Terminal Island (1973)

Terminal Island (1973)

“Everybody on this island’s a killer.”

On an island where convicted murderers are sent to live and die, a new female arrival (Ena Hartman) quickly learns that its inhabitants are divided between those who support a ruthless psychopath (Sean Kenney), and those attempting to live a more democratic existence.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Prisoners
  • Stephanie Rothman Films
  • Survival

Response to Peary’s Review:
I had reasonably high hopes for this “futuristic low-budget action adventure” flick, given both the slyly subversive nature of director Stephanie Rothman’s other female-centric exploitation films (i.e., Group Marriage) and the cleverness of the film’s opening “man on the street” news sequence (which neatly synopsizes its futuristic premise). Unfortunately, the story quickly devolves into a tedious survival flick in which impossibly beautiful female prisoners (all clad in skin-tight jeans, and sporting impeccably managed hair) either bed or battle a host of diversely macho men.

The one exception to this latter category is Tom Selleck’s gentle “Dr. Milford”, notoriously sent to the island for conducting a mercy killing; it’s too bad his semi-interesting character is quickly forgotten in favor of endless scenes of bloody violence.

Analogies to Lord of the Flies are inevitable, but despite Peary’s claim that it remains “interesting… because of [its] feminist-humanist themes” (and the fact that “the women and men renegades… shar[e] in the action, the danger, the plotting of war strategy”), its disappointing screenplay — which “deals with a civil war for supremacy of the island” — comes nowhere close to effectively exploring this inherently provocative premise. Peary’s a big fan of this one, but I’m not.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The clever, scene-setting opening sequence

Must See?
No; only fans of Rothman’s work — or WIP (women-in-prison) flicks — need bother seeking this one out.


One thought on “Terminal Island (1973)

  1. First viewing – and in complete agreement with the assessment. A premise that probably looked good on paper but was not developed properly. Not must-see.

    Other than that, it’s hard to know what to make of this one. It’s certainly not good, but it’s not bad enough to have much fun with, either.

    Of the cast…most viewers will note Selleck, of course. But I immediately recognized Phyllis Davis (Joy). Although she seemed to survive just inside the Hollywood periphery for three decades (mostly in tv), she had a brief, memorable breakout role in ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’ (as ‘Aunt Susan’). She doesn’t have much to do in ‘TI’ but she has a nice smile and is given one good revenge bit involving bees.

    I did like the way this flick ends – because it was unexpected. It’s a shame that just about everything that precedes it is not only not all that well-written but also chaotic and haphazard.

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