Exterminator, The (UK - BD RB)
Our Marcus wishes that this movie had lived up to its awesome 80s cover art...
Vietnam buddies John Eastland (Robert Ginty) and Michael Jefferson (Steve James) are making their way in New York after the war but when Michael is attacked and paralysed by a gang of thugs after he stopped them from robbing his workplace, John lets out all his built up Vietnam anger on anyone doing wrong on the New York streets and vigilante The Exterminator is born.
I must have picked up and looked at the cover image of the video for The Exterminator a 100 times as a kid. The striking image of a masked man with a flame thrower drew me in, yet I never actually got around to watching it. Until now. With the quite literally explosive opening sequence set in a not too convincing Vietnam War this is almost immediately a movie that hasn't survived the test of time. Half assed fight scenes, not all that great acting and visuals that look like a nasty episode of The A-Team, this 1980s cult hit follows a pretty routine revenge plot and then just has a play.
The relatively ropey editing doesn't help the movement of the plot all that much and the revenge for Michael's injuries is all under way before you even realise it. The side plot of taking out some twisted pervert who brutally scarred a prostitute with a soldering iron feels shoe horned in to make up some time and the thread with the cop who's always one step behind The Exterminator wants to make me believe the climax is a worthy pay off to the plot but it really isn't.
In the end The Exterminator isn't all that memorable and it's because the characters are so thin and forgettable. It certainly doesn't live up to the timeless cool of that cover for me and missing out on seeing it for all years doesn't feel all that big-a-deal now.
From the opening Vietnam scenes this is a surprisingly clean image. Sure its a little soft around the edges but it is nigh on grainless and even in the dark scenes colours are very good.
The TV shows of the 80s visuals are always apparant and the HD upgrade makes a lot of elements pop. Colours are the biggest benefactor with reds, yellows, blues and greens looking very strong within the fairly drab looking film. In fact at one point inside John's apartment, the mixture of these colours are so garish it feels like we're in a drab old comic book of the era.
Textures are good in close ups, though it does highlight all of the iffy effects work, especially skin pieces for cuts and wounds and really the only downside of this Blu-ray presentation is the odd bit of print damage and the ropey looking credits sequence.
The stereo mix is a very small sounding track with explosions and dialogue sounding almost mono in nature. There's pretty much no sense of bass, the frantic score feels underwhelming and at peaks can sound shrill and uneven. The dialogue is clear enough but really does feel of-the-time and even though after a while you'll get used to the small scale of the track, small effects keep on reminding you of how old this film is and just how underplayed the sound design was.
The commentary track by Mark Buntman - the producer and writer/director of The Exterminator II is moderated by Calum Waddell and is pretty thorough. It starts with the success of the film, especially in the UK and goes into how the story came about and its obvious similarities to Death Wish. The producer seems quite open on all aspects of the movie and Waddell is obviously a fan and has a lot to ask.
The 'Introduction by James Glickenhaus' who wrote and directed The Exterminator is a waste of time 18 seconds long but 'Fire and Slice - The Making of Exterminator' (18:36 HD) is much more enjoyable with the director giving loads of behind scenes information (including mentioning legend Stan Winston who did the movies effects - he got much better then). The clips give an idea of what the SD presentation must look like and make this Blu-ray seem even better for the visuals and finally '42nd Street: Then and Now A Tour of New York City Former Sleeze Circuit from Director Frank Henenlotter' (15:07 SD) is a look at how New York has changed.
After reviewing Savage Streets a few months back I was hoping for another nostalgic trip back to the 80s with a movie I'd never seen before. The Extermintor sort of delivered but it highlighted the side of the old 80s movies that don't quite live up to the era's high points and reminded me of those shelf fillers that all felt a bit ropey compared to the big actioners that exploded out at me as a kid. The disc itself has a limited audio track and some great visuals considering the age of the film and the extras are quite good too, so fans should be pretty happy with this one.
* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 7th November 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English
Extras: Commentary, Making of, Interview with James Glickenhaus, 42nd Street Then and Now Featurette
Easter Egg: No
Director: James Glickenhaus
Cast: Christopher George, Samantha Eggar, Robert Gint,y Steve James
Length: 102 minutes
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