Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button

Feature


In a totalitarian near-future, defiant citizens are labeled ‘deviants’ and sentenced to brutal ‘behavior modification’ camps. But when new prisoners Anders (Steve Railsback) and Walters (Olivia Hussey) are chosen as human prey for rich people to hunt, they will be thrust into a nightmare of depravity, dismemberment, cleaved skulls, exploding heads, lesbians with crossbows, the insane hungers of a deformed cannibal circus freak, and more. (From Severin’s official synopsis)

 Turkey Shoot Severin Blu-ray
 Turkey Shoot AB DVD
Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Turkey Shoot (aka: Escape 2000 and Blood Camp Thatcher) would be the ultimate Ozploitation film if it weren’t for the fact that it doesn’t have a lot of quintessential Australian imagery. There is nary a single kangaroo, koala, crocodile, Fosters-swilling ‘dag,’ or scorching outback desert scene in the entire movie. If it weren’t for its quintessentially Australian crew – the director, producer Antony I. Ginnane, composer Brian May, and others – the locations might signify a Filipino production (Trenchard-Smith has said that the original script was set in the American South and that it was changed to a more ‘universal,’ unnamed future state). But this shameless mash-up of exploitation conventions fills more genre requirements than just about any other trash classic from just about any other corner of the world.

The film begins as a semi-allegorical dystopian sci-fi movie. So-called ‘social deviants’ that speak out against the government are captured and assigned to a behavior modification camp. But, as soon as the political prisoners are imprisoned, Turkey Shoot quickly shifts gears and becomes a vaguely future-set version of Don Edmonds’ death camp black comedy, She Wolf of the SS (1975). Unlike the majority of other Ilsa clones, Turkey Shoot doesn’t fetishize the Nazi component. Instead, it opts for a more generalized, fictional totalitarian regime – one that cheekily references the moral conservatives in charge of the Aussie, British, and American governments in the 1980s (Trenchard-Smith includes news reel footage of real-world police brutality over the opening credits and names the main villain ‘Thatcher’ after the UK PM). It’s like a lightly politicized, equal opportunity women in prison (WIP) movie (a men & women in prison movie, M&WIP?). Trenchard-Smith and his motley crew of screenwriters – Jon George & Neill D. Hicks (screenplay credit), David Lawrence, George Schenck, and Robert Williams (story credit) – muster a solid cavalcade of brutal beating, attempted rape, flogging, co-ed showering, humiliation, and immolation. The brutality and debasement tends to skew towards misogyny, but Turkey Shoot is progressive enough to skewer and strip the male prisoners, too.

 Turkey Shoot Severin Blu-ray
 Turkey Shoot AB DVD
But, just as Trenchard-Smith and company seem to be settling into a groove of torture and humiliation, the pseudo-futuristic prison camp narrative changes moulds again, morphing into a gruesome and campy adaptation of Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game. It’s certainly not the most bizarre version of Connell’s story – that honor is arguably divided between Elio Petri’s surrealistic comedy The 10th Victim (1965) and Ken Dixon’s cheesy, sci-fi girly flick Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1987) – but Turkey Shoot unleashes a gang of villains more outrageous than the costumed weirdos of Paul Michael Glaser’s similarly farcical The Running Man (1987). These include an effeminate and heavily-armed man with an ape-like, cannibal sidekick, a lesbian stereotype with a crossbow fetish, and a fat, woman-hating parody of the societal gatekeepers that Trenchard-Smith is not-so-subtly railing against.

In terms of technical execution and thematic richness, Turkey Shoot is definitely not Trenchard-Smith’s best film – that would be Dead End Drive-In, which is another not-so-subtle allegory about a near-future dystopia where social misfits are rounded into concentration camps (instead of being trapped in a brutal prison, the outcasts are locked into an expansive drive-in theater and numbed with junk food, drugs, and exploitation movies). But Turkey Shoot is the one film that best encapsulates his humble brand of crowd-pleasing cinema. It has a cartoonish appeal and solid sense of time management – both things missing from his earlier ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ exploitation opuses, The Man from Hong Kong (1975) and Stunt Rock (1978). The purposefully hammy performances and over-the-top occurrences make it easy to overlook his more respectable directorial nuances, but Turkey Shoot isn’t the Ed Wood-level trash-festival that critics have accused it of being. There are a number of outstanding stunt and action sequences and John R. McLean’s widescreen framing is tremendously dynamic.

