The Exterminator on Blu-ray

Monday, 07 November 2011 01:49

Embattled Vietnam Vet John Eastland (Robert Ginty – “Coming Home”) returns to New York to find an urban environment swamped in crime and corruption. His best friend and colleague Mike (Steve James – “American Ninja”) is crippled in a violent encounter with the local ‘Ghetto Ghouls’ gang, sending John on a vengeful rampage that starts with the rank and file mob elements and works up to major power brokers in the metropolis. No-one is safe.

Meanwhile, Detective James Dalton (Christopher George – “City of the Living Dead”, Fantasy Island) quickly works out that a single, highly skilled and well-equipped vigilante is taking out the city’s scum. The means do not justify the ends, so he must bring the killer to justice. As resourceful as Eastland is, sooner or later he will have to face the full force of the Law, the mob, or both.

The Exterminator comes to Blu-ray“The Exterminator” starts out feeling like a cheap, trashy and ultra-violent exploitation flick. Early scenes depict Eastland’s capture by and escape from the Vietcong, weirdly combining shoddy studio sets with exhilarating shots of a helicopter winding through a corridor of fireballs. A soldier is beheaded in a stunning example of Stan Winston’s craft.

Thereafter we witness rapid-fire scene after scene of Mike and then Eastland gunning down felons and insidious undesirables, burning them with a flamethrower or leaving them half-dead for the city rats to devour. It is not very subtle, and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

The acting initially feels lacklustre and James Glickenhaus’ direction blunders along, despite the high pace of the story. Fortunately things take a turn for the better when the movie decides to focus more on Dalton’s investigation into ‘The Exterminator’, and the cop’s romantic liaison with Dr Stewart (Samantha Eggar – “The Brood” and Picard’s sister-in-law in Star Trek: The Next Generation), the clinician tending to Mike. The film gains some much-needed emotional depth, not least when Mike asks his friend for an awful favour.

Ginty was a deliberately alternative casting choice by Glickenhaus. Audiences were accustomed to grizzly, chiselled-jawed hard-men like Charles Bronson and Sylvester Stallone. As the director says in the extras, he wanted a softer, more vulnerable leading man and Ginty certainly looks the part, resembling a slight, softly-spoken Mark Hamil, albeit with a steely, unswerving gaze. On the other hand, he rarely appears to be very vulnerable!

Amongst the more routine scenes of death and destruction there are a few choice sequences; one is a car chase that leads to a very tense denouement as a now on-foot Eastland faces down a hood’s muscle car, and another is the final showdown set at night in the city docklands, as the stealthy anti-hero tries to outwit his foes.

The film certainly looks very colourful and quite sharp in this new Blu-ray format, though the mono soundtrack takes some getting used to in these days of crystal-clear surround sound.

Special and technical features included in this release are:

  • Introduction to the film by director James Glickenhaus
  • “Fire And Slice: Making The Exterminator” - an interview with James Glickenhaus
  • 42nd Street Then And Now – a tour of New York’s former sleaze circuit with “Basket Case” director Frank Henenlotter
  • Audio commentary by Mark Buntzman, producer of “The Exterminator” and writer-director of “The Exterminator II”, moderated by Calum Waddell
  • Collectors’ booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by critic David Hayles
  • Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork
  • Double sided fold out artwork poster
  • Original 1.78:1 aspect ratio
  • Original uncompressed LPCM mono audio

Glickenhaus proves to be an interesting if slightly dry figure; more animated is Henenlotter, whose mini historical tour of 42nd Street is filled with amusing facts and a little frustration at a bus that interrupts his flow!

In summary, “The Exterminator” is certainly not a classic but it is reasonably entertaining once it starts fleshing out the characters and upping the stakes against Eastland. If you are going to see the movie, get it on Blu-ray for the superior picture and decent extras.

“The Exterminator” (1980) is out now, courtesy of Arrow Video. The running time is 98 minutes approx, certificate ‘18’, and the movie retails for £24.99 on Blu-ray, or less from

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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