Archive for March 14, 2016

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Real quick — what’s the sleaziest movie you’ve ever seen? Strong arguments can be made for a number of contenders, ranging from Joe D’Amato’s Emanuelle In America and Porno Holocaust to Passolini’s Salo (whoops! That’s an “art” film), but given the common national origin if those entrants, perhaps I should re-phrase the question to read : what’s the sleaziest movie not directed by an Italian that you’ve ever seen? In answer to that, may I humbly submit for your consideration Island Of Death.

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Known around the world by various titles ranging from its original, Ta Paidia Tou Diavolou, to Devils In Myknonos, to Island Of Perversion, to A Craving For Lust (and it ended up on Britian’s banned list of “video nasties”no matter what they called it), Greek writer/director Nico Mastorakis freely admits that his main goal with this 1976 production was to outdo Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre on the shock-scale in the hopes of making a quick buck. The first part of that equation he certainly succeeded at ; the second, well — he seems to be doing alright, so hopefully that worked out, too.

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When apparently-vibrant-and-youthful British couple Christoper (played by Robert Behling) and Celia (Jane Lyle) arrive on the idyllic Greek island of Mykonos, they would seem to be nothing other than a pair of typical young lovebirds enjoying each other’s company and an exotic vacation destination. He’s a confirmed shutterbug who’s never without his camera, while she seems to be “the quiet one.” Neither of them can really act worth a damn, but trust me when I say you’ll have other things to pay attention to soon enough. They quickly find a house to rent and settle in, but it doesn’t take long before we realize there’s something deeply wrong with the two of them: the fact that he decides to call his mother while they’re fucking in a phone booth is probably the first clue, but that’s purely minor-league stuff compared to the veritable laundry-list of depravities that follows. How does Christopher take care of his “morning wood” at dawn the next day when Celia won’t “put out,” for instance? Why, he takes a stroll down to the garden, screws a baby goat, and then slits the poor creature’s throat. And if that’s not enough for you, once the couple’s true vocation becomes clear — seducing anyone, male or female, before photographing “the deed” and then killing them — you should, I hope, require no further convincing that these are two hopelessly warped degenerates. In fact, they’re hopelessly warped degenerates who are on the run from INTERPOL, who are now hot on their heels thanks to that phone booth stunt — memo to dumbass : even in 1976, the cops could trace a call.

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Christopher seems to be the number-one sicko of the bunch, forcing an offensively-portrayed flamboyant homosexual to fellate a gun, crucifying a guy he “catches” Celia having sex with and pouring paint down his throat, engineering a lynching from a plane, dispatching one of his victims with a spear gun — you get the idea. In one scene where he lures a lonely and, it must be said, unattractive older female into bed, he decides to take a piss on her — only to have her get off on it, which sends him into a bloodthirsty rage that ends with a sickly creative decapitation. No stone goes unturned when it comes to his debasement of man, woman —and, yes, animal. But Celia’s not just along for the ride here, she’s an active participant in the debauchery herself, and when it comes time for one of them to dispose of the other in order to ensure their own continued freedom, well — Christopher finds he’s well and truly met his match. Oh, and we learn, in the film’s climactic finale that sees her drowning him in a pit of lye. that they’re not husband and wife, but — drumroll please — brother and sister.

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So, yeah, it’s all here, and served up with a heaping portion of disdain for racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities, to boot. I’m tempted to say something glib like “they sure don’t make ’em like this anymore!,” but the truth is that they didn’t make many of ’em like this even then, and if you’ve spent your entire life in an intermittent-but-obsessive quest for the absolute bottom of the cinematic barrel (as I freely admit I have), congratulations — you may just have found it.

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And if you’ve found it by way of Arrow Video’s new(-ish) Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, you’ve found it in better shape than ever thanks to a package that features an amazing 2K full-frame restoration, fully restored mono sound, and an amazing array of extras that includes a perhaps-overly-lengthy-but-still-fascinating 105-minute retrospective of Mastorakis’ career; a 20-plus-minute on-camera interview with the director; a featurette that sees him returning to the movie’s original filming locations; a healthy selection of trailers for his other films — shit, the list is endless. I understand that there was a terrific commentary track included on this flick’s earlier DVD release from Arrow that wasn’t “ported over” to this new Blu-ray due to some sort of rights dispute, but still — you can’t have everything. Unless you want every sick, irredeemable, repulsive, morally indefensible act you can imagine, as well as quite a few you can’t,  played right out in front of your eyes. Island Of Death most definitely  has that.