Plot: What’s it about?
In the waters off the coast of San Francisco lies Treasure Island, where two men spend hours looking through letters, postcards, and all sorts of other mailings. The words are scoured and rescoured, as the men search for hidden texts, codes, and secret messages. You see, World War II is in full swing, so the men have to hunt through the documents for hidden codes, which could reveal important information to help in the cause. Once a piece of mail has been cleared, it is sent back out again and heads off to the original destination. But in addition to looking for hidden messages, they also intend to send one out, which they hope the Japanese will discover and take as truth. Frank (Lance Baker) and Samuel (Nick Offerman) have secured a corpse, which they intend to plant in the ocean, loaded with false coded information, in an effort to throw the Japs off course. But as the two men write the letters to include, they become obsessed with who this man should be and even interject parts of themselves into the work, all while trying to deal with their own inner problems.
I had heard a lot about Treasure Island, so when All Day Entertainment (via Image Entertainment) issued this unusual film on our beloved format, I had to take a look. I do think this movie is just as offbeat as people claim, but it is also by no means disturbing or confusing, which some claim. I can see how the loose storyline and tangents could throw some folks off, but to me, this seems like a normal storyline, told in a very unusual fashion. Is this mainstream cinema? Not even close, but it is not something to label as nonsense either, although some sequences could baffle a crowd. Treasure Island features some repetition, which fits in with the characters, but I can see how some would dislike it, even though it is important to the plot here. This picture also contains some male nudity and sexual situations, which might scare some off, but work within the storyline, so you can’t call it senseless. Is this an easy to swallow motion picture? Not even close, but it does have a lot to offer, even on a quick surface scan. I’ve found this to get better each time, so if you’re interested and have the time, let this one settle over a couple viewings, I think you’ll notice a lot more. I know this release doesn’t speak to everyone, but fans of unusual and offbeat cinema will not want to miss this one, as Treasure Island is, just as the box claims, like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
This was his feature film debut as a director, but Scott King seems to have had few problems here. Of course, King uses a lot of elements from other genres to create Treasure Island, but he makes it all seem unique here, even if you recognize those elements. So if you take this one apart, you’ll find pieces of all sorts of movies and genres, but when those pieces work together, they create something original and fresh. But of course, how you view this is all subjective, I can understand why some would call this a film of utter nonsense. At times, this movie uses strange means to an end, but I feel it works out along the path, even if the end is not your traditional one. But in truth, this can be viewed from other side, as offbeat filmmaking with nods to past efforts, or as a poor excuse for a David Lynch flick. I don’t think King’s work here is brilliance, but I do like this film and I hope to see more from him soon.
Video: How does it look?
Treasure Island is presented in a full frame transfer, which is how the film was intended to be shown. This was a low budget movie and it shows at times, but I do feel this is a more than solid visual presentation. The image shows some flaws of course, but this black & white transfer still looks good in the end. The black levels seem well balanced, never obscuring detail or allowing the image to brighten too much. The print shows some signs of wear, but this is due to the equipment used and by no means a fault of this transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is as dialogue driven as a film can be, with no real presence outside the vocals and musical score. But the elements sound good here, which is more than enough to allow me to score this one well. The musical score, which is available in isolated form on this disc, sounds terrific here and while not very full, still manages just fine. No complaints with the dialogue either, not too rich, but crisp and clean at all times, which is adequate in this case. Not much else to discuss, the included track is up to the task, but don’t expect much beyond the normal mono presence.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This kind of movie needs supplements, so thank goodness this disc comes loaded down with goodies. The disc holds two audio commentary tracks with writer/director Scott King, but both more than warrant a listen if you like the flick. The tracks focus on different aspects of the movie, with one honed in the production of Treasure Island, while the other deals with what it all might mean. I found these to be terrific tracks on the whole, each packed with insight and information, which is more than welcome with such a complex film. I was also pleased to find an isolated musical score included, as well as a selection of deleted scenes. While the scenes weren’t that important, it was cool to see what was cut or altered in the final version of Treasure Island. You can also view two featurettes here, one which deals with the events at Sundance, while the other is a more general behind the scenes piece. Also included here are some original storyboards, a wealth of DVD ROM content, and the film’s theatrical trailer.
In addition to the numerous bonus materials, this release is also packaged in a unique fashion. The usual slipsleeve (as was used for Fox’s Fight Club) houses a small, hardback book. Yes, a hardback book with real pages and those pages hold some notes from the producers, which is very cool. But about halfway into this book, the pages reveal the disc, which is hidden inside the book, like the old “gun inside a book” trick used in old suspense flicks. The disc is held on a thick foam hub and even after repeated usage, I saw no problems in terms of disc damage. I think it is only fitting that such an offbeat picture be given such an unusual packaging system, so kudos to those involved.