Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Let's begin our discussion of director Stephanie Rothman's 1973 exploitation epic 'Terminal Island' by talking about the end of this movie.  Recognize that Terminal Island is probably the worst place that a citizen of the United States can be dispatched to, a penal colony that is an island far off the coast of California where first degree murderers are dispatched to rule themselves.  And if you do get sent there, pray you are not a woman.  But at the end of the movie, after everything shakes out, if you are a first degree murderer sent to Terminal Island you will be greeted by smiling 1973 versions of actor Tom Selleck and actress Barbara Leigh, two of the most beautiful people on the planet earth.  Google Ms. Leigh if you doubt me on this, just make sure 'Safe Search' is on if you happen to be at work.  Back on point, then when you look at the sandy beaches and beautiful trees, now all of the sudden 'Terminal Island' is the most awesome place for a citizen of the United States to be sent to, an island where ugly people are not allowed.  Sweet. 

As the story goes, The Supreme Court has outlawed the death penalty so as a social experiment the state of California has created Terminal Island, and while life is precious, because of the conditions on Terminal Island that we've already touched on, death just might be preferable especially if you are a woman.  Say a woman like Carmen (Ena Hartman) who is the latest resident on Terminal Island whose makes the acquaintance Doc Milford (Selleck) the junkie M.D. who informs her that death would be a deliverance from this place.  Then he sulks off while snorting something up his nose.  Doc Milford is not in his happy place right now. 

Eventually Carmen makes it to Terminal Island central where she is greeted by Monk (Roger E. Mosley) who promptly abuses this 110lb woman, steps on her face and lets
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her know that she is now under the rule of Bobby the Psycho (Sean Kenney) and she will be gang raped every night for the rest of life.  Welcome to Terminal Island Ms. Carmen.

To be honest with you, the gang rape seems like the best part of the day for Carmen and the three other ladies on the island, these being the silent Bunny (Leigh), the slutty Joy (Phyllis Davis) and Lee the brainy chick (Marta Kristen).  Marta Kristen?  Judy Freaking Robinson!  No Way!  Regardless, while getting raped at night does suck pretty hard, by day these women are rented mules that plow fields, build structures, cook meals and they do this without the benefit of a drink of water.  And they are not allowed to sleep. 

But things are about to get little better as a splintered faction on Terminal Island led by the heroic A.J. (Don Williams) has freed these ladies and his crew of merry men has no intentions of raping them.  Yay!  Not that this is going to stop Joy the slut from incessantly teasing them.  Not that this is going to stop Carmen from coming on to A.J. but then getting down with his right hand man Cornell (Ford Clay).  Lest we forget all of the ladies are first degree murderers before we get on them for being all slutty and stuff.

Regardless, Bobby the psycho wants his sluts back and his enemies dead.  And he has to have them back in the daytime because he's afraid of the dark.  And he has some machine guns because the California Terminal Island cops are super stupid.  Still A.J. has a plan and the plan should work despite the fact the most important part of this plan rests on the soft shoulders of Bunny who is very beautiful but also very… well… retarded.  Who thought that was a good idea?  And be in 1973 or 2012… explosions shall ensue.

What a strange movie 'Terminal Island' turned out to be.  Understand that everybody on this island is a murderer, even though Magnum P.I. claims to be innocent as he was just doing his Kervorkian thing before Kervorkian became de-rigueur.  We just have to choose which set of murderers to root for.  Fortunately this is made pretty easy as we chose to root for the murderers that don't gang rape and use women as rented mules. 

But when examining the cinematic value of 'Terminal Island' I'm not sure where to go here.  I don't think it's a good movie, especially if you had seen it at a theater way back in '73, but forty years later I gotta say that it is oddly watchable from beginning to end.  It's sexually exploitative, but not overly so since there are just a couple of nudie scenes… but, and this is important, Phyllis Davis was providing some of these nude scenes.  Why is it important that Phyllis Davis was flashing her tits in this movie?  Today, not so important, but when you go back in time and remember that this is the same Phyllis Davis that was teasing hormonal teenage boys and frustrated grown men on episodes of Vega$ and Magnun P.I. back in the eighties, Terminal Island quickly becomes one of the more important films in cinematic history.

Actually this movie is more socially exploitative and overly violent than anything else, but it was also prone to the moments of poignancy and sensitivity, mostly provided by Tom Selleck of all people.  Not that Tom Selleck had learned how to act yet in 1973, but he does use his sad eyes for maximum effect. Ms. Rothman also slid in her fair share of social commentary in this one, death penalty, prison conditions, women as second class citizens, and it demonstrates what happens when you set a woman free.  They make bombs and blow shit up is what happens. 

I don't know man, 'Terminal Island' was one of the stranger flicks I've seen.  Exploitation, slapstick, action, wildly uneven, erratically paced and some good acting performances mixed in with some horrible acting and featuring every major character from Magnum P.I. except John Houseman.  I kind of love this movie, and I don't really know why.
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