People compared Treasure Island with the works of directors like David Lynch and Guy Maddin. There are undeniable similarities, especially with the weird disjunctive atmosphere of Lynchs Eraserhead (1977) and the kitsch deadpan of Guy Maddin. Despite Kings bold claim Youve never quite seen anything like Treasure Island, what the film ends up resembling is the work of Englands Dennis Potter, tele-scribe of masterworks like Pennies from Heaven (1978), Blue Remembered Hills (1979), The Singing Detective (1986), Track 29 (1988), Blackeyes (1989), Lipstick On Your Collar (1993) and Karaoke (1996). Potter loved to disrupt normal, everyday events with surreal blurrings of fiction and the real, or have characters burst into musical daydream.
Of course, Scott King lacks the brilliance of a Dennis Potter. Although you cannot deny that he tries hard at times, Treasure Island is such a dense text of surrealistic juxtapositions that are constantly playing with expectations that you almost cry out for a set of primer notes to keep track of all of Kings allusions and images. Treasure Island acts as a deconstruction of 1940s thrillers the idea is taken from the film The Man Who Never Was (1956), which was about the true-life plan to manufacture the identity for a corpse and plant papers on it to mislead the Germans about the Allied Invasion during the War. In Scott Kings stated intentions I wanted it to be like a 1940s B thriller but one in which you were never sure what could happen that Montgomery Clift could come in, but drop his pants. Kings greatest forte here is a sense of deadpan humour. There are some hysterical sex scenes with Nick Offerman and his wife Daisy Hall asking people to join in or making out in a church, which are played in banally flat 1940s style dialogue. King also statedly wanted to make a film where the audience could never guess what was stable from one moment to the next. There are some occasionally clever moments notably a scene where Nick Offerman is having a conversation with the body in his living room where it seems that what is happening is going on inside his head until his wife enters and starts wondering what the body is doing there, a scene that leaves one with a marvellously achieved sense of bewilderment as to what on earth is going on. There is another such scene during a military trial where the camera pans along a stony-faced line of accused military, which suddenly jarringly shows one man in golliwog makeup. There are also some fine scenes with conversations between Nick Offerman and Pat Healy that take place on one level with Offerman inquiring about joining the Air Force but are played in such a way that there is an undeniable sense of repressed homosexual attraction.
The problem with Treasure Island is that Scott King is a filmmaker who has too many ideas. The film is packed to brimming point with things that King is trying to tell us and the effect is akin to watching an exhibition of surrealist art where the artworks are being whisked by us every fifteen seconds without any chance to absorb the juxtapositions. There is meaning clearly there but the film needs multiple readings for much of it to become apparent. Many things are never clear you are never sure who all of Lance Bakers wives and girlfriends are. Is he a bigamist or are some of these flashbacks? It only becomes apparent in the Q&A session with Scott King after the screening of the film that Lance Baker is meant to be multiply married and continuing a double-life and that the dead body represents a fear of his losing his control of them.
A film like this filled with constantly shifting reference points is hard to follow. Surrealism, after all, means nothing if there is no clearly established point of normality for it to be placed in contrast to. One can appreciate Scott Kings intent and there are frequent abovementioned moments when the disorientation he aims at works but the more packed the film becomes, the greater is the danger of intent becoming lost in affect and as King freely admits of audiences walking out. At least, King also candidly admitted, this screening at San Franciscos Lumiere theatre had the lowest audience walkout rate of any showing up to that point.
Scott King has yet to make another film.