Terminal Island
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (22nd July 2017).
The Film

“Terminal Island” (1973)

Terminal Island - a guarded island where hard sentenced criminals are taken, never to be able to return to the mainland. Carmen (played by Ena Hartman) is the newest arrival to the savage island, immediately seeing the dangers by witnessing random dead bodies of prisoners scattered on the beach still wearing their blue prison outfits. Milford (played by Tom Selleck) is her first human encounter - a former doctor who helps her for the night but warns her that others on the island may not be so kind.

When she finds a village the next day looking for a means of survival, Monk (played by Roger E. Mosley) shows her who the leaders are through brute force. Women are enslaved for the men having to do much of the physical labor as well as sexual pleasure, commanded by the leader Bobby (played by Sean Kenney). While all seems hopeless for Carmen and the other women, a group of separatists are looking to find better life and rule on the ruthless island, leading to all out war.

Coming years before John Carpenter’s “Escape from New York” set a story with Manhattan being turned into a prison complex with no internal supervision and much before “Battle Royale” showcased an all out killing spree on a island, “Terminal Island” was a precursor to those two films along with many other prison based exploitation films. While “Terminal Island” is in the exploitation territory of with over the top violence, sexual innuendo, and awkward dialogue exchanges, there was a social commentary underlying the exploitive overcoat. The handling of prisoners in America, the media’s interest in violence, sexism, and distrust in leadership are a few things shown, but none are fully realized to the point of complete discussion or resolve. The opening five minutes shows a news team compiling interviews of random people on their thoughts of the incarcerated sent off to an island with no hopes of return while the journalists look through the criminal files, but that is all that happens. Instead of following new inmate Carmen on the island, if there was a story of the reporters sneaking onto the island to record the encounters with the criminals, it may have addressed the issues of media vs coverup of the truth much better. The opening five minutes is basically a setup of the island. No more no less. As for the other issues of oppression and sexism, it only seems “natural” in the state the people are left in with the impossibility of surviving on their own, but as to character development, many of the prisoners are left as one dimensional - whether male or female. There are some funny moments scattered throughout such as the honey scene which will make any male squirm, but overall what it sets out to do is entertain and that is what the film does well.

There are explosions, violent fist fights, bloody killings, prisoners on the loose, and of course nude scenes. It may be a surprise to know that the film was in fact directed by a woman. “Terminal Island” was directed by Stephanie Rothman, one of the very few female directors in the school of Roger Corman, working on films such as “Student Nurses” (1970) and “The Velvet Vampire” (1971) and later making three films at Dimension Pictures, with “Terminal Island” being the most widely known. There is a certain feminist attitude in the film and in a positive move and a choice by the director, exploitation commonplace of rape scenes were removed from the script as they made the film seem more demeaning that it needed to be. Overall the film does hit its marks in the exploitive aspect but the underscoring issues are not full enough to make the film feel all that important.

Note this is a region 0 NTSC DVD which can be played back on any DVD or Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The film has consistently been available in the home video market in cut and uncut form - with the TV version being cut for nudity and violence and frequently appearing on grey market releases, as the defunct Dimension Pictures rights issues were poorly handled. This is the uncut release, most likely coming from the same restored transfer used on the Code Red US DVD from 2010. While the word “restored” was mentioned, do not expect this to be a pristine and beautiful transfer. It is filled with scratches, washed out colors, softness, and other damage, but it is still in a watchable state and far ahead of the terrible cut grey market versions available. Issues aside, the transfer is on the stable side, there are no huge damage marks, and no issues of missing footage.

This is the uncut version with a runtime of 87:56















Audio

English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
The original mono track is presented in 2 channel Dolby Digital. The audio has also been restored but it sounds fairly flat the entire way through. Dialogue is intelligible and music and effects sound fair, though there are some issues when coming to high pitched sounds being a bit distorted. There are no major issues with audio cracks or dropouts in the track.

There are no subtitles available for the feature.

Extras

There are no extras provided. There is no main menu, so the film starts once the Umbrella Entertainment logo finishes and the disc stops once the film ends. Considering the Code Red US DVD had an audio commentary and newly made interviews, it is unfortunate that the Australian release was not able to secure any of those extras or provide new ones.

The opening of the film can be viewed here, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment:

Packaging

The rear states the DVD is encoded for regions 2 and 4 but this is in fact a region 0 DVD, playable in all regions.

Overall

“Terminal Island” provides fun exploitation greatness from the early 1970s but the political and social themes could have been explored much more rather than basically glossed over. The Umbrella Entertainment release provides a fair transfer in audio and video, but unfortunately lacks extra content making this a difficult recommendation.

The Film: C Video: C Audio: C+ Extras: F- Overall: C-

 


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