Terminal Island (1973)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jason Kleeberg is the host, writer, producer, and editor of the Force Five Podcast. In addition to being a podcaster, he’s a Blacklist screenwriter (The Gumshoe, Powerbomb, Anglerfish), filmmaker (Clarks), and Telly Award winner (2005) from the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s also an avid physical media collector. When Jason isn’t watching movies, he’s spending time with my wife, son and Xbox — not always in that particular order. This article originally ran on the Force Five site.

Terminal Island (1973)

Directed by Stephanie Rothman

Written by James Barnett, Charles S. Swartz and Stephanie Rothman

Starring Don Marshall, Phyllis Davis, Tom Selleck, Barbara Lee, and a shit load of denim

California has abolished the death penalty so they chuck all of their worst prisoners onto an island called San Bruno and let them do whatever they want there. The small group of prisoners has split into two factions – one that keeps women as sex slaves, and one that milks goats and has Tom Selleck.

Terminal Island is a slice of pure, 70’s exploitation trash. Directed by Stephanie Rothman, it’s less of a women in prison film and more Lord of the Flies. The story starts as a woman named Carmen Simms is dumped onto the island. She’s the audience surrogate, introducing us to the horrors she’s about to encounter as she’s immediately taken into the camp run by Bobby and Monk. There are a few other women there, but they are used as sex slaves, only there to serve the men…so much so that there’s a literal schedule each night for who each woman is assigned to “service”. AJ, a more liberal prisoner, has started his own society with a few other refugees. One night they free the women, leading to an all-out war between the two factions when Bobby and Monk realize their slaves are gone.

This film checks all of the exploitation boxes – the tough talking black guy, the creepy white chauvinist pig who tries to sexually assault someone every thirty minutes, blood that looks like the brightest candy red nail polish you can buy at Sephora, and killer dialogue like “Are you calling me a liar?” “I’d never call you that…I’d call you DEAD.” It’s quite a bit of fun, and although the typical lulls in between the action that were necessary to pad the run-time for low budget flicks are still here, they’re never really boring enough to allow you to get lost in your phone before the next battle begins.

One standout scene includes a woman getting revenge on the creepy rapey guy as she acts like she’s going to seduce him, puts honey on his dick and ass, and then smacks a beehive as he runs away in a panic. It’s like something straight out of an Austin Powers film. Speaking of dumb decisions, another scene has our bad guys pent up in a small hut, shooting at the heroes out of a small crack in the structure. Conventional wisdom says that it would have been easy to just fan out and run around to the other side of the hut, since the shooting radius was very small…but instead, our heroes send a person down straight into the line of fire…and once he’s dead, they send the next one down the same way…and once she’s dead, they send another one down the same way, like lemmings to the slaughter.

Terminal Island is a fun prison faction flick. If you like films like Ray Liotta’s No Escape or even Escape from New York, you’ll probably like this enough. It’s cheesy and the music sounds like it was peeled off of the floor of a 1970’s Times Square jerk theater, but the dialogue is fun, the violence is bloody, and the nudity is plentiful.

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