director Nico Mastorakis
After you watch the documentary on Video Nasties (2010), it’s time to watch a “video nasty” (or two.) A video nasty (or two) from the notorious list of 72 films cited by the Department of Public Prosecution.
I wasn’t too familiar with Island of Death, though I had already added it to my Fandor queue (as Fandor specializes potently in their Cult section). It’s a Greek exploitation film. Who knew such a thing existed?
Apparently inspired by the commercial success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), writer/director/producer Nico Mastorakis cranks out a film of full-on perversities, a litany of bad behavior, and joie de vivre for creative murder. A young, nice-looking couple find their way to the Greek isle of Mykonos and start wreaking havoc. Sex in a phone booth while talking to the man’s mother, then a morning rape and murder of a small goat. Both of the lovers seduce others, both kill or torture and show great glee, and take lots of photos on their vacation.
Robert Behling plays the libidinous murderer who cracks out with judgmental, pious snipes at everyone else, seemingly barely repressing his violence. The very cute Jane Lyle is less of a driver but a very willing collaborator with her partner, just as cruel, if a little less driven by bloodlust. They kill a homosexual couple that had befriended them, an “older” woman, a lesbian heroin addict, a house painter, a detective on their trail, anybody who looks at them funny. And when the tables are turned, and Lyle is attacked in her bathtub by two hippie satyrs, Behling uses a speargun and a toilet to dispatch their attackers.
The film contrasts beautiful shots of the couple frolicking through the grass and flowers, strolling the beaches of the bright blue Aegean Sea, with these acts of total decadence and cruelty. Is it the ugly Americans? Behling sounds American but Lyle is clearly British. Who are these two and what do they represent?
Well, the film turns on its final sequence. When the two are finally suspected of wrongdoing, they flee to the countryside, to a rural shepherd who lives in a hut. He takes them in, feeds, them and lets them sleep in the hay.
And then he rapes them, first the girl, then the guy, who clicks photos of the girl’s rape. The shepherd beats and sodomizes the guy, while Lyle watches in bemused revenge, eventually, letting the shepherd have his way. The shepherd then throws the man into a pile of quicklime, trapping him. While he calls out for help, wary of rain igniting a chemical change that will mean his ugly death, the girl ignores him. Let’s him die.
Oh yes, there is the plot twist that turns out that these two are siblings.
There is a wildness to the a-morality in the film, an adherence to a sense of flouting social constructs and slashing taboos. The couple, handsome and pretty as they are, are ugly monsters as well, probably insane, completely without conscience or care, lusting in decadent viciousness. But what does it all mean? The man delusionally envisions Mykonos as edenic, as the people as good and pure, and then he is taken down by a goodly, sleazy man of the earth, perhaps more animal than man?
I don’t know. This movie is quite shocking in its way, not so much in what it throws in your face, as much as what it seems to be saying. Or is it saying anything coherent? It’s pretty bananas.