 Turkey Shoot Severin Blu-ray
 Turkey Shoot AB DVD
Perhaps Trenchard-Smith’s finest quality is his ability to make an endlessly entertaining cult film from a notably troubled production. Behind-the-scenes anguish is not an exploitation rarity, but, based on the interviews recorded for previous DVD releases and Mark Hartley’s documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation (2008), literally no one involved enjoyed making Turkey Shoot. The location shooting was miserable, the actors were uncomfortable with the nudity and violence (not to mention the shamelessly vulgar subject matter), and the promised production time was sliced almost in half by producers who were exploiting a tax code loophole to make money off the film before it was even finished. As a fan, I have to wonder if tonal issues, including a couple of mean-spirited scenes that contradict the otherwise campy qualities and occasional narrative nonsense (beyond the general silliness of the concepts), might be the result of gaps in the production schedule, last-minute changes to the script, and/or scenes shot by the second unit (edit: I just finished the extras and the director verifies that, at the very least, the first act was awkwardly extended to compensate for the loss of budget).

Fun trivia: The second unit footage was directed by executive producer David Hemmings, who did not get along with Trenchard-Smith. Hemmings is better known for his acting roles, including star appearances in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup (1966) and Dario Argento’s Deep Red (1975), and supporting appearances in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000) and Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002). Though he spent most of his career in Europe, Hemmings appeared in Rod Hardy’s Thirst (1979) and Simon Wincer’s Dark Forces ( Harlequin, 1980) – both Antony I. Ginnane productions – before joining Ginnane in a production capacity on Michael Laughlin’s Dead Kids (aka: Strange Behavior, 1981) and Turkey Shoot. His influence on Ozploitation extended to production duties on Ian Coughlan’s Alison’s Birthday (1981) and first-unit directing duties on The Survivor (1981) and Race for the Yankee Zephyr (also 1981).
 
 Turkey Shoot Severin Blu-ray
 Turkey Shoot AB DVD

Video


Between Blu-ray premieres of Dead Kids, Thirst, Richard Franklin’s Patrick, and Trenchard-Smith’s BMX Bandits, and DVD versions of Sandy Harbutt’s Stone, and John Lamond’s Felicity, The ABCs of Love and Sex, Australia After Dark, and Nightmares (not to mention a DVD collection of trailers) Severin is becoming the go-to source for Ozploitation on digital home video. They acquired Dead Kids, Thirst, and Patrick last year from Synapse (who maintained and re-released a beautiful Blu-ray version of Colin Eggleston’s Long Weekend) and snagged Turkey Shoot from Anchor Bay, who seems to have lost the rights to just about every interesting horror/exploitation movie in their once grand catalogue (I guess they might still have Evil Dead and Dawn of the Dead?). Anchor Bay’s anamorphic DVD, which carried the Escape 2000 title, was created via a then-new InterPositive of the uncut edition and was easily the best transfer among a number of international releases (some of which re-used it). According to specs, Severin did not reuse that scan and opted to restore the film in HD from (possibly the same?) vault materials.

The results are an improvement over the already very nice SD transfer and this 1080p, 2.35:1 image follows the precedent set by last year’s Ozploitation Blu-rays. Besides a general lack of compression artefacts, there are notable improvements in detail, sharpness (without haloing issues), and clarity – especially during the busier of the wide-angle shots. The colour-timing has been warmed significantly compared to the relatively cool AB release, though the results aren’t nearly as stark and overcooked as Severin’s Thirst and Dead Kids discs. The DVD’s slightly overcast skin tones, sand hues, and other brown colours now appear more naturally sunny. Blues and greens maintain their overall consistency, too, and overall hue effects are vivid. Shadows and contrast are more delicate than they appear on the crushy DVD. Looking at the images as they appear on this page, it may seem like the new transfer is darker than AB’s, but, if you click to enlarge the screen caps, you’ll see that the DVD’s whites are harsh and blown-out. Severin may have applied noise reduction, because the grain sometimes appears soft, but there’s still enough texture and minor film-based damage to make me assume they kept things as natural as possible. Also note that this Blu-ray’s framing reveals slightly more information on the sides and slightly less on the top. DVDCompare.com claims that Australian company Gryphon Entertainment also released Turkey Shoot, but I believe they are mistakenly referring to the remake.

