis Interview
Alternate Opening Titles
Original Theatrical Trailer
Nico Mastorakis Trailer Reel
The Films of Nico Mastorakis