Director: James Glickenhaus
Cast: Robert Ginty, Christopher George, Steve James
Disk Extras: Audio commentary with director James Glickenhaus / Theatrical trailer and TV spots
The grimy, sleazy, crime-ridden streets of 1980 New York City is the Mecca for exploitation, horror and classic adult film geeks. There are books and documentaries detailing the stories of sex, drugs and violence in the very Times Square theaters where they were showing movies about that very same thing. So a film that was made in NYC during that era automatically gets “cool points” right up front. A perfect example of that is James Glickenhaus’ (The Protector) extremely grim and ultra violent revenge flick The Exterminator. Set in that cesspool of depravity, the film mirrors the real life problems New York was having at the time with a very high crime rate. But this time, Robert Ginty (Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man) plays “… The Man They Pushed Too Far!” in this movie that Roger Ebert called “a sick example of the almost unbelievable descent into gruesome savagery”. Who wouldn’t want to see it after that sales pitch?
John Eastland (Ginty) is a Vietnam vet and P.O.W. survivor now living in New York City and working at a meat packing plant with his war buddy Michael (Steve James, The Warriors) who is severely beaten into paralysis by a street gang. Eastland vows to take revenge on the punks by using his skills as a soldier. But he doesn’t stop there, he knows that his boss is being shaken down by the local mafia thugs so he takes it upon himself to step in. By this time the police, led by Detective Dalton (Christopher George, City of the Living Dead) have put two and two together and realize they have a vigilante on their hands. With Dalton stalking him, Eastland continues his violent reign of terror on the seamy underbelly of New York taking on people like a chicken hawk (a man who likes young boys) pimp and his disgusting customers. If the police catch up to “The Exterminator”, will they even want to arrest him?
If you haven’t figured it out already, I fucking love this movie. It is the epitome of what an exploitation movie should be; violent, sleazy and unrelenting. Glickenhaus captured all of the greasy, filthy action in some of the best set-pieces ever on film. In the first five minutes of the movie, during a flashback to Vietnam, we are treated to a slow-motion beheading and a VC soldier running while engulfed in flames! The plethora of giant explosions in The Exterminator were often in slo-mo as well which looks fucking sweet in high definition. My favorite kill of the whole movie was a huge, industrial-sized meat grinder used to make mafioso hamburgers… YEUCK, too much garlic! One thing that makes this unbelievable movie at least plausible is John Ginty’s portrayal as the compassionate “every man” bent on revenge. He’s not some buff, tough looking action star but pulls off the kills by using his smarts and deadly military skills.
This beloved extreme action/revenge/thriller was begging for a quality high definition release and Synapse Films really pulled it off. The transfer from the original vault materials is near flawless. The clarity is there save a few of the dark scenes that understandably look a little fuzzy as older low-budget movies are wont to do. The color palette is bright and really pops like in the scenes in the chicken hawk whore house where the walls are very vibrant. The gorgeous shots of Manhattan from the air looked like you were looking out a window. During the opening credits we are treated to sweeping night shots and the closing credits feature the city in the daytime. Blu-ray was made for shots like that. There is a default mono soundtrack but my advice is to switch over to the newly restored and robust stereo track. This DVD/blu-ray combo pack from Synapse is a real treat for fans of old grindhouse theater revenge flicks and you don’t even have to watch where you step while watching it!
Pick up yours today!!