Island of Death Blu-ray Review

Nasty, raw uncut sexploitation from the 1970s

Greek director Nico Mastorakis saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and decided he wanted to respond with an even more shocking film. While his Island of Death doesn’t take any stylistic cues from that grisly horror classic, the 1975 film is an utterly graphic movie about a deranged couple sleeping with the residents of Mykonos before horrifically murdering them. Known alternately as Island of Perversion and A Craving For Lust in some markets, the film’s depraved content earned it a spot on the British censorship board’s ‘video nasties’ list. That ensured its lasting infamy despite uneven performances and an endless array of bizarre scenes. Its content is not for the faint of heart.

The laid-back Greek Isle of Mykonos is an idyllic setting for what turns into a grim tale of graphic brutality and extreme sexuality. Christopher and Celia are a couple on the run. They seem on the surface a happy, carefree couple taking a weekend holiday. Soon it becomes clear they are a sick pair bent on a killing spree. Christopher’s whims lead them to their next victims. The exploitation film ups the ante by meshing their killing with a demented heaping of twisted sex.

Christopher and Celia have some disturbing sexual encounters, including content that would still be considered pornographic today.

Island of Death has that sexploitation vibe from its opening act, indulging in sex and nudity whenever it can fit into the narrative. Christopher is especially concerned with punishing “perversion” in others as he calls it. Christopher despises drug users, lesbians, an adulterer, pretty much anyone that crosses his path in Mykonos. He uses the beautiful Celia to lure in unsuspecting people by seducing them. There is a strong voyeuristic element to their crimes as Christopher is kept busy shooting photographs of Celia’s encounters while he plots the murders. After the coupling has finished the victim is killed by the couple, often in the most brutal way possible.

Island of Death would be a fairly typical ’70s slasher if not for its extreme nastiness. Christopher and Celia have some disturbing sexual encounters, including content that would still be considered pornographic today. Celia rebuffs Christopher one morning for a quickie, leading to Christopher fornicating with a… goat. Another shocking scene involves urination.

The film itself loses the plot in the final act. The couple’s crimes across Mykonos start catching up with them as the dead bodies pile up. The ending has a bizarre poetry to it. The police finally get a clue and chase the couple as they make an attempt to escape the island. Island of Death would have been greatly served with tighter editing and a few scenes snipped from the final act. Island of Death rests uneasily between slasher and pornography. It has too much sex for horror fans and likely too much violence for those into sexploitation.

Movie ★★☆☆☆

Island of Death Blu-ray screen shot 2

Arrow Video gives this cult film a new 2K film restoration from the original 35mm camera negative. That transfer turns out fairly nice when the extant elements aren’t damaged. Apparently one of the latter negative reels was permanently damaged, resulting in obvious chroma fluctuations for a noticeable section of the final act. The 1080P video is presented in its intended 1.33:1 aspect ratio with an incredibly transparent AVC video encode. The 1975 film has decent sharpness and definition for its era, though one should remember this low-budget film was done on the quick.

The black levels contain some crushing of shadow detail and delineation, presumably due to the original cinematography. Contrast is excellent, highlighted by fine color saturation in exterior shots. The unfiltered film transfer has solid levels of fine detail. Some manual clean-up of the film elements has left them in mostly clean condition. Film damage is occasionally evident, particularly a faint vertical gate scratch on the right side in some reels. Clarity is better than expected, especially in the better lit exteriors.

Arrow Video has given Island of Death a very respectable, film-like presentation. The expected grain structure is left intact in sharp detail. Free of halos, the new 2K film scan pulls all visible definition it can from the occasionally damaged film elements. Fans should be happy with this region-free Blu-ray.

Video ★★★☆☆

The mono audio for Island of Death is more problematic than the decent video quality. The original monaural audio is presented in a 1.0 PCM soundtrack. There is obvious tape damage with clipping and distortion on this soundtrack. The fidelity is disappointing, leading to very poor wow and flutter. Some of the problems are more annoying than anything else, such as a low rumble heard in a couple of scenes. The soundtrack remains intelligible and its songs sound a bit better, but this is not crystal-clear sound one is used to hearing on Blu-ray. I guess this is the best the film can sound in 2015, the audio has not aged well.

Optional English SDH subs display in a white font.

Audio ★★☆☆☆

Director Nico Mastorakis is all over the included special features for this Island of Death combo format with both Blu-ray and DVD editions included in Arrow’s traditional clear case. He narrates a four-part documentary covering his entire film output as director and producer. The documentary with Stephen Thrower greatly helps in providing a frame of reference for the notorious movie’s original release.

Nico Mastorakis had a varied and interesting career after Island of Death, relocating to Hollywood and producing a range of schlocky films. He worked with some big names and made a few recognizable movies, including Blind Date with Kirstie Alley. He is candid as he covers his catalog, going over what he thought of actors like Oliver Reed to explaining the stunt sequences.

  • Exploring Island of Death (38:26 in HD) – Film historian Stephen Thrower on the making of a cult classic. This is a very informative documentary as he talks about the film and Nico Mastorakis’ other films.
  • Return to Island of Death (16:57 in HD) – Director Nico Mastorakis returns to the original Mykonos locations where the movie was filmed. He greets original extras from the film that still live in Mykonos.
  • Interview with Nico Mastorakis (23:44 in HD)
  • Alternative opening titles for Island of Perversion (00:50 in HD) and Devils in Mykonos (01:08 in HD)
  • Island Sounds (24:02 in 2.0 PCM) – Five original tracks from the Island of Death soundtrack
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (03:05 in HD)
  • The Films of Nico Mastorakis – four-part documentary charting the director’s filmmaking career [Blu-ray only] (58:29 in SD, 23:29 in SD, 35:44 in SD, 40:46 in SD)
  • Nico Mastorakis Trailer Reel [Blu-ray only] (34:16 in HD) – An interesting collection of trailers for a bunch of ’80s projects that Mastorakis produced or directed.
  • 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

Extras ★★★☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review as a screener that may not represent the retail disc. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.