follow us on twitter

dOc on facebook

Microsoft Store

Share: email   Print      Technorati.gif   StumbleUpon.gif   MySpace   digg.gif delicious.gif   google.gif   magnolia.gif   facebook.gif
Permalink: Permalink.gif

Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

All Day Entertainment presents
Treasure Island (1999)

"We want it to work. So we load him: letters to his sweetheart, tickets from the OPA, some script, clippings like...exactly like he was alive once."
- Frank (Lance Baker)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: February 27, 2001

Stars: Lance Baker, Nick Offerman, Jonah Blechman
Other Stars: Pat Healy, Suzy Nakamura, Rachel Singer, Stephanie Ittelson, Daisy Hall
Director: Scott King

Manufacturer: Complete Post
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (full-frontal male nudity, sexual situations, language)
Run Time: 01h:23m:03s
Release Date: January 30, 2001
UPC: 014381026634
Genre: offbeat

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-AB+ A-

DVD Review

Writing a review of Scott King's Sundance award-winning Treasure Island is rather difficult, since so much of what makes the film unique and intriguing upon viewing is how the relationships are not made clear at first. The film is, as the director suggests, a mystery where the mystery is who these people are and how their stories fits together. Along with this is a hallucinatory and unsettling manner of presentation, making this a picture that is one of the few that can approach Eraserhead in its madness. By contrast, however, the 1945 setting is reproduced faithfully, with extreme (or as King puts it, psychotic) attention to detail. Scott King could, if the budget presented itself, be the next Erich von Stroheim.

Without giving too much away, the story is loosely based on a real event that occurred during World War II. A pair of cryptologists, Samuel (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Lance Baker) are assigned the task of making a body (Jonah Blechman) a decoy for the Japanese; along with bogus plans to lay the groundwork for the invasion of Japan, a solid backstory, with letters and documents, has to be created for the body. By their writing of this backstory, we learn a great deal more about these characters than they know about themselves, and it also throws a great deal of light on sexual and racial attitudes of the time, which aren't quite consonant with our collective memory of 1945 as it is presented to us in Hollywood pictures. As Frank and Samuel proceed with their task, The Body starts to insert himself into their lives to a disturbing degree, assuming a variety of roles and ultimately triggering a folie à deux.

The sexual component of this film is presented unflinchingly, with the filmmaker's avowed desire to obtain an 'X' rating. While the women are never presented in any more revealing situations than their underwear, there is a great deal of male nudity and sexuality present. In addition to homoeroticism, Treasure Island's sexual world involves group sex, bigamy and fetishism for disease. In short, don't be looking for children's stories of pirates and doubloons here.

The cast turns in terrific performances throughout, beautifully capturing their characters. Jonah Blechman in particular, as The Body, is almost chameleonlike as he goes from corpse to homoerotic love object, to Charlie Chan to human code. The two main leads, Baker and Offerman display great subtlety in communicating to the viewer the subtext of what their characters are saying, often in complete contrast to the actual words.

King, in his desire to make a 1940s film, is so devoted to the point that he intentionally disregards the last sixty years of motion picture history. Only a handful of dolly shots are used. Cutting is minimal, and often serves only to make a medium shot a slightly closer shot. Focus is extremely shallow, and King uses this effectively to place emphasis on parts of a scene which wouldn't normally be the focus. Because the relationships are so mysterious, appreciation of the picture increases with successive viewings.

Treasure Island is hardly for everyone, but those with a taste for the offbeat and the patience to devote several viewings to it, and without reservations about fairly graphic sexuality (though this is not by any means hard core) will find a lot to like here.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Judging the 1.33 image (in keeping with the 1940s motif) is a little difficult for a number of reasons. Quite a bit of dirt and frame damage is intentionally built into the print, and the extremely shallow focus makes parts of the picture seem improperly soft. The special processing also tends to emphasize the film grain. However, the very high video bitrate of about 8 Mbps makes it clear that we're getting a clear approximation of the cinematic presentation, as does the startling clarity and crispness present when there is a clear focus. The greys are an impressive range (almost nothing is actually white), and there are some quite solid blacks.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is a 2.0 mono, again in keeping with the 1940s presentation idea. The sound has occasional noise but is essentially quite clear and palatable. Hiss is very limited. The music has a very dated and somewhat tinny quality, again most likely an intentional effect.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
Isolated Music Score with remote access
2 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by writer/director Scott King; Cinematographer Scott King
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:56m:58s

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills
Extras Review: All Day Entertainment provides a first-rate special edition presentation of this quirky film. Most invaluable are the two commentaries by Scott King, which go a long ways towards explicating the picture and its production. Amusingly, the articulate and witty King assumes two different personae for his commentaries, doing one as the director/writer and the other as the cinematographer. Obviously the latter is more technically oriented, but both are intriguing and well worth listening to. The one omission that I do regret is the lack of subtitles, since King often makes reference to dialogue which is inaudible and subtitles would make these references clearer.

Storyboards are included, with scene comparisons, for a full forty scenes, nearly the entire film. Many dozens of stills, most of which are behind-the-scenes shots, are also presented. Two brief featurettes are here. A making-of puff piece (08m:16s) is rather vacuous, although it is somewhat intriguing to see these people in color after spending all this time with them in glorious black and white. We also get a somewhat comical look at the picture's presentation at Sundance, where it won a special jury prize (though its reception is discreetly skipped over in the featurette). Three deleted scenes also appear on the disc, although they are more appropriately considered extended scenes, just slightly longer than scenes still present in the main film. Wrapping up the package are a trailer and an isolated score which emphasizes the slightly noir air which the music by Chris Anderson lends the picture.

The case is definitely the most unique that I've ever seen for a DVD. It is a hardcover book, presented in a slipcase, with a message from the producers about the film. The disc rests in a section of hollowed-out pages in code much like a book safe, nicely echoing the film's themes about secrets and hidden meanings. The spindle for the disc is a styrofoam core that makes me rather queasy about handling; its durability seems dubious at best. However, as a whole this is a rather amazing presentation for a film that hardly anyone has heard of.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

A decidedly bizarre and mysterious vision of sexual life in 1945 America, well worth consideration for the not-too-prudish. Very highly recommended.


Back to top

Microsoft Store

On Facebook!
Promote Your Page Too



Original Magic Dress.com

Susti Heaven

Become a Reviewer | Search | Review Vault | Reviewers
Readers | Webmasters | Privacy | Contact
Microsoft Store