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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Terminal Island (1974)

Movies like Terminal Island are why I keep digging thru piles of what mostly turn out to be mediocre or terrible flicks. But once in a while I find a movie that blows me away and makes me ask myself “how have I never heard of this before”.

In a future where the death penalty has been outlawed the state of California has set aside an island forty miles off the coast dubbing it Terminal Island. There is only one way to safely make it onto or off the island with the rest being hemmed in with a minefield. If convicted the condemned are declared legally dead and dumped on the beach leaving them to survive on their own. Occasional supply drops are the only help they will get. We are introduced to this thru a newly convicted character named Carmen. We see her dropped off and she first meets Dr. Milford who offers her some local drugs as I guess getting high is the only way to survive.

The next day she finds out why when she arrives at the main camp and meets Bobby who runs the place with his right hand man Monk. The few women on the island are treated like cattle and are shared among the men. Bobby assigns them out when he thinks the others need some “ass”. The first lines establish this when Bobby tells Monk to “break the new bitch in” and he proceeds to beat her and then take her supplies. This is some sleazy and violent seventies drive-in/exploitation right here. Eventually Carmen and the other women are freed by the few men who left the camp and are being hunted by Bobby and his crew. It all leads to a big showdown where the ladies use some basic chemistry to make grenades and blow the hell out of the place.

Terminal Island is a blast! It establishes the setting and why the inmates are on the island quickly and then moves right to introducing Carmen and then thru her the rest of the cast. The plot starts rolling right away and our protagonists and antagonists are established. Before you know it the knife fights start and folks start dying. Carmen is “farmed” out to the boys and while not explicit it is uncomfortable knowing what has happened and what is likely to continue happening if circumstances don’t change. When the other group of men save them, it still doesn’t get them out of danger as at least one of them considers them property. That leads to the funniest gag in the movie involving some royal jelly, a wang, and a bee’s nest. I’ll let you fill in the details.

Not to sound creepy but the movie also has some nudity, which is to be expected and long with the action/violence is the payoff for watching a flick like Terminal Island. This includes Phyllis Davis who was a mainstay of seventies drive-in fare and later showed up on television quite a bit. For those Charles Band fans these scenes were edited into his Famous T and A release, so you may have already seen bits of the movie. Between this and the action sequences leading up to and including the big finale there is something going on from start to finish.

I’ve already mentioned Phyllis Davis. We also get the lovely Marta Kristen who I remember from Lost in Space as older sister Judy. Don Marshall from another Irwin Allen series Land of the Giants also appears. But what got my attention was the participation of a young Tom Selleck who along with another future Magnum P.I. co-star Roger E. Mosely shows up as a convict. For what is admittedly silly material the cast does a great job and sells it as life and death.

I love John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, which I really need to cover for the site. This movie has a very similar plot and predates it by eight years. It feels like a nice primer to that movie. Not saying it is as good because it isn’t. But Terminal Island has enough going for it that I think both exploitation fans as well as fans of Escape will dig it. I recommend tracking down a copy and giving it a watch.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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