Thursday, September 12, 2013

Terminal Island 1973

"Where We Dump Our Human Garbage !"

    A really good & sleazy little movie - that was marketed as standard 70's WIP exploitation, but however thanks to director Stephanie Rothman  (and an interesting cast) 1973's Terminal Island throws some different stuff into the sweaty females in halter tops & shorts milieu. Rothman was one of the few female directors working in the exploitation field having started out with Roger Corman & New World. She directed most of 1966's Blood Bath re-shoots and later wrote & directed the first New World film The Student Nurses from 1970. Roger gave her complete creative control and allowed her to tackle some social issues in otherwise what would have been straight ahead drive-in fodder. Later with her husband Charles Swartz she helped form Dimension Pictures and became one of their in-house directors. Although often dismissed as New World wanna-be, Dimension was responsible for creating and distributing bunches of drive-in classics including The Devil's Wedding Night & Gator Bait (1973), Dr. Black & Mr. Hyde (1976), Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) & Cheerleaders Wild Weekend (1979) - plus Terminal Island.

   At some point in the future the death penalty has been outlawed in Calif. and everybody convicted of 1st degree murder in banished to desolate San Burno Island AKA "Terminal Island". Kicking off with some news people who are preparing a TV special on the prison island (which seems to be setting up a social commentary plotline - that ends up going nowhere), this set-up does give us some background history on the island and its prisoners. A new prisoner Carmen (Ena Hartman) who after being dropped off meets up with Dr. Milford (a pre-Magnum P.I. Tom Selleck) who ominously warns her about conditions in the island. As mentioned before this does have an interesting cast - along with Selleck, there's also Phyllis Davis from from the WIP classic Sweet Sugar, Marta Kristen from Lost in Space, Don Marshall (Land of the Giants), Barbara Leigh (almost Vampirella) and hey look there's Magnum's future co-star & helicopter pilot pal Roger Mosley.

   Carmen soon discovers that all the females on the island are forced to do the manual labor (and sexual satisfy the guys), while everyone is ruled by the evil boss Bobby (Sean Kenney - from Star Trek & The Corpse Grinders) and his right hand thug  Monk (Roger Mosely). It soon reveled that there's another gang of convicts on the island which are the "good guys" (led by Don Marshall) and they soon capture all the woman which leads to war between the two factions of prisoners. Although Rothman gives all the woman interesting roles (Marta Kristen shows you how to make Gilligan's Islands type hand grenades), she doesn't forget what everybody came for. We got bunches of  violence, sleaze & of course the must have woman in prison nudity (supplied by Barbara Leigh and in lieu of a shower scene - a skinny dipping Phyllis Davis). The movie climaxes with a terrific slam bang battle complete with explosions, slo- motion bloody squibs & and even a 70's hippie utopian ending.

   If the movies does have a fault its that instead of focusing on one or two main characters everybody is just thrown together in two gangs of prisoners. At first Ena Hartman is set up as a kinda Pam Grier like kick ass female prisoner, but she just ends up being thrown into the mix. The guys especially suffer because of this as you just end up with a bunch denim clad dudes running back & forth in the forest (which makes it sorta hard keeping track of which side who is on). In spite of this, you got here a a prime example of 70's exploitation (plus its got Barbara Leigh AND Phyllis Davis). Out on DVD in an excellent presentation from Code Red.


  1. Excellent write up, Dick. Top film. Rothman must of fancied country music as many of her films I've seen (all for Dimension, that I recall) have one or more country-folksy style scores in them.

    If you haven't seen it yet, give SWEET SUGAR a spin for a good time with Phyllis Davis.

    1. Thanks for the country music angle - I had wanted to bring up the soundtrack, but forgot ! I love Sweet Sugar (one on my favorites and it has one of the GREATEST trailers ever). It really needs a nice release.

  2. Heck, I'd watch this just to see Tom Selleck with a beard! But it sounds like my kind of film. And what an amazing cast.