Two of the most notorious Nasties tonight, namely Island of Death and House on the Edge of the Park, promising all kinds of perversions, and general nastiness. Island of Death, the only Greek film on the original DPP list, is the ‘brainchild’ of novice TV-director Nico Mastorakis who decided to cram the film with every perversion and every violent act possible. It’s certainly not the best advertisement for the Greek tourist board.
House on the Edge of the Park is Ruggero Deodato’s low-budget ‘remake’ of Craven’s The Last House on the Left, even to the point of casting David Hess as the lead villain of the film. Here’s to a night of lots of nastiness, nudity and inappropriate love songs.
Island Of Death (1975)
Plot A twisted couple (Celia and Christopher) arrive on the Greek island of Mykonos to cleanse the area of perversion by murdering painters, shagging goats, and urinating on old women.
Rawshark After the initial shot of some guy trapped in a pit of lime, Island of Death begins quite pleasantly, as some lovely shots of the Greek island of Mykonos and gentle Greek music accompanies the arrival of Christopher and Celia to the island. However, when Celia suggests to Christopher that they make love outside (Chris replies, "What? Just the two of us?"), we begin to think these two are a bit strange. When they then go on to have sex in the phone box whilst calling Christopher’s mum back in England ("yes, it is me mother, and guess what I’m doing?"), we know these two are very strange indeed.
The next morning, Celia refuses Christopher’s advances so he goes outside and spies a goat. The camera turns fish-eye (Jim – "Oh, it’s all gone fish-eye. Fish-eye means crazy!"), and Christopher then proceeds to, er, how shall we say, relieve himself with the animal before slashing its throat and killing it. Ri-ight. From here on in the killings and perversions on display pile-up as we are exposed to lots of nakedness, death by whitewash, drug-taking, gay and lesbian sex, decapitation by bulldozer, masturbation, rape and urinating on old ladies.
It’s certainly no date movie, but surprisingly it holds together quite well. Some of the shots are nicely framed, and there are one or two nice ideas (the photographic edit cuts for example). The mainly amateur acting is reasonable, although the director of the film does pop up in a hilariously bad cameo as an investigating novelist.
Island of Death is knowingly made in the worst possible taste, and will probably offend most people who ever see it in its uncut format, but a film that features great photography, lots of nakedness and taboo-breaking and a song as great as ‘Destination’ ("Get the Sword!") featuring in the film not once, but twice, can’t be all bad.
"Desperation, Understanding, Destination, is impending (?)"
Jim "Is impending (?)" I thought it was "Destination, understanding, desperation isn't ending." Ah who knows, we were laughing so hard when the song came on, it was hard to think straight let alone write - my notes go a bit wobbly around then.
But as Rawshark points out the film does indeed start rather nicely, almost like a tourist information advert for Mykonos, and since all I knew about this movie was 'Greek, sick, banned, pervy', I instantly assumed the couple Chris and Celia were going to be the innocent victims of some deranged Greek monster, a bit like what happens to those holiday makers in Joe Tomato's famous (and God awful) Anthropophagus - The Beast. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Chris shagging then killing that Goat was the first hint that this couple had issues, quickly followed by Celia shagging the painter and Chris crucifying him (to a stone floor - eh?) before pouring paint down his mouth until he chokes to death. From here on in, nothing is surprising.
Except when Chris - ahem - calls his mum, little does he know that a funky black detective is tapping the phone line back in Blighty. He promptly traces their call to the Greek Islands and is on the next plane, accompanied by a funky 70s soundtrack suitable for a black detective in a Greek film. He's like a black John Saxon actually, but if he were Saxon I'm sure he wouldn't have bitten the bullet so quickly and in such a lame manner. Still, it was nice to have a bit of multi-cultural diversity - it being the 70s and all - even if it was short lived.
But enough of talking about the film. Despite Rawshark trying to convince me that it had artistic merit and that some of the shots were really quite well set up and what have you, I didn't really buy it. I'm thankful that the whole package was just so laughably bad that the gross obscenities on display were more funny than anything else. Ever cringed and laughed at the same time?
I got the feeling of a A Clockwork Orange influence on more than one occasion - brutal but amateurishly amusing, especially when you consider the hugely inappropriate score the director compiled, namely the song. If we watched the sequence backed by "Desperation" once, we watched it a dozen times. Lyrics you wouldn't believe for such a charming folk tune...
