Reviewed by

Christopher Armsted

Oddly enough me and Denise Matthews, who I grew up knowing as the artist Vanity, but who is De De Winters on the marquee of this film 'Tanya's Island', have a couple of things in common. One would be that neither of us can sing very well, and another would be that neither of us are that skilled in the craft of acting either. The similarities come to a screeching halt after these simple facts because one us is not too terribly attractive and the other is Krazy Foine! Or at least used to be since I haven't seen Denise in well over a decade, but I will assume that even at 48 she is still a bit of a looker. So imagine my joyful surprise when a film that I've never heard of looking a lot like those exploitive Joe D'Amato 'Black Emmanelle' flicks from back in the day, and starring a woman who at the age of 13 I would have gladly traded every single Hot Wheel I owned just for the chance to touch her hair. Oh well. I'm pretty sure this film had to have been met with derision in 1980 just as it will be met with EXTREME derision in 2007 still leaving 'The Last Dragon' as the penultimate Vanity viewing experience with 'Action Jackson' coming in a close second.

I will to give you some kind of description of this film because I'm not entirely sure what it was about, but Tanya (De De Winters) is some kind of television personality or something who is in love with an abusive artist named Lobo (Richard Seargant). In the control room of the TV station, they are running the 1930's ape picture 'Mighty Joe Young' which I'm sure means something. Anyway, after being severely rebuffed by Lobo, Tanya goes home to stew about her plight but hears what sounds like serial killer type heavy breathing off somewhere in her apartment. Instead of fleeing as any reasonable person would do,Tanya checks it out, sees some smoke billowing out from under a door, opens it and like magic she's transported to Tanya's Island!

On the Island Tanya's screwed up life has improved tenfold as she has a horse to ride, Lobo loves her once again and on this island clothes are useless. While traversing the woods in the island Tanya has discovered that she and Lobo are not alone on their

island paradise. Tonya meets a blue-eyed gorilla who startles her into unconsciousness at first, but after awakening in a bed of flowers laid by her ape buddy, Tanya knows she has a new friend who she names Blue, because of his blue eyes of course silly. Personally I would have named the dude Harry, but that's just me. Unfortunately Lobo is none too pleased with Tanya's new buddy, becomes insanely jealous and has come to conclusion that he needs to take Blue out. What transpires is battle between man and beast with the man become even more apelike than the actual ape, highlighted by the man eating bananas like a lunatic, if you aren't getting the point, and ending with Tonya being sodomized by her good buddy Blue.

Amazing what you can find out with just a little bit of research. Did you know that 'Tanya's Island' was nominated for the Canadian version of the Academy Awards? So let us say that five films get nominated for an award in a given year, which leads me to the conclusion that in 1980 only five films were made in Canada that year. I mean this film even got a nomination for COSTUME DESIGN, like it took somebody to design the cloth around Richard Sargent's midsection or to craft absolutely nothing for De De. There wasn't a lot going on in the first half of 'Tanya's Island' since it consisted of Tanya walking or riding around the island naked or near naked. The second half was an incomprehensible collection of man v beast scenes which I'm sure stood for something, but what I'm not certain. Were this film produced by the Nation of Islam I could guess that the blue eyed ape represented the white mans oppression of the Black Woman, but then there was already an honest to goodness white man doing a fine job of oppressing the Black woman in this flick so adding a symbolic one would have been redundant so what this thing was trying to say was a total mystery to me.

On the plus side a nude Denise Matthews exiting a body of water looked as good as, if not better than Bo Derek who also exited a body of water nude in 1980, and some of the cinematography was somewhat decent, despite the obvious wear of the print that was transferred to DVD for me to see, but that was about it. Ms. Matthews, lovely as she may be, has zero range as an actress and shockingly her co-star Sargent had even less, if you can have less than zero. The cat in the ape suit playing Blue put his co-stars thespian skills to shame truth be told. What little story there was in this thing was poorly delivered, director Alfred Sole paces a slow film even slower leaving the true challenge in watching Tanya's island in trying to stay awake through its duration. Denise Matthews, who went on to become Vanity has returned to being Denise after Vanity damn near killed her and as such has given her life to God becoming a minister. To this end we wish Ms. Matthews only the best and have no problem palming off her appearing in this movie as youthful foolishness.

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