Death Has Blue Eyes | Nico Mastorakis’ wacky 1970’s paranormal sex comedy action thriller on Blu-ray
There’s a whole lot of love over at Arrow for the crazy cine-verse of Greek film-maker Nico Mastorakis, as they have so far released his 1975 infamous ‘video nasty’ exploitation debut Island of Death (twice), Death Has Blue Eyes (1976), Blood Tide (1982), The Zero Boys and The Wind (both 1986), Bloodstone (1988) and 1990’s Hired to Kill.
I’ve seen and reviewed Island of Death and The Wind, and now have finally caught up with Death Has Blue Eyes, which was released back in April (2021) on Blu-ray in a new HD master in both widescreen and full-frame versions.
Be prepared as this is a wacky, messy but wholly entertaining cocktail of conspiracy thrills, psychic chills and action spills (with a bit of a 1970s sex comedy vibe thrown in).
International gigolo-cum-racing driver Ches (Chris Nomikos) and his dodgy Vietnam vet mate Bob (Peter Winter) meet up in Athens where they encounter the wealthy but mysterious Geraldine Steinwetz (Jessica Dublin) and her psychic daughter Christine (Maria Aliferi).
All the lads want to do is have sex (with a penchant for threesomes – oo-er!!!), but they soon find themselves in the middle of an international conspiracy – and nothing is what it seems, especially Geraldine, who has a secret agenda.
While Island of Death was released first, this was in fact Mastorakis’ debut feature – and it’s one to watch with a gang of fellow exploitation film fans, while Graham Humphreys’ colourful poster artwork really captures the essence of Mastorakis’ lurid conspiracy thriller.
But what really thrilled me was checking out Jessica Dublin’s credits. She so steals the show here and should be better known as she’s been in so many cult faves – including Visconti’s The Damned, Mastorakis’ Island of Death, Kostas Karayiannis’ The Devil’s Men and was Mrs Junko in Troma’s Toxic Avenger sequels.
Mastorakis made his last feature in 1990, before turning his hand to TV sitcoms, but he’s recently scored renewed success as the writer of the award-winning 2018 documentary, Mykonos, the Soul of an Island.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
- Brand new restoration from the original camera negative approved by the director
- High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
- Two versions of the film: the widescreen 1.85:1 version and the full-frame 1.33:1 version
- Original mono audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Exclusive new interview featurette with Nico Mastorakis
- Exclusive new interview with actress Maria Aliferi
- Dancing with Death: tracks from the original soundtrack
- Original theatrical trailers
- Image gallery
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Julian Grainger
Wanting some inspiration and solitude so she can concentrate on her latest novel, mystery writer Sian Anderson (Meg Foster) leases a cliffside cottage in a quiet island village in Greece from British expat Elias Appleby (Robert Morley). But it comes with a warning: Don’t go outside at night when the wind starts to come in. Well, of course, she does the complete opposite and ends up witnessing Elias’ murder at the hands of his handyman Phil (Wings Hauser), who then sets out to silence Sian just as the wind starts to howl…
This Euro slasher thriller from Island of Death director Nico Mastorakis went straight to video (except in West Germany and Portugal) when it was released in 1986, and as I don’t remember coming across it in my local video rentals stores back in the day, even under its original title Edge of Terror, I was keen to seek it out – especially as I rather enjoyed Island of Death (check out my review later). And Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray release gave me just the chance. But, I’m sorry to say, I was rather disappointed.
Meg Foster certainly carries the film well – in a sub-par Linda Hamilton/Terminator kind of way – but her piercing blue cat-like eyes are a huge distraction and they totally overshadow Wings Hauser’s poppered up performance, even if he does deliver the inane dialogue with a great amount of glee: ‘If you need any technical advice on death just holler I’m next door’ being just one of them.
Mind you, Robert Morley provides the film’s other distraction – gnarly eyebrows and a chin that looks like a bullock’s ball sack. Luckily, he only gets a couple of scenes before he ends up in a shallow grave. Talking of which, there’s a Jason King** moment when Foster’s Sian transcribes the killing as it happens. Is she clairvoyant or are we seeing her murder mystery playing out before our eyes?
Lending credence to the latter is that Sian doesn’t run away after she witnesses the murders (yep! there’s another), instead she seems to want to be part of the mystery – which works well on the page but not in reality (you’d get the hell outta there!). And when she is chased through the streets (all backlit like a music video with fog and wind machines going full throttle), I was reminded of Mario Bava’s hallucinatory horrors Lisa and the Devil and Kill, Baby, Kill, where reality and fantasy also blur.
But Mastorakis is no Bava and what we see is what we get – an island village completely deserted apart from an old lady (who gets the chop), a backgammon-playing cop and a random seaman (Steve Railsback) who, just because he can speak English, decides to take on the copper’s job and check on Sian. Which brings me to David McCallum. Oh yes, he crops up here too (mainly in a pool talking on a yellow phone). He plays Sian’s boyfriend who becomes worried when their long distance phone call is suddenly disconnected. That’s it. Then he’s gone.
What follows is ludicrous with a capital ‘L’. However all the stalking and running that ensues is a great excuse for some lovely location shots of Monemvasia (AKA the Gibraltar of the East) – including its ancient stone buildings and alleyways, majestic oleander trees, and a medieval fortress that provides the setting for the climactic showdown between Sian (who finally remembers there’s some hunting weapons locked in a cupboard in her villa) and Hauser’s seemingly unstoppable killer.
