“Mother, I see the wonders of the world.” – Destination Understanding'





Although Greek filmmaker Nico Mastorakis’ crazy cult film “Island of Death” definitely has a valid claim to the title of most gloriously insane exploitation movie ever made, you’d be hard pushed to find anything in its actual content that is all that particularly gory or even overtly graphic. Certainly, by today’s standards, its tame stuff indeed; even the primitive gore effects that were all that was available to Herschell Gordon Lewis in his heyday produced results that are far more viscerally unpleasant than anything you see in this bizarre little 16mm gem from 1976. Yet Mastorakis, who freely admits he only made the film at all as a means of kick-starting his filmmaking career -- having directed only one other film after his previous involvement in small scale TV production in Greece -- undoubtedly ended up bestowing upon the world a remarkable piece of cult exploitation esoterica, all the same. The film became notorious, especially in the UK, where it was one of the thirty-nine films to be successfully prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act during the ‘Video Nasty’ scare, and deemed ‘liable to deprave or corrupt’. This often laboriously clunky film, with performances that would make Ed Wood look askance (not least by Mastorakis himself) and a rather overlong running time if truth be told, is clearly a hugely memorable addition to a disreputable genre; it’s a case of once seen never forgotten, as Mastorakis goes all out to create maximum shock effect on his inescapably miniscule budget.


But this is a film that ultimately comes across like an exploitation movie made by someone who had never actually seen one before, but who’d decided simply to fill the screen with every conceivable human depravity he could possibly conjure up. Mastorakis approached the whole thing with a cynical eye to making money rather than with any artistic pretensions -- an attitude which has resulted in a rather jaundiced position towards any kind of critical analysis of the film, either positive or negative. But although Mastorakis can claim till he’s blue in the face (as he does on the commentary and in the extras in this excellent special edition from Arrow Films) that the film is nothing more than an exercise and a shallow money making ploy  -- his attempt, rather, to outdo “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (another hugely successful film shot on 16mm) by making the content merely a shopping list of violent deaths and crowd-pleasing depictions of as many perverted acts as he could muster with a budget of $30 thousand pounds at his disposal, the irony is that, perhaps more because of its endearingly homespun approach to the craft than in spite of it, “Island of Death” is somehow a zillion times more affecting than the kind of prosaic blood-and-guts ‘slasher’ pictures it supposedly set out to imitate. It stumbles by accident into the horror genre’s very own version of the kind of outrageous shock-comic territory John Waters exploited so adroitly in his early work, and it’s hard to think of another film quite like it anywhere in the subsequent annals of horror cinema.


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...How long did it take to write the script and did you have to delete any scenes before shooting because they were too over the top?

It took a weekend to write and since rewrites were a luxury for a low budget movie in 1975, nothing was changed. More so, the “over the top” scenes which were the backbone of this film.

Even though it was a low budget production did the subject matter make it difficult to raise the finance? Where did the finance come from?

 The miniscule budget of $30,000 was not difficult to raise. A couple of friends stepped in, knowing nothing about the story and the mood, but trusting me to start an export business for locally made productions. “IOD” was shot in English, with minimal ADR, contrary to my first feature, “Death Has

Blue Eyes,” which was dubbed, since most of the actors were Greek simply mimicking the dialogue....


You’ve said that you made the film purely as a commercial venture to make money but as it was heavily re-edited and ultimately banned in the UK especially – did you ever make any money from it or is it only now that it’s finally out on dvd that you’re getting a return on the production?


 I’m afraid you’re missing forty years of constant releases in all conceivable media, from 35mm theatrical to VHS to DVD to BluRay. If it wasn’t for IOD, I couldn’t have supported myself in London for 18 months trying to make “The Greek Tycoon.” And it still gets new releases, every four or five

years but I’m sure Arrow’s BluRay release, thanks to the incredible work they’ve done, is the definitive one.