The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Exterminator (1980)

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It was in the comments section of the Death Wish V review that our friend Mr. Kenner at Movies in the Attic threw down the gauntlet, saying I was too squeamish, and that's why I didn't care for that one. I figured it was time to put up or shut up. And what better flick than The Exterminator, which is one of those ones that a guy like me with a site like mine should've covered by now. It's kind of a glaring omission in our review library. So I'm killing two birds with one stone, testing my squeamishness mettle, and knocking out a review that the DTVC has needed for years. Also, our friend Simon at Explosive Action covered this one too.

The Exterminator stars Robert Ginty (Moore Beef Stew) as a Vietnam vet working as a meat packer on the docks of New York with his old Vietnam vet buddy Steve James. James saved his life while they were over there, and when James has his neck broken by a gang of thugs, Ginty feels he owes it to him to get revenge. But it triggers something in him, something dark he thought he'd left behind in 'Nam, and now he can't stop, knocking off criminals in New York in some pretty grisly ways. Now the cops, and even the CIA want him dead. Will Ginty make it out alive?

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This is like an extreme Grindhouse version of Death Wish. In a sense, this is what Death Wish V was trying to be. Kenner mentioned the scene that would get me is the one where the prostitute is disfigured with a soldering iron, and he was right on some levels. If the bacon grease scene in Samurai Cop sufficiently turned me off, that scene would have to turn me off too, and it did; I'm wondering though if something like this actually happened in New York around that time. Where would Glickenhaus come up with something so depraved otherwise? And if that's the case, maybe I can forgive it. The thing is, there were some other weird things that they didn't show but hinted about that were a bit much too, like the guy whose face is eaten off by rats, but he's still alive. On the other hand, there are some really funny kills, like the mob boss that's run through the meat grinder. Yes, that's macabre too, but in such an over the top way it can't be anything but funny. I loved Ginty too, and Christopher George as the detective pursuing him was equally excellent; plus there's some really great action, so it has a lot to latch onto for real B-movie action fans, which is probably why it's such a cult classic.

When I think of a scene that's similar to the prostitute scene here, but worked, the Wings Hauser movie Vice Squad comes to mind. In that one, Hauser as the evil pimp kills Nina Blackwood in a very brutal way, and it's hard to watch too, but it's not like this was. Had they done something more like Vice Squad, kept that element of the injured prostitute, and kept Ginty's reason to kill the perpetrators, I think I would've been better with it. I get where this movie was going though-- how can you not when in the first fifteen minutes you see a guy peeling down a layer of skin on his neck after James cuts it open by choking him with some wire-- but there's a line between gratuitous and gory, and then just plain mean-spirited, and I think with the prostitute being disfigured with a soldering iron, Glickenhaus went across that line.

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Ginty Moore Beef Stew was awesome. He has this weird nonchalance, that almost borders on despondency, then he throws in some wry humor, and then he gets pissed, and when he gets pissed, it's chilling, which I think is the final piece to this puzzle to make him the perfect hero of this twisted movie. Unlike Paul Kersey in Death Wish, The Exterminator is slightly off, still coping with trauma from Vietnam; plus he was a highly trained soldier, not the way Kersey was a medic. It's a different dynamic from Death Wish, and Ginty does a perfect job carrying that off.

DTVC favorite Steve James has a small role in this as Ginty's friend, though he's also credited as the fight coordinator, so he had a bigger role behind the scenes. As a huge Steve James fan, it was disappointing to not see him in this more, especially since he's so great at the beginning. I don't know what kind of part he'd have had if it had been bigger, because the whole idea behind The Exterminator is he's a one-man army, I just love Steve James, and feel like the more Steve James the better. If that's wrong, I don't want to be right.

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I had to finish here with Christopher George cooking a hot dog by running electricity through two forks stuck on either end of it. Anyone who grew up with Mr. Wizard's World must remember that experiment. I wonder if this movie was where they got the idea for that one. I looked it up on imdb, and the show only ran one season. Wow, it seems like it was on forever-- that's probably why I remember the hot dog cooking one so well, because it was always being repeated!

The Exterminator is actually available on Blu-Ray, which is a testament to the film's large cult following. I gotta say, though it did cross the line a couple times, the fact that it was so brutal and so unapologetic, it kind of worked for me. At the very least, I can say it always kept me on edge. On the other hand, I prefer my action to be more fun, and disfiguring prostitutes with soldering irons doesn't quite work the way a Bridge of Dragons or Showdown in Little Tokyo does in that sense. Know your audience before you consider screening this with friends for a movie night, or know yourself before considering spending money for it. Kenner's right, it's not for the squeamish-- though I think I acquitted myself better than I expected.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080707/

16 comments:

  1. One of my all-time favorites. Balls to the walls bruta. Ginty is a low key badass, and that's what makes his character work. He doesn't go over the top, he underplays it. I love his reaction after he dispatches the guard dog.

