Sunday, 20 November 2011

Blu-Ray Review: The Exterminator

Directed By James Glickenhaus

Starring: Robert Ginty, Christopher George, Steve James, Samantha Eggar


Scorching the streets clean...

Flamethrowers ready as the alleyways of skid row are set ablaze with the brutal vengeance of one man... The Exterminator!

John Eastland has been to ‘Nam and he’s seen things... Things you wouldn’t believe. Surviving torture and witnessing the brutal deaths of his friends, John returns home to a tough neighbourhood in New York and his loving family. But when some local thugs take a crippling dislike to his best friend Mike, leaving him paralysed, something snaps in John. Did he fight the Vietcong for this?

Taking the law into his own hands, Eastland sets out to clean the streets of every low life, good for nothing gang banger, mobster and ghetto ghoul across the city in director James Glickenhaus’ (McBain) brutally violent vigilante classic.

The 70s spawned a wealth of gritty, sombre vigilante action movies. The most famous of these was the Dirty Harry series, (Ok, he was a cop but the style was more of a vigilante thriller than cop drama), and Death Wish. In fact the success of these movies paved the way for cheaper and sometimes, livelier, cash-ins.

Unlike some of its peers, The Exterminator escapes being 100% cheese by casting an actor in the lead that wasn’t a recognisable face or built like a brick out house. The softly spoken Robert Ginty wasn't your archetypal action hero but perfect for the role of a killer avenging an attack on his best friend, and then finding he likes taking out New York sleaze bags. It was almost an early Punisher film as the characters share some similarities and so do the set ups.

Glickenhaus was responsible for the silly but fun 1991 movie McBain and the also fun buddy cop thriller from 1988: Shakedown (known in the UK as Blue Jean Cop). Both McBain and The Exterminator show Viet Nam flashbacks. I prefer the over the top style of The Exterminator’s opening sequence; full of huge explosions and a memorable and grisly decapitation (courtesy of Stan Winston).

The audience is treated very much as an observer in The Exterminator. Glickhaus seems reticent in drawing the audience in, as if he wants to distance us from the actions of Ginty's John Eastland. After all, he does go about business in a particularly brutal and sadistic manner.

Christopher George (who you might recall from City of the Living Dead) is entertaining, but his scenes with Samantha Eggar seem superfluous and incites to the viewer to call for more brutal action. Steve James is woefully underused and it would be films like American Ninja that showcased his fighting skills and likeable personality. He died far too early at age 41.

I can't help thinking that Glickenhaus' vision wasn't quite met by the budget as the movie seems to be building towards a huge action set piece that doesn't get realised. This shouldn't put you off, The Exerminator is still worth watching.

The Picture and Audio Quality is much sharper than previous releases, although I much prefer the audio on the Synergy DVD release. However that release was a 4:3 ratio. The movie appears uncut but I think that it's missing a grisly image of two bad guys with their faces being eaten by rats. I can't get confirmation if it actually exists. 

Ok, so seeing the softly spoken Ginty dispatching the bad guys with ever increasingly inventive ways seems a bit far fetched but if you want a cold hard real look at killing, this movie isn't it. If you want a fun revenge flick with dark overtones then this is the one to get hold of. Judging from the pack shots, Arrow have provided the standard
With Arrowdrome having released McBain, I can only hope they release other Glickenhaus movies, like The Soldier. Blu-Ray releases of Shakedown and the Jackie Chan vehicle, The Protector, would be very welcome.

The DVD or Blu-Ray contains:
- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork
- Double-sided fold-out artwork poster
- Collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by critic David Hayles

The Blu-ray contains:
- Introduction to the film by director James Glickenhaus
- Fire and Slice: Making The Exterminator - An interview with James Glickenhaus
- 42nd Street Then and Now: A tour of New York's former sleaze circuit from director Frank Henenlotter
- Audio commentary with Mark Buntzman, producer of The Exterminator and writer/director of The Exterminator II, moderated by Calum Waddell.

Original Art by The Dude Designs

In original 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Original Uncompressed LPCM Mono Audio
Feature and extras 1080/24p Region ABC playable worldwide

Available now from all good stockists.

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