Saturday, July 29, 2017

1980 Week: The Exterminator



Offering a glimpse of where action movies were headed in the ’80s—less nuance, more ultraviolence—this borderline incompetent exploitation flick was the second directorial effort from shameless hack James Glickenhaus. Stealing the basic plot of Death Wish (1974) and juicing the material with a crass Vietnam-vet angle, Glickenhaus tells the ugly story of John Eastland, a former soldier who turns vigilante after Mafia thugs paralyze his best friend. Dubbed “The Exterminator” by reporters, John  feeds a villain into an industrial meat grinder, and he leaves a pair of criminals tied up on a garbage heap so they can be eaten alive by rats. Yet the most horrific sequence is a prologue set in Vietnam, during which John and his best friend witness enemy soldiers committing atrocities including beheadings. The idea, presumably, is that “The Exterminator” became a monster because his overseas experience made him that way. But then again, ascribing psychological depth to this movie is unwise, because Glickenhaus—who also wrote the screenplay—seems unfamiliar with the human experience that the rest of us acknowledge as reality. In Glickenhaus’ skewed universe, violence justifies violence, so it’s okay that, for instance, the movie’s antihero murders a guard dog with an electric knife because he’s on a mission to steal money from mobsters. The Exterminator has a fever-dream quality, seeing as how many pieces seem to be missing; the story makes bizarre leaps forward, and it frequently appears Glickenhaus got only two-thirds of the shots needed for each scene. What’s more, whenever The Exterminator veers into a laughable subplot about a cop (Christopher George) romancing a doctor (Samantha Eggar), it’s as if pieces of another bad movie got spliced into Glickenhaus’ vile revenge fantasy. The Exterminator is brisk and eventful, but if this is your idea of a good time at the movies, seek help.

The Exterminator: LAME

4 comments:

Unknown said...

What a scold you are. For what is was...it was okay.

Unknown said...

Mmm... Well If you want a look at what a hellhole NYC was 40 years ago you could alot worse than checking out this savage little number or go watch Woody's Manhattan again!

Cindylover1969 said...

I always think of The Paper Chase rather than The Exterminator (or its terrible sequel) when Robert Ginty comes up.

Andrew Curtis said...

As I've said elsewhere on here, I saw this when I was about eleven. We used to rent videos on a Saturday, watch them and then - to get my dad's money's worth - I'd watch them again on Sunday morning before cycling them back to the shop. My dad showed absolutely no concern about the violence or sleaziness, but has a hang-up about bad language, so when I watched it for the second time he made me turn the volume down. Sociologists may be interested to learn that I've never committed an act of violence in my life - and that I swear constantly.

Anyway, for a short period in the 90s I became obsessed with this film (yes, I *did* need help :-). I decided to buy it, but the girl in Woolworth's was snotty with me, so I rented it from the local library (as in books, not videos). Each time I saw it my opinion of it would be different: all right, terrible, excellent revenge movie, etc. It's been many years since I last saw it, but if I ever watch it again I'll try to note if this review affects my reading of it.

To make up for boring everyone into a coma with irrelevant details of my life I'd like to point out that that this blog contains same damn fine writing and ask: are there any plans for a book?