    Oh, I hope you'll review Part 2. It's ridiculous; which is why I like it.

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  2. Nice review! This is classic Ginty. Looking forward to your take on the sequel too. We just got a copy of the 1st (director's cut blu-ray\dvd combo).

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  3. I do plan to do the second one at some point. I know you've hit that one Ty. I can't wait to see your take on this one. I was surprised I didn't see it on your site Video Vacuum. Is it there and I missed it?

    And my favorite Ginty moment was when he tells Christopher George that his fly is down. That was gold.

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  4. This is great!
    I actually have this one on my list to view sometime this week. Wasn't sure if I'd dig it or not but based on your review, I think I will and now I'm a little more excited to see it.

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  5. Ha, ha. This is an oldie, but goodie. I miss movies like this.

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  6. Yeah, this wasn't grindhouse to me. Just depressing and unpleasant. The other part is the brothel scene, that mixed with the soldering iron was just not right.

    I know you were mixed on Death Wish 5 but I'm afraid I have to call disagreement with you on this one. This movie is one of the only films ever made that i've felt morally repulsed by. The other being I Spit On Your Grave and Salo Or 125 Days Of Sodom.

    Also the mobster scene would've been funny had the mobster in question been a better set up villain, but he wasn't, he just gets lowered into a grinder for little reason.

    The disfiguring scene as well as the brothel scene for me were what cost the movie. Otherwise I would've been onboard, I could've even forgiven the meat grinder, but the latter two, it was despicable.

    Exterminator 2 on the other hand, that's purely grindhouse and he actually uses a flame thrower in it. I actually appreciate Ex 2 in a so bad it's funny way, Mario Van Peebles was good. Although the way Ginty's girlfriend character is handled did leave me a little hesitant to enjoy it too much.

    Sadly Robert Ginty died just recently at 60. Too bad.

    By the way, I'm Kenner, just got a new account.

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  7. Also Robert Ginty sort of looks like a cross between Paul McCartney and Christopher Walken.

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  8. Good read, and I like that you left out some spoilers...I liked the first one, eventhough I dont believe I wanna see it again anytime soon. The second one is a mess of a movie,has a lot going for it and a lot against...If I was into stuff like that Id probably do a fanedit of that one..Still I dont know why anyone would cast Robert Ginty for such a role.

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  9. I reviewed Part 1 but not 2 yet. I have it somewhere on VHS. May have to review it at some point.

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  10. Will be checking it out soon, this is one of those 80's violent b-movies I just love to watch, thanks for the review.

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  11. I'll be curious to see what you think robotGEEK. And I agree Ms Mariah, I miss movies like this too.

    I think Grindhouse-esque was where Glickenhaus was going with it, but I agree Kenner, it wasn't quite there. And I'm not mad at you at all for the way you feel about this one. We may disagree, but I can't argue with you. I'm definitely not going to defend this movie.

    Thanks Helford666. I do my best to avoid mentioning too much unless it's something big that I feel I need to discuss. Sometimes that gets me into trouble with readers, because they'll be like "how could you write this post and not mention this or that?" I'm curious to see what happens with part 2. I'll definitely be checking it out down the road.

    I couldn't find your part 1 review Video Vacuum. Was it in a multiple review post?

    Hey, no problem Film Connoisseur. This might be a good one for your site too, I think a lot of your readers will dig it.

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  12. Here's the link to my review. After reading over it again, I decided to post it under The Greatest Movies in the History of the Human Race tag. http://thevideovacuum.livejournal.com/510350.html

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  13. Ah, okay, I see. I'll have to check that out then, thanks for the link.

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  14. Saw this movie at 9 years old and haved loved it ever since (top 5 material). The (late) great Robert Ginty really underplays the role, but has a brooding intensity throughout. The movie has grindhouse themes, but was actually a modestly budgeted movie, with great production values. But despite that, it's still a nasty movie (and rightfuly so)
    If you didn't like the violence and sleaze in this one, then the sequel (by Cannon) will probably be right up your street (but it's worldsapart from this one)

    Can't believe no-one has mentioned the opening 'Decapitation' scene?....that's some badass Stan Winston FX right there.

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  15. He's right, Exterminator 2 was sort of fun.

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  16. 9 was a good year to first watch this one-- I believe I was that age when I first saw RoboCop. And I loved the decapitation scene at the beginning, it was much nicer than the guy peeling down a layer of skin.

    I'll definitely have to check out 2 eventually, especially if it's a Cannon flick.

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