ISLAND OF DEATH [1976]: on Dual Format now

Directed by:
Written by:
Starring: , , ,





REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic



Christopher and his wife Celia arrive on the picturesque Greek island of Mykonos, seemingly just to get away from it all and do some sightseeing. The apparently uptight Christopher begins to quickly be offended by what he sees as perverse behaviour by some of the islanders, but when the couple decide to get amorous during a stroll and end up having sex in a phone booth while Christopher rings his mum, it’s obvious that Christopher is deeply hypocritical. The call is traced to the police back in England who are after the couple and one cop is booked on the first flight to Athens. Christopher and Celia are actually serial killers who like to off anyone who morally offends them, and bodies are soon going to begin popping up all over the island….


This grubby little exploitationer, the kind of film that makes you want to take a shower after you’ve seen it, is perhaps a strange movie to get such a stonkingly good release by a company like Arrow, but it’s still rather admirable that it has. The film clearly has some fans at Arrow, and I love their commitment to films like this, but even after watching Stephen Thrower’s [author of the fabulous study of Lucio Fulci’s films Beyond Terror: The Films Of Lucio Fulci so clearly a guy who is often on the same wavelength as me] very positive analysis of the movie, one of the special features on Arrow’s release, I remain unconvinced as to it’s merits. It certainly has plenty to interest and occasionally shows signs of being a much better picture, but it seems to me to be mostly a poorly made, highly dubious exercise in sleaze consisting largely of a series of violent and sexual moments strung together and often in no particular order. For the most part, it’s hard to get offended by the on-screen goings-ons because the handling is generally so poor, and instead you’ll probably just sit there open mouthed and even amused by what’s going to occur in front of you next. There’s definitely some crazy imagination at work, and the potential for a genuinely good movie, but it remains potential that isn’t fulfilled.

It was made, apparently, because writer/director Nico Mastorakis saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and decided that making something similarly shocking for little money was the way to go. He wrote the script in one week and filmed it in eighteen days, casting himself in one small role because the original actor chosen for the part wanted too much money. Released under a variety of titles, the film was a commercial success and Mastorakis went on to co-produce, and was originally going to direct, the thinly veiled true life drama The Greek Tycoon about the love affair of Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis, after which he then had what seems like a reasonable if unremarkable career as a writer and director of mostly thrillers with a strange twist. Island Of Death was originally called Devils In Mykonos for its UK cinema release, but after the BBFC had cut three minutes and thirteen seconds, removing much of the violence and some extreme images, it was re-titled A Craving For Lust and sold as an erotic movie double-billed with the Greek sexploitationer Her Naked Flesh. The initial UK video release was uncut and was banned as a Video Nasty, the BBFC later rejecting a proposed 1987 video release, now under the title of Psychic Killer 2 [even though it had no connection with the 1975 movie Psychic Killer]. The 2002 DVD release was cut by four minutes nine seconds, which was slightly more than the original cinema version, probably making further cuts to the rape scenes, and it wasn’t until Arrow’s 2011 DVD that the film was passed uncut in the UK.

The film’s opening titles, which were replaced in some versions, are done in such a way that it seems like they are being typed out against a red background while you can hear the clicks of a movie camera, and then we get a really arresting beginning which actually made me think I was in for something pretty good, as a man lies close to death in a lye pit, helpless, thinking over his life until that point and being refused help by his female companion. The rest of the film will tell us how he got this way, sometimes with the man narrating bits and pieces. The couple are, of course, Christopher and Celia, and they do initially seem quite nice and certainly ‘normal’ at first, until they have sex in the phone booth with Christopher’s mother able to hear at the end of the line and we learn that the cops are after them. Soon after, Christopher wants to have sex again, this time under more normal circumstances, but Celia isn’t interested, so what does Christopher, the supposedly highly religious puritan do? He goes outside and grabs the nearest goat for a quick screw, before, for no particular reason [maybe he thinks it’ll tell other goats] except that he’s a total nutter, stabbing it to death.


