At times, Island of Death seems like a tourist video for the Mykonos Chamber of Commerce. An attractive young couple wanders the white streets of the Greek island, meeting its charming residents and admiring its beaches and architecture.
Christopher and Celia like this little island, because everyone is super nice and willing to go out of their way to make the pair feel welcome. Because it’s “a place where they worship God.”
That bubble bursts for Christopher soon enough, as he becomes convinced that these pleasant locals are adulterous, homosexual sinners, and he can’t stand sinners. He wants to cleanse them from the world. So Christopher uses Celia to seduce the people of Mykonos into various transgressions. Then he brutally murders them, ridding the world of their wrongdoings and snapping photos of his carnage all the while.
Never mind that Christopher fucked Celia in a phonebooth while connected to his mother in England. In the faithful’s eyes, that’s not as bad as the pleasant gay couple who just got engaged. Being a middle-aged woman with a normal sexual appetite? Totally sinful. Fucking a goat, which Christopher does unexpectedly and practically inexplicably within the first 10 minutes of the movie? Completely pious, righteous behavior.
As you can see, Island of Death is a very literal title, and a lot of messed-up stuff happens in its hour-and-40-minutes run. Graphic sex (including a rare mutual masturbation scene), relentless violence, goat fucking — all earned the movie a well-deserved “exploitation” classification and a lot of grief from censors. First-time filmmaker Nico Mastorakis welcomed the uproar — he thinks it made his project more popular, as he said in an interview with Horrorview. It’s not so hard to find the movie these days — obviously, or else you wouldn’t be watching it here — but that wasn’t always the case.
In the days of yore, when VHS tapes were a thrilling new concept, government censors and film review boards in the United Kingdom were perplexed. After all, it was up to them to protect women and children from obscene violence and sexual material. All of a sudden, there were all these smutty and savage B movies on the home video market — including many that never had to pass through the British Board of Film Censors rating system first, since they didn’t have cinematic releases. But technically, the Director of Public Prosecutions could take any film that broke the rules of the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 to court. Which it did. And that meant video stores could get in trouble for carrying one of these prosecuted tapes.
To make it easier on video store owners, who may have found themselves dealing with a police seizure if they carried one of these tapes, the DPP created a list of “video nasties.” The lists were published regularly starting in 1983 and would eventually grow to include more than 70 titles that had found themselves in the various stages of the court system. Island of Death was one of the 39 successfully prosecuted, a distinction it shares with I Spit on Your Grave, Last House on the Left, and Cannibal Holocaust.
When Island of Death was originally released in 1976, it was under the name A Craving of Lust and was missing 14 of its original minutes. Back then, it got an X rating. The unedited film first popped up on the DPP’s video nasty list in November 1983, disappeared, and reappeared on a permanent basis in October 1985. In 1987, it became Psychic Killer 2 and was still refused proper certification.
But thanks to DVDs, many video nasties have been re-released in recent years, finally uncut, and you can now see Island of Death in all its goat-fucking glory. Unless you stumble upon a copy of the original 2002 DVD imprint, which is still missing four minutes.
(Hopefully it’s the goat fucking scene. It was such a cute goat.)
Susan Cohen decided to leave her career in journalism to go back to school — for journalism. She's still not sure if she made a mistake. Visit susanjcohen.com to learn more about her.