Terminal Island

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Stephanie Rothman

REVIEWED: 04-12-99

On the trailers, a voice that sounds suspiciously like the narrator from Rocky and Bullwinkle intones: "Terminal Island -- where we dump our human garbage!!" In the not-so-distant future, capital punishment is outlawed, and the worst, most ruthless killers are sent to permanent exile on a penal colony off the California coast called Terminal Island (which looks suspiciously like Hollywood's Bronson Canyon). The government supplies the basics for inmates to eke out an existence, but without guards or supervision, they are free to make their own rules and create their own society (or simply kill each other off). Carmen (Hartman) is dropped off there by boat and soon gets a brutal introduction to the ways of the island, delivered by enforcer Monk (Mosley). The self-appointed king of the island is Bobby (Kenney, looking like an evil cross between David Cassidy and Steve Earle). Bobby rules with an iron fist, as women cook the food, tend the crops, even pull the plows, and of course are required to submit to every sexual whim. Before long, though, the women find out about a group of rogue men who have escaped and are at large on the island. The men take the women with them, and soon they are waging guerrilla war on the main population. Every time they get a chance to relax, their rustic tranquility is broken up by a skirmish with the ass-kicking squad, until the final showdown.

The fairly simple plot comes across like a Murderous Seventies Cavemen on Gilligan's Island as both sides use their ingenuity to come up with various ways to do each other in. Despite a fair amount of breasts, blood, bullets, and bravado, though, Terminal Island never rises to the inspired level of something like Caged Heat. Instead, it plods along in a rather workmanlike fashion, with neither much directorial flair nor obvious gaffes. Still, there's the curvaceous Davis (gracious!), plus a scruffy Selleck turning in a particle-board, gimme-my-check performance and The Hills Have Eyes' Whitworth. Also, you won't want to miss the theme song, "Too Damn Bad," croaked out by a third-rate Johnny Cash imposter. One of the few women directors of the Seventies, Rothman, another one-time associate of Roger Corman, independently produced this film with her husband, Charles S. Swartz.

--Jerry Renshaw

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