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
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
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
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