 Turkey Shoot Severin Blu-ray
 Turkey Shoot AB DVD

Audio


Anchor Bay’s Turkey Shoot DVD included a 5.1 remix of the film’s original mono soundtrack, but Severin has wisely chosen to stick to the source material, which is available as a 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio track. Aside from the occasional crackle and hiss, everything sounds clear and the single channel sound design doesn’t flatten the action scenes or overlapping dialogue. The aural field is relatively well-layered for an early ‘80s exploitation flick as well by including basic environmental ambience. As mentioned in the Feature section, Australia’s busy composer, Brian May (no relation to the Queen guitarist) supplied Turkey Shoot’s mixed electronic and traditional score, which is underutilized and sometimes lackadaisical. Still, it’s entertaining, especially the flowery action cues.

 Turkey Shoot Severin Blu-ray
 Turkey Shoot AB DVD

Extras


  • Commentary with Brian Trenchard-Smith – This is the same commentary track that appeared on Anchor Bay’s DVD (as well as the Aussie DVD from Umbrella Entertainment and the German DVD from Cine Club). The incredibly eloquent director describes all of the trials and tribulations of the film without being particularly negative or spending time pointing fingers. In fact, he tends to point the finger at himself most of the time. His memory for details is sharp, but there are a few dips where a moderator may’ve helped keep things on track.
  • The Ozploitation Renaissance (26:30, HD) – This is the one extra produced specifically for this release. It is roundtable discussion with Trenchard-Smith, producer Antony I. Ginnane, and Ozploitation cinematographer Vincent Monton ( Fantasm, Thirst, Road Games, and Long Weekend). Ginnane is the unifying element here, so the discussion surrounds his movies, some of which Trenchard-Smith directed and some of which Monton shot. It includes clips from the trailers of pertinent movies.
  • Extended Interviews from Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation (1:17:10, SD) – An extensive collection of used and unused interviews from Mark Hartley’s documentary. Interview subjects include Trenchard-Smith, Ginnane, make-up effects designer Bob McCarron, and actors Steve Railsback, Lynda Stoner, Roger Ward, and Gus Mercurio. I suppose a re-edited, standalone documentary version of the interviews that included footage form the film would be preferable, but this’ll do (especially since Hartley’s doc already exists).
  • Turkey Shoot: Blood & Thunder Memories (23:40, SD) – This retrospective featurette is another hold-over from previous DVDs and includes interviews with actors Michael Craig, Roger Ward, and Lynda Stoner.
  • A Good Soldier (9:50, SD) – Another extra imported from the old DVDs.
  • Turkey Shoot trailer
  • Escape 2000 alternate title sequence (1:40, HD)


 Turkey Shoot Severin Blu-ray
 Turkey Shoot AB DVD

Overall


If you were only planning on seeing one Ozploitation classic in your lifetime (which is a weird goal, I’ll admit), I’d recommend putting Turkey Shoot at the top of that list. It has the broadest grindhouse appeal and the most consistent entertainment value. It’s also a gateway drug to an incredibly diverse collection of unique B-movies, which might make you change your mind on your hypothetical ‘one Ozploitation movie’ rule. Severin has done a fine job with this Blu-ray debut, from the natural and vibrant new HD transfer to a well-maintained, uncompressed soundtrack, and a nice mix of old and new extras. Hopefully this release will sell well and Severin can do the same with other Aussie genre standouts, Maybe Dead End Drive-In, Tony Williams’ Next of Kin (1982), Mario Andreacchio’s Fair Game (1986), or (dare I dream) Arch Nicholson’s Dark Age (1987).

 Turkey Shoot Severin Blu-ray
 Turkey Shoot AB DVD

 Turkey Shoot Severin Blu-ray
 Turkey Shoot AB DVD

 Turkey Shoot Severin Blu-ray
 Turkey Shoot AB DVD

 Turkey Shoot Severin Blu-ray
 Turkey Shoot AB DVD

 Turkey Shoot Severin Blu-ray
 Turkey Shoot AB DVD

* Note: The above images are taken from Severin's Blu-ray and Anchor Bay's DVD, then 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.


Links: