Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Island of Death (Devils in Mykonos) (1975)

First of all, let me say that it's great to be back. Apologies for not having posted on this blog for quite some time but due to working two jobs and other life situations, I've been forced to stay away from here. On the bright side of that, my horror collection has exploded and I've been lucky enough to get my hands on some rare finds and other films that I've been waiting to make part of my plethora of 70's and 80's horror films. 

I am one of those horror fans who is fascinated by the UK's DPP list of "video nasties". Secretly, I am in search of every single one of those films, just to say that I have them. Most of them I do own, but there are some on the list that are just so hard to find that I've given up on searching from them. I've researched them all and though some of them seem like just a big waste of time, yet others have gotten my curiosity a-boiling. Just the other day, I was walking through the anals of the local Rasputin's - which still has one of the largest horror selections I've ever come across - and whilst looking through the DVD horror section, something out of the corner of the eye caught my attention. I pulled it out and saw that it was the U.S. version of "Island of Death", one of the most notorious of the "video nasties". I couldn't believe that I'd come accross it. I'd searched for it before on the likes of Ebay and Amazon and just found that it was too expensive to add to my collection. The price here? $3.95. Yes. $3.95. So I took it home, practically jumping up and down, as one of the most elusive entries to my stacks and stacks of fright flicks was finally coming home with me. 

My cousin and I got home and got comfortable and popped this into the DVD player. Though I was aware of some of the more notorious scenes in the film, I threw all expectations out the window and awaited one of the most thrilling movie-watching moments of my life. Was this film going to live up to the hype and 25+ year reputation that's kept it famously out of print for so long? 

Within the first few minutes, I was speechless. The film tells the tale of a couple that's fled England due to some run-ins with the law to the Greek island of Mykonos to where they cause chaos to everyone they come into contact with. But what they do while on their little holiday is...well, surprising. I'm really torn between giving you the whole plot and giving away every spoiler in the book and just letting you, the reader, see it for yourself. As long as it took me to get a hold of this one, I'm not sure what to do here. If I don't give it all away, the review here will be really short (which would be ironic as the film pretty much runs about two hours). And those of you reading this (who are aware with what this film is all about) are probably expecting a tell-all, over-the-top review from me, but to be honest, I don't even know where to begin. That should tell you how much of an impact this film had on me. There are those films that you read about witch repuations that have followed them through time and you have certain expectations based on those reputations. Then you sit and actually watch said film and you don't know whether to go along with what everyone else thinks or to just stick with your own opinios about it, whether it be good or bad. This is one of those films that I don't know whether to call the biggest piece of shit I've ever seen or one of the greatest explotation flicks I've ever sat in front of. Because it's not a horror film - despite some brief scenes of gore - it's an all out expoit-fest. And I mean that in every sense of the word. 

There are scenes that are going to shock you. There are scenes that will make you scream out "WTF?!". There are scenes that will make absolutely no sense to you. And there are scenes of beautiful photography that will make you ask if the director was making a film with such extremely contrasting scenes on purpose to throw the viewer off, or to ease some of the more extreme scenes. In any case, let me say that most of what transpires in the film is something that has never been done before and will probably be never done again. The goal of this film was to shock and that it does. Everything from bestiality, homosexuality, homophobia, rape, incest...it's all here...even a totally random scene of watersports! And it's presented in a rather blatent fashion. There's nudity everywhere (We even get to see male nudity, which is always good). The film reeks of sleaze. Especially when you get to see the mentality the main character has toward people on the island. It's confusing at first, but then you realize what is "really going on". The film's twist at the finale will make you sick to your stomach, and when the credits roll at the end, you'll sit there and either throw the remote at the television or revel on what the hell you've just put yourself through. 

Image did a really good job on this one. From what I've read, the reason it was put onto an official DVD release was because the director was tired of seeing shitty bootleg copies go for unheard of amounts on the internet. He supervised an official transfer from the original negatives and to be honest, the film looks great. Colors are bright and vivid and the soundtrack doesn't show its age at all. This particular DVD has sold for silly amounts on line so I'd always shyed away from it. Believe me, $40 vs. $3.95? There isn't much in the realm of special features, we get a trailer and some of the (out of place) songs with accompanying slide shows, but that's about it. 

There is alot I want to say about this film. There are just so many things I want to let out (especially about the unexpected revelation at the end), but I feel that as a reviewer and avid horror fan, this is one you need to look for if you're a completist. Especially those of you who are followers of the UK's DPP list. It's one of those films that, no matter how hard I try, I could never convey to you how much this film is different than anything you've ever seen. To be very honest, I was expecting a bit more - since most of the scenes of extremism are actually implicit rather than explicit - but that was where the film hit me most. You get to revel in what the motive behind the couple's spree of depravity originates - since it's never really stated in the film - and think to yourself, how the hell did this get made in the first place? It's a great piece of expoitation film history so it deserves a watch. 

I do apologize for not giving away the major plot points and over-the-top scenes. I just don't have the heart to reveal everything in a film that still hold it's repuation after so long. The final verdict: seek this out if you're curious. Your jaw will drop, I guarantee it. If you've seen this already, don't be shy and leave a comment. I'd love to hear your opinions on this one.

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