Last Island (The) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Cult Epics
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (22nd November 2023).
The Film

A passenger plane goes down for unknown reasons, crashing on the beach of a tropical island. There are only seven survivors, and they view their situation in different ways: businessman Sean (Raiders of the Lost Ark's Paul Freeman) is sure the airline will have the coordinates of their crash by radar and should rescue them, military man Nick (Performance's Kenneth Colley) dispassionately sets about scavenging the plane an enlisting the others to remove the bodies and set them alight with the jet fuel rather than let them decay in the hot climate, botanist Pierre (Ismael's Ghosts' Marc Berman) looks for edible plants and indicators of where they are, young Frank (Swimming Upstream's Mark Hembrow) tries to catch fish, nineteen-year-old playboy Jack (Bates Motel's Ian Tracey) goes stir crazy and constantly annoys the others, while old Mrs. Godame (A Fish Called Wanda's Patricia Hayes) seems resigned to being a castaway. The exception is young, self-exiled Joanna (The Sleep of Death's Shelagh McLeod) who embraces the idyllic setting as "paradise."

As the days go by without a soul in site and dead fish washing up on the shore, the group start to ponder whether their crash was a simple accident and if there is still a world beyond the island. When Pierre identifies the island chain they are on by an animal species exclusive to it and announces that the mainland is only a thousand kilometers distant, the group come together to build a boat only to drift for days with no wind before a colossal storm destroys it and washes them back on the shore. At this point, personalities begin to clash, with Nick alienating the group with his sanctimonious proclamations that God has destroyed the Earth and they must place themselves in his hands for salvation – particularly targeting agnostic Joanna and gay Sean who has started kindling a relationship with Frank – Jack's thoughts of drinking and sex leading to unwelcome advances on Joanna. After an attempted assault on Joanna that has tragic consequences, the men start discussing their (or rather, her) responsibility in repopulating the Earth…

The third feature film of future Academy Award-winning filmmaker Marleen Gorris, The Last Island follows up bleak urban depictions of the lives of marginalized women in A Question of Silence and Broken Mirrors with a colorful and exotic castaway film boasting a larger budget and lush production values; however, it is ultimately her bleakest yet nuanced view of humanity. To call it a feminist take on "Lord of the Flies" may accurate yet superficial as the film is not merely the same story from the perspective of a female character, but a study of the inextricable differences between man and woman. Whereas other sociological filmmakers might focus on class differences first and then gender, it matters not to Gorris but only to the men themselves that Sean is wealthy, Nick an army officer, and Pierre a scientific authority. Their discussion of having children is not if Joanna agrees but who will she pick rather than the question of why should they do it at all? The men's refusal to admit the unlikeliness that whatever offspring they reproduce will have any effect in repopulating the Earth at large in favor of it being a gesture of hope indirectly suggests that all of their other efforts in building a boat and increasingly elaborate living spaces the likes that Gilligan's Island never achieved were more labor-intensive diversions and distractions from reality.

However much seems to hinge on Joanna's choice, she is ultimately a pawn in the battle for control between Sean – who "invests" in his romantic partners – and Nick who attempts to control the others with both a Bible and a gun. Just as earlier when Nick in recklessly "treating" a snakebite dismisses Mrs. Godame as an "old woman" when she insists that the snake is not venomous but then becomes flustered when Pierre confirms it, he attempts to use scripture and threats to drown out Joanna's resistance to submit to him as a woman but turns violent when proudly gay Sean throws contradictory scripture back in his face reveling in the other man's "moral" revulsion. As with Gorris' earlier films, "civility" is a mask but here it masks degrees of weakness in its male characters with the commonality of chauvinist attitudes towards women running the gamut of outright misogyny to sexism so casual and unthinking that it surprises when the most benign-seeming male character voices it. The men seem destined to destroy each other regardless of Joanna's efforts or Mrs. Godame's "God-like" counsel, with pacifist Frank feeling obligated to avenge Sean – receiving an incredulous reaction from Joanna when he tells craven Pierre to "protect" her – while Pierre only seems to go after Frank because his masculinity has taken a blow from another man rather than anything Joanna has said. The ending is ambiguous, but the two survivors seem better off even if no one ever finds them. The film was not a success – likely because it does not offer the escapism viewers might have desired from a film about castaways – but it may indeed point the direction towards Gorris' depiction of a not entirely exclusionary "female utopia" in Antonia's Line and her attempt to engage with the complicated feminism of Virginia Woolf with an American/British/Dutch adaptation of Mrs. Dalloway.