"...Get the sword, get the sword, kill them all, KILL THEM ALL!"
Zomblee By 17 minutes into the running time there had already been full-on sex twice, and at least three boob shots. At 20 minutes, a crucifixion. At 21 minutes, a man is forced to drink white paint, while also being crucified. Some twat called Christopher calls people who have sex "perverts", then proceeds to fuck a goat. Go figure. But I’m not going to list all the depraved nonsense that takes place in Island of Death – the guys have already done that. It’s disgusting purely for the sake of pushing the envelope, for being as disgusting and offensive as possible. If that floats your boat, you’re in for a treat. I think it sunk my boat. Just off the island of Mykonos. But I don’t think I want to ask anyone there for help. I’d probably get dragged ashore by a mute sheep farmer, fucked in the ass, and then get farted at. That’s Island of Death for you. Not exactly edge of your seat stuff. Not scary stuff. Not purposely funny stuff (apart from that fart, of course), just depraved stuff. Even the town hippies commit rape in this Island of Filth.
On a positive note, “It’s actually a really good transfer” (Jim) and we can see the debauched actions of this “couple with issues” very clearly. The soundtrack music is a mixed bag of bizarre hippy songs (one of which went down particularly well with Rawshark and Jim), Greek-sounding music, and early 70’s synthesiser strangeness. One thing the soundtrack certainly isn’t is formulaic.
In summary though, Island of Death, although a curiously interesting exercise, is pretty senseless stuff. It disgusts and it shocks. It even farts. Not for me, thanks, but I suppose it’s worth seeing once for the sake of it.
“Let me show you how good boys get a decent erection.”
Director Nico Mastorakis
Cast Robert Behling
Runtime 99 mins
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House on the Edge of the Park (1980)
Plot A twisted couple (David ‘Krug’ Hess and John ‘perennial victim’ Morghen) arrive at a party thrown by ‘rich-folk’ where they proceed to beat up the men, rape and humiliate the women and urinate in the swimming pool.
Zomblee Ruggero Deodato’s The House on the Edge of the Park starts with a strangulated rape at 2 minutes 40 seconds. This really is nasty. Already. Ruggero Deodato doesn’t mess about does he?
Nastiness aside, this is immediately a more skilfully made piece of work. The direction and camerawork are very competent, even if the acting is not. David Hess (from Last House on the Left) is back, and he seems to be playing the same character (with a bigger stomach). His sidekick is played by possibly the worst over-actor in the business, John Morghen (AKA Giovanni Lombardo Radice, or whatever he’s called this week). Morghen, sometimes known as the "Perennial Victim", is magnificently pathetic in every film I’ve seen him in and THOTEOTP (phew!) is no exception. At least in City of the Living Dead he gets a drill through his cranium whereas in THOTEOTP he is simply stabbed by Krug. Sorry, I mean Alex.
The House on the Edge of the Park is pretty strong stuff. Not as potent as Island of Death, or is it? Nico Mastorakis was making a point with Island of Death, albeit not a very intelligent one. Wes Craven made a point with LHOTL; it was a relevant reaction to the time and the place. Deodato’s film, on the other hand, seems more like a pointless exercise in violence and a study of human scum. It’s difficult to work out where he’s coming from with a film like this. Perhaps the DVD should include a more detailed interview with the director – maybe then we could understand the motive behind everything (what we instead get is a 2-minute interview of Deodato being interviewed by his son. His son is no natural-born interviewer, and his dad clearly can’t be bothered to say much about this “film de low budget”).
It’s easy to see why the BBFC didn’t let this film through. I’d like to think that we’re all reasonably hardened to screen nastiness but during this film Jim’s eyes were diverted from the screen on at least one occasion, “That’s just wrong!” was being shouted at the screen, as Hess rapes, slashes, stabs and beats his way through the ‘party’.
The twist ending gives the film at least one more review star – without the twist, this film would probably be a crime in itself. A large number of breast shots, men wearing red roll-necked jumpers (see John Saxon in Enter the Dragon - “Same old Roper!”), and amusingly hairy vaginal areas can’t quite save this twisted, derivative, and downright nasty flick. On a positive note, it is unnerving in its power to shock and repel, it is well shot, and “It’s actually a really good transfer” (Jim). Maybe it should be renamed Last House on the Edge of the Park.
