"If you’re lying, I’ll be back"

No, that’s not a line from either of the ‘Terminator’ films. It’s from ‘The Exterminator’ (wonder if Schwarzenegger ever got round to watching this film…), a fantastic exploitation film from 1980, directed by James Glickenhaus and starring Robert Ginty (who also starred in the post apocalyptic Italian Sci-fi ‘Warrior Of The Lost World’, featured in an earlier post).
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Very much of it’s time (the American soldiers Vietnam experience is a theme of the film) and borrowing from other brutal revenge / vigilante films of the time (e.g. the Michael Winner / Charles Bronson ‘Death Wish’) ‘The Exterminator’ satisifies as a crude, violent action thriller.

The film kicks off in Vietnam, where John Eastland (Ginty) and his buddy Michael Jefferson (Steve James) are prisoner of the Vietcong. During this opening scene there is a brutal throat slahing / decapitation of an American soldier where the head flips back with the force of the blow (all captured in slow motion). It certainly grabs the attention (the effects were done by Stan Wilson, who later went on to work on blockbusters such as ‘Terminator 2’).

Eastland and Jefferson make it back from Vietnam, but find the seemingly lawless streets of New York as hazardous a terrain as Vietnam. It is here that a gang called the ‘Ghetto Ghouls’ take revenge on Jefferson for his part in foiling a robbery. This events leads Eastland on the path to revenge his friend, and it encompasses not only the ‘Ghetto Ghouls’, but Organised Crime as a whole, including protection racketeers, Mob bosses and leaders of child prostitution rings and their clients. There’s an FBI involvement in trying to track down the vigilante that doesn’t amount to much. The main action is centred around Eastland, and his vendetta. Its primal, thrilling stuff, seeing really bad people get really bad things done to them.

To dismiss this as a bad movie is a nonsense. It’s a tough thriller, with reasonable acting and fast pacing. Well worth a look.

There’s a couple of clips here of Eastland taking the law into his own hands, including the infamous ‘meat grinder scene’;

Meat Grinder Scene

Flame Thrower Scene

Links

The Exterminator on Wiki
Robert Ginty profile on Wiki

Reviews

Fast-Rewind review
BBC review

It left it’s mark. Apparently even Judge Dredds writers were inspired by ‘The Exterminator’ to produce a story called ‘The Executioner’, about a femal vigilante in Mega City One (as I recall, she was a trainee Judge at some point?).

The story raised questions about Dredd’s role as Judge, Jury & Executioner. Its reprinted several times – for more information;

2000ad The Executioner details

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