The whistling synth track is by Hans Zimmer and Stanley Myers, Marlboro Lights feature often and note to self: Its best to have short hair when you are visiting a tourist destination where it’s windy all the time.
Arrow Video presents The Wind for the first time on Blu-ray, with the following features, and the film is also available on the Arrow Video Channel via Amazon Prime Video.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• New restoration by Arrow Films from a 4K scan of the original negative, approved by writer-director Nico Mastorakis
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
• Optional English subtitles
• Optional Greek subtitles
• Original DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and LPCM Stereo 2.0 Audio
• Blowing The Wind: Brand new interview with Nico Mastorakis
• The Sound of The Wind: The complete soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer and Stanley Myers
• A collection of trailers for the films of Nico Mastorakis
• Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the film
** Jason King was a 1970s ITV crime drama starring Peter Wyngarde, whose eponymous novelist-turned-sleuth used events happening around him as the source of his crime novels featuring his 007-inspired adventurer called Mark Cain. In one episode, Chapter One: The Company I Keep, King writes about a murder that has actually happened.
When Island of Death director Nico Mastorakis once asked a festival audience member, ‘What made you want to see this movie?’, he got a telling reply: ‘Because it was banned’. And that’s exactly the reason why I first sought out what has become Greek exploitation’s most famous export.
The movie that the censors don’t want you to see!
Originally on the British censors video nasty hit list in the 1980s for its depictions of bestiality and graphic violence, Island of Death ended up having some 20-minutes of footage excised by the BBFC. When it was eventually passed uncut and released on DVD in 2011 by Arrow Video, video nasty aficionados finally got the chance a chance to see the film as the director shot it. Now, the infamous lurid shocker has been given an exclusive 2k restoration by Arrow.
The lucky ones simply got their brains blown out!
Shot on the cheap over 18-days during the off-season on the Greek island of Mykonos, with a group of English-speaking non-actors in tow (some of whom also appeared in that other Mediterranean mess, The Devil’s Men, which was shot at the same time, but had star names like Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance attached to it), this psycho-sexual thriller follows a psychopathic British couple, Christopher and Celia, as they attempt to cleanse the island of immorality and perversion by killing anyone (mainly homosexuals, middle aged nymphomaniacs and hippies) who don’t meet their crazed ideas of purity. As an added kink, the couple photograph their murder spree that includes crucifixion, poisoning with paint, hanging from a plane wing, and being hacked to death with a mighty sword of justice.
Although the film boasts depraved acts of sex and rape, both human and animal, the results are little more than what you’d expect from a sex comedy, while the gore looks cartoon-like. The travelogue-like cinematography, which perfectly captures Mykonos’ picture-postcard scenery, and the incongruous folksy soundtrack only serve to make this film campier than the director intended.
THE BLU-RAY ARROW VIDEO RELEASE
Arrow Video‘s director-approved dual format (Blu-ray/DVD) edition features not only a new 2K restoration of the film, but over seven hours of bonus content, including the making-of featurette, Exploring Island of Death (which drags on a bit), and a location featurette, Return to Island of Death (with Mastorakis playing tour guide. This one’s a winner for me).
Also included is an archive interview with the director, alternative newly-created opening titles, and five original tracks from the soundtrack, including the catchy theme song. A four-part documentary charting Mastorakis’ filmmaking career and trailer reel (featuring some real stinkers) make up the Blu-ray release extras, plus a reversible sleeve featuring artwork by Graham Humphreys and a collector’s booklet.
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Island of Death (1977) | Mykonos is awash with blood, sex and perversity in the notorious video nasty
In the Q&A (one of the extras on Arrow’s 2009 release) with director Nico Mastorakis there’s a brilliant moment when he asks a member of the audience: ‘What made you want to see this movie?’ and gets the reply: ‘ Because it was banned’. No truer word was spoken. Originally on the British censors video nasty hit list for its depictions of bestiality and graphic violence, Island of Death has been missing some 20-minutes of footage since its original release back in 1977. Now passed uncut, Island of Death has been resurrected by Arrow Video, giving video nasty aficionados a chance to finally see what was missing. To be honest, I couldn’t see what the fuss was about – especially considering the sordid stuff you can find today on the internet.
Shot on the cheap, during the off-season on the Greek island of Mykonos, with a group of English-speaking non-actors (some also appear in the Peter Cushing Greece-set travesty, The Devil’s Men, which was shot around the same time), this psycho-sexual thriller follows a psychopathic British couple, Christopher and Celia, as they attempt to cleanse the island of immorality and perversion by killing anyone (homosexuals, middle aged nymphomaniacs and hippies at the like) who don’t meet their crazed ideas of purity. As an added kink, the couple photograph their murderous acts that include crucifixion, paint poisoning, hanging (from a plane wing) and being hacked to death with a mighty sword (of justice).
Although the film boasts depraved acts of sex and rape, both human and animal, the results are little more than what you’d expect from a sex comedy, while the gore comes across as quite tame and cartoon-like. The travelogue-like cinematography, which perfectly captures Mykonos’s picture-postcard scenery, and the incongruous hippy soundtrack only serve to make this film campier than the director ever intended.
As well as a new transfer of the film, fully uncut, the 2009 Arrow release includes a host of extras including interviews with the director, double fold-out poster, and a collector’s booklet. But my favourite is the short video in which the original folksy theme song, Destination Understanding, gets re-imagined by five bands ranging from garage punk to extreme noise. Brilliant!