King of Devil's Island (2010)

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Released 12-Sep-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 112:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Marius Holst

Madman Entertainment
Starring Stellan Skarsgård
Benjamin Helstad
Kristoffer Joner
Trond Nilssen
Morten Løvstad
Daniel Berg
Odin Gineson Brøderud
Magnar Botten
Magnus Langlete
Agnar Jeger Holst
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Johan Söderqvist

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Norwegian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Loosely based on historical events, King of Devil's Island is a tense Norwegian made drama about a rebellion at a boy’s reform school. The power of the film is emphasised not only by the strong performances from the largely unknown cast but also the wonderful, bleak setting.

     It is 1915. There has been a boy's home on the island of Bastoy since the turn of the century. It is a cold, desolate environment. Like Alcatraz, no one has escaped from Bastoy, not the least due to the frigid waters surrounding the island. Bastoy is presided over by the tough governor, played by Stellan Skarsgard. He believes that with uncompromising discipline and toughness the boys can be reformed as good Christian souls.

     When two new boys arrive on the island there is a buzz of excitement. Could it be that 17-year-old Erling, played by newcomer Benjamin Helstad, is a murderer? He enters the reform school as a tough young man but his fellow inductee Ivar is a half-wit, a weak and sensitive young man. At the island they are no longer known by name -he becomes C19 and Ivar becomes C5. There are two leaders in control of the boys, C1 (Trond Nilssen) has been on the island for six years and, all things being well, is about to get his ticket of leave. He is the head boy in the C Barracks and wants things to run smoothly. The other is housefather Braaten (Kristoffer Joner). He has been on the island for nine years and the governor finds it difficult to understand why he has stuck with this somewhat menial role.

     The reasons are shocking. When the housefather asks C5 to come off forest duty and work in the laundry there is a chill in the air. The boys know what that means. It is the first seed in a growing dissent that will eventually blow out into an open rebellion.

     The King of Devil's Island is a tense and often moving drama. Apart from the despicable abuser Braaten, taking advantage of the weak C5, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. The governor clearly believes in his mission but his methods are unsound and doomed to failure. The ringleaders Erling and Olav may not be model prisoners but they are decent and look after their fellow boys.

     It is hard not to get drawn into this dark and frigid world. The snow lies thick around the reform school and the boys are at the mercy of the housefather as well as the elements. Whether the film is truly consistent with the history of the island is a matter for the historians. Recommended.

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Transfer Quality


     King of Devil's Island was shot on 35mm film and projected at the cinema at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. That ratio has been preserved for this DVD release. It is 16×9 enhanced.

     This is a quality DVD transfer. The film is sharp throughout, as crisp as the snow lying underfoot. The detail on the costumes is superb. The blacks are inky. There is a light grain giving the film a filmic look.

     There is no compression issues despite the amount of fog about, which can often play havoc with compression.

     The flesh tones are accurate.

     There are subtitles in English.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     King of Devil's Island carries a Norwegian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. It runs at 448 Kb/s.

     The dialogue is at the forefront of the mix. It seems clear throughout. The surrounds are well used to give a strong impression of the all-encompassing environment from the wind rustling the trees to the driving snow. The sub-woofer is only really used to emphasise the base.

     The soundtrack is provided by experienced composer Johann Soderqvist (Let the Right One In, Brothers, The Road). His score is powerful and moving throughout. Music is also provided by Scandinavian superstar's Sigur Ros in the form of Vaka from the album ().

There are no technical defects with the sound.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.


    The Region 1 version of this film is accompanied by a single real extra being an unrelated short film. Buy local.


     The King of Devil's Island is a tense and sometimes dark experience. Fans of Scandinavian cinema and those who like prison dramas will get a lot from this film. The performances are really good and the environment is dramatic.

     The DVD transfer is excellent in sound and vision terms.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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