From then on, the majority of the film consists of the couple encountering various folk who offend them and, after dallying with them a while, killing them with whatever deadly implements are [often laughably] to hand. Usually it’s Christopher who does the killing, but sometimes Celia, who on some occasions seems on the verge of breaking away from Christopher and certainly tires of the killing, joins in too. Mastorakis has a knack for dreaming up unusual death scenes, from a decapitation by bulldozer to a hanging by aeroplane to having paint poured down a throat while the victim is crucified, though he neither has the filmmaking skill nor the money to realise most of them properly, and it all gets very random in an increasingly tiresome way as the film also throws in stuff like lesbianism and even, I have to warn you, a ‘golden shower’, interspersed with montages showcasing the lovely scenery over which pop songs with the most bizarre lyrics, most of them actually written by Mastorakis, play. Sometimes the words seem to be commenting on the story, or are maybe an attempt to get inside Christopher’s mad mind, but the songs just come across as hilariously incongruous for most of the time, while towards the end Mastorakis feels the need to throw in some rape which in no way seems like a natural progression of the storyline and, though not being very graphic, certainly left a bad taste in the mouth of this critic.

For the most part though, it’s difficult to take the film seriously what with its mostly awful acting and terrible writing. The two main characters have an intriguing dynamic which is never explored, and it’s interesting that we are sometimes asked to sympathise with Celia, but they are surrounded by a whole range of shoddily drawn folk spouting embarrassingly bad dialogue, such as a wanton lesbian who of course makes a beeline for Celia when Christopher doesn’t seem to be around. A scene of a flamboyantly camp gay man fumbling with his boyfriend saying: “Come on, I won’t bite you, maybe I will bite you, tell me where you want me to bite you” might be the worst scene I’ve seen in a film in quite some time [though possibly a scene of foreplay involving the participants flicking paint on each other with paint brushes is funnier], and I’ve seen Fifty Shades Of Grey. Mastorakis does show some flair in a night time chase which makes good use of camera angles and shadows [though said scene is unintentionally funny because Christopher seems to know his way around, at nighttime, a town he hardly knows, better than his quarry who has probably lived there all his life], and occasionally does effective visual things like using a very blurred image to represent someone’s drugged point of view and a wide angle lense in some scenes to seemingly give a sense of Christopher’s point of view in a film which tries to play with subjectivity i.e. Christopher likes to photograph everything and we see some events as still pictures as he photographs them, but the general stupidity of the whole enterprise tends to outweigh the plus points and there were times where all I could think of was how much better this film could have been in other hands.

Robert Behling isn’t bad as Christopher but nearly everyone else is terrible, none less than model Jane Lyre who has some line readings which are just downright bizarre [but not in a good way] in their naffness. The sad fact about many of the films originally on the Video Nasty list is that they aren’t very good and aren’t worthy of much  fuss, and Island Of Death, even though a hell of a lot of extreme stuff happens in it, is a prime example of this. I’ll admit there were times I found it amusing, even to the point of laughing out loud which is possibly the normal response to a film like this when it’s mostly so ineptly handled to the point that it’s totally lacking in any tension whatsoever. I’ve spent most of this review criticising it, and yet it still probably goes without saying that if you’re a regular reader of a website with the name HorrorCultFilms, then you still ought to check it out. Like Stephen Thrower did, there is a chance that you may get a hell of a lot more out of the film than I did.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆


Transferred from the original negative, Arrow’s Blu-ray of Island Of Death probably looks far better than a film like this ought to look. There are a few specks here and there, and a section of the film where the colour seems to fluctuate, though apparently one reel was so badly damaged that Arrow had to insert frames from another master. The thing still has great depth and clarity and I reckon that many fans of the film would never dream it would ever look as good for a home release, nor have as an added bonus a solid selection of special features [amazingly I do now want to check out some of the other films that Mastorakis made] that again show this label’s total commitment to cinema and especially the culty side of things.



*Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative, approved by writer-director-producer Nico Mastorakis
*High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
*Original Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
*Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
*Exploring Island of Death – film historian Stephen Thrower on the making of a cult classic
*Return to Island of Death – Mastorakis returns to the original Mykonos locations
*Archive interview with Mastorakis
*Alternative opening titles
*Island Sounds – five original tracks from the Island of Death soundtrack
*Original Theatrical Trailer
*The Films of Nico Mastorakis – four-part documentary charting the director’s filmmaking career [Blu-ray only]
*Nico Mastorakis Trailer Reel [Blu-ray only]
*Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
*Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by academic and film historian Johnny Walker

Avatar photo
About Dr Lenera 1966 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.