Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Exterminator (1980)

James Glickenhaus is the man behind three of my favorite action films from the eighties: The Soldier, The Protector and McBain (okey, it’s from 1991 – but it feels like something from the 80’s) and strangely enough, The Exterminator has never been a favourite of mine. Maybe I expected something else when I first saw it, but even later when I saw the unrated version on DVD I felt it missed something, that famous “it”. Not that it’s boring, I can recommend it to 100 % to those that appreciate exploitation like this, but it just lacks that famous Glickenhaus-energy.

After a spectacular and gory ‘Nam-flashback that sets up the relationship between best buddies John Eastland (Robert Ginty) and Michael Jefferson (Steve James) we jump to 1980 and a gritty and equally violent New York, at that time home to every pervert on earth (according to the movies anyway). After Michael is attacked and left paralyzed only surviving with the help of the hospital staff and machines, John sets out on a tour of revenge, not only for the thugs that attacked his old friend, but for every bad guy out on the streets – from pedophiles to robbers. After him is the street-smart detective James Dalton (Christopher George), a man who won’t stop for nobody!

It’s more or less a rip-off on Death Wish and all the other revenge-movies from the same time, just shot with less style and more focus on slow-motion and wild stunts. Not counting the decapitation in the beginning, it’s not an overly gory movie either, but of course violent, bloody and with a sleazy atmosphere that most of the times stays a bit distanced to the story, a bit forced if I might say so. As you can guess, The Exterminator isn’t a perfect movie by any means, but it’s a must to own on the new BD from Synapse. It goes on for 100 minutes and is never boring, the New York locations are great as usual (I always felt that NY is the best city in HD) and a good cast consisting of Christopher George, Robert Ginty and Samantha Eggar makes it worth watching.

Ginty is still a quite odd choice for a leading man. He always looks a bit confused, but not in that dangerous cool movie Vietnam veteran way, and has a facial look that resembles a weird huge baby girl. He kept is baby fat quite long, but got a more mature look later. But he’s a good actor, but I never really been able to see him as an action hero. I was also happy to see the excellent actor Tom Everett as the hotel clerk. It must have been one of his first parts, ten years before his iconic turn as Alfred in Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.

I’m not the one that complains about stuff like this, but it’s interesting to notice that this version of The Exterminator actually is censored. It’s nothing special, just some nudity – but this time it’s a dick (or maybe not, it’s very hard to see) and I can promise you that if it was a nude woman there would be “Boycott The Exterminator blu-ray”-groups on Facebook and stilly stuff like that. Glickenhaus was forced to censor a nude photo on a wall because the MPAA thought it looked like an erected penis, and just used some Vaseline to censor this dangerous piece of nudity. The earlier Scandinavian release of the director’s cut is complete. Here are photos as a comparison taken from the new Synapse BD and the old unrated Scandinavian DVD, a technology failure prevented me from take proper screenshots today:

But this is of course not important, just a small detail, The Exterminator BD is still a fantastic release with very nice picture quality and some good extras. Get it!

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