“Now we’re gonna have some fun with these cunts” (Yes, its THAT nasty)
Jim Oh yeah, I'd forgotten about those tight roll-necks. Don't forget, another cracker from 1980 is the seminal Cannibal Apocalypse, which starred both John Saxon and Giovanni Wotnot Doodar, and Saxon wore tight roll-necks in that movie too. Maybe wearing tight roll-necks in cheap horror movies is an infectious disease with Saxon as the source and Giovanni's the carrier, and in this movie he's slowly infecting people. Hmmm, I wonder whether anyone from Black Christmas or Enter the Dragon found themselves favouring roll-necks after meeting John... I'll have to check that out.
Anyway, let's get on to The House on the Edge of the Park. Like Zomblee said, it's quite obvious this movie had higher production values from the opening frame, but that doesn't necessarily make it a better film, at least not in my eyes. You see, Island of Death was pretty nasty too, but a lot of it was so ropily put together that much of the final piece is unintentionally very funny, ultimately defusing the degrading tone and rendering it watchable for someone like me who doesn't care much for that kind of thing. The House on the Edge of the Park in contrast has been made by film makers who actually knew what they were doing, making the final package a lot more offensive. It's exploitation cinema at its absolute worst, or best depending on your perspective, and I did indeed find myself staring at Zomblee's carpet when things got too much for me.
Still, it was a good transfer...
"See my muscles glistening in the moonlight."
Rawshark Before I start, I should state that Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust is my favourite ‘horror’ film of all time (well alongside DOTD and TCM of course), so on hearing that his follow-up also made the nasty list, I wanted to see it, especially as it also starred David Hess and ubiquitous Italian Zombie Cannibal ‘star’ John Morghen (whose CV surprisingly also includes directing Opera) as his partner-in-crime, Ricky. Unfortunately House... Park comes nowhere near the heights of the greatest Cannibal film ever made, instead settling for being a fair-to-middling (albeit nasty nasty) house siege movie. Lifting the plot, tone and lead actor from The Last House on the Left doesn’t do it any favours either, as Zomblee points out it is so obviously inferior to the Craven shock classic.
There are one or two moments to enjoy, including Morghen’s insane dance shuffles with the baldy black girl as he arrives at the party (“Woo!”), one of the worst fight scenes in cinema history, and Hess’ slow-mo scream of pain as he receives his comeuppance at the end. Deodato has moments of well-staged scenes (the scene where the ‘rich’ cheat on Ricky at Poker is well-handled), but his spin on the ‘family-avenge-rape-and-murder’ theme (by making the ‘rich’ appear cold and unfeeling) is a clumsy social commentary.
Yet it also still remains a film that’s shocking even today especially with the arrival of ‘innocent’ Cindy. In a flagrant display of the director’s misogyny, she is forced to strip (after Alex has deduced she is a virgin by placing his hand on her underwear! Eh?), and is then slashed several times across the arms, breasts and torso with a razor whilst accompanied by a hugely inappropriate love song. The scene is intercut with moments of Ricky and Gloria’s orgasmic thrusting as they make love in the greenhouse, which did not sit too well with the BBFC, and it’s doubtful they will ever (quite rightly) allow it through.
Full of rape, murder and humiliation this is one of the nastiest of the nasties that still remains reasonably watchable in parts (thanks largely to Hess’ over-acting, and Deodato’s occasional moments of good direction), but let’s be honest, it’s not a film you’d want to watch again and again. At least, I’m hoping you wouldn’t.
“Rinse your brains out King Kong!”
Director Ruggero Deodato
Cast David Hess
Giovanni Lombardo Radice
Marie Claude Joseph
Gabriele Di Giulio
Runtime 91 mins
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With both films featuring ample nudity and excessive violence, this seemed to be a Zombie Club made in heaven, especially as a double-bill of these two uncut titles has been pretty much unheard this side of 1984. Unfortunately, both films proved to contain some pretty extreme (and by all accounts unpleasant) moments that was probably a ‘bit too much, really’, but there were also one or two highlights, especially if you like roll-up jumpers, Greek folk songs, and seeing Morghen die in an Italian film yet again.
It’s a tough call between the two, but Island of Death just edges it by featuring some sunny location photography, more original death scenes and easily the best song of the two films (well, in my own and Jim’s opinion at least). All together now – “Get the sword, (get the sword!) Kill them all (kill them all!)”
Good transfers on both films, though, and if you want to hear that tune, click on the icon (it's 3MB mind...)