Although shot in English with an international cast, The Last Island was not picked up for theatrical or video release in the United States or the United Kingdom. Presumably due to the bankruptcy of First Floor Features – more on that in the commentary – the original negative was unavailable so the rights owner had to resort to what is described as the only existing 35mm print of the film for Cult Epics' 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray (presumably this is the only existing 35mm element for international use as a Dutch print would have had burnt-in Dutch subtitles). The film was likely lensed with 1.85:1 matting in mind as the 1.78:1 framing does not impede the compositions, although the film's trailer and clips in the television interview are framed at 1.66:1. A disclaimer at the start notes the presence of damage in the form of scratches, and they are plentiful at the reel changes and the generational loss of the print does mean that not as much fine detail can be resolved in sequences where colored Wratten filters are employed in front of the lens or the timing is skewed towards warm oranges or chilly blues, and some of the night exteriors are murkier than intended, so it is just as well that no attempts to "fix" the image digitally have been employed.


The Dolby Stereo soundtrack fares better in both uncompressed LPCM 2.0 and lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 16-bit audio. There are moments where scratches on the element do result in hiss on the soundtrack (the overall underlying hiss only becomes loudly noticeable during the end credits as the music fades out). Most of the dialogue is production audio although the location work did require some post-synching and that is obvious in the mix. There are some directional sound effects which seem rather bluntly mixed while atmosphere seems sparse because it is so omnipresent, and the score has the most spread in the mix. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included.


Extras start off with an audio commentary by film historian Peter Verstraeten whose discussion of the film is as much a discussion of the rise and fall of First Floor Features co-founded by director Dick Maas and producer Laurens Geels after Maas' dissatisfaction over the sharing of profits with The Lift producer Matthijs van Heijningen (who not only produced Gorris' first two films but also five features by her contemporary Nouchka van Brakel including the three that make up Cult Epics' Nouchka van Brakel Trilogy). The company had massive hit with Maas' still massively popular comedy Flodder and Alex van Warmerdam's Abel, but The Last Island along with Otakar Votocek's Wings of Fame were attempts to break into the international market with English-language productions that both ended up flopping domestically and abroad with Flodder sequels, a TV spin-off, and the prestige Dutch drama Character keeping the company afloat before Maas' further attempts with the English-language Silent Witness and the New York-lensed The Lift remake Down which not only was incredibly goofy on it own but had the misfortune of being a film about a deadly highrise released just a month and a half before 9/11. His discussion then shifts towards the influences of castaway stories as literary and cinematic antecedents, noting the colonial aspect of "Robinson Crusoe" which is usually overlooked in favor of the adventure, as well as parallels of the film's character relationships with those of Hell in the Pacific. His discussion of Gorris in the context of female filmmakers of the period, and in contrast to "counter cinema" questioning narrative and identification as she saw the necessity of audience engagement interweaving story and message.

The disc also includes an introduction by producer Dick Maas (0:28) as an option to play before the feature as well as a 1990 television interview with columnist Annemarie Grewel (11:37) who discusses the film's feminist themes with the host in light of some inflammatory reviews of the film. The behind the scenes (16:51) is actually a series of montages set to popular eighties music depicting the transportation of the real airplane wreck from Trinidad to Tobago – the wreck was used by the island's fire department in exercises and proved too expensive to move back so the production compensated the fire department by paying for training of two members in London – the building of sets, and some shots of the cast and crew milling about that are not really informative but are a testament to how believable the film is in keeping the viewer focused on the castaway characters and not even conceiving of the relatively crew just outside the frame.

The disc closes with a promotional gallery, the Dutch theatrical trailer (3:06), and a quintet of Cult Epic trailers.


The retail disc comes in a standard keep case while the first one hundred copies ordered directly from Cult Epics include a international poster postcard.

The film is also available in the Marleen Gorris Trilogy (the first pressing of which when ordered directly from Cult Epics includes picture postcards for each film as well as a twenty-page illustrated booklet with an essay by Anneke Smelik).


Director Marleen Gorris' third film The Last Island is a colorful and exotic castaway film boasting a larger budget and lush production values; however, it is ultimately her bleakest yet nuanced view of humanity.


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