Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Blood Camp Thatcher
None of us had a chance when we were picked to play Thatcher’s fucking game!
Being as I am actually English, and did grow up under Thatcher, I have to take issue with the above quote. Everyone survives playing Thatcher’s game. You won’t have a job, or be a productive member of society unless you’re a banker or something, but death isn’t on the cards. However, I’m not actually talking about that Thatcher, instead I’m talking about a ruthless Australian prison warden in a fucked up dystopian future. Incidentally, the alternative titles to this film are Escape 2000, and the quite magnificent Turkey Shoot. Turkey Shoot, by the way, is far and away the most appropriate title for this gloriously sleazy piece of exploitative schlock.
Contains massive amounts of violence and spoilers below.
In 1982 mostly unknown Anglo-Aussie B-movie director Brian Trenchard-Smith (of Leprechaun in Space and Meggido fame), was hired to film a strange little Australian B-movie exploitation take on the Most Dangerous Game. It’s the near future (I have to go with the year 2000, given the Aussie title, but I wasn’t really paying attention), and society has, unsurprisingly, collapsed. The government has decided to crack down on undesirables, and by labelling them as “deviants” allows the likes of Charles Thatcher (Michael Craig) to run horrendous re-education camps where “Freedom is obedience, obedience is work, work is life”. Thatcher, clearly, did not get enough attention from Mummy when he was growing up.
Entering his camp is Paul (Steve Railsback), a well-known dissident. He’s a bit self-righteous, but is strong, resourceful and has an iron will. Making friends with wet blanket Chris (Olivia Hussey), he starts to get on Thatcher’s nerves something fierce. Thatcher, however, is also using the camp to run his own personal hunts for the amusement of his rich friends Secretary Mallory (Noel Ferrier), a fat bastard, Jennifer (Carmen Duncan), a scrawny psychotic bitch with an explosive crossbow and a serious attitude problem, and Tito (Michael Petrovitch), an effete homosexual who what he considers to be slightly over the top, we consider to be crimes against humanity. Tito also has a pet Werewolf called Alph (Steve Rackman) that he bought from the circus. Seriously, I’m not joking, he has a pet Werewolf. Called Alph.
Anyhoo, after witnessing a whole range of atrocities on the prisoners at the hands of the guards, usually Guard Ritter (Roger Ward), a big behemoth of a man that likes nothing more than casually slapping small blonde women into pulp and setting fire to random inmates (yes, he’s single, ladies). Thatcher selects a group of inmates to hunt to their death. They are:
- Paul (unsurprisingly)
- Chris (er? Why? I suppose she did castrate the prison guard trying to rape her using his own zipper, but, seriously, she’s not a threat)
- Griff (Bill Young- a tough, resourceful convict who unfortunately is about as bright as the bottom of a mineshaft, but more on this in a moment)
- Dodge (John Ley- a weasel with bottle-top glasses and the life expectancy of a lemming with manic depression. And he’s ginger so was clearly asking for it)
- Rita (Lynda Stoner- a hooker, but more on that in a minute)
So, let the hunt commence and BRING ON THE DUMBHOUSE! The remainder of the film is the nefarious hunters picking off our heroes one by one before the eventual rebellion and overthrow of Thatcher.
This is very much a film of two halves. The stuff in the camp is relatively difficult to watch, notably Ritter beating the poor blonde lass into paste, but throws in plenty of boob in the mixed communal showers and allows the film to establish the single-note heroes properly, and the second is the hunt. This, incidentally, brings me on to Rita: if you were trying to re-educate a hooker, would you really send her to a place where people trade sexual favours at the drop of a hat? Some of the crimes inflicted on the inmates are amusing, such as the casual shot from the tranquilizer gun into a random inmates legs, some bizarre (Ritter’s weird game with the giant balls full of petrol), and some viscerally unpleasant (the attempted rape off Chris in the shower).
The second half of the film, on the other hand, is pure comedy gold. Much of the humour here derives from the choice of weaponry of the Hunters. Tito, easily the most amusing, drives what looks suspiciously like a tractor with a sharp blade on the front, and has a mounted machine gun and a rocket launcher. And Alph. Tito is a completely insane sadist, and it’s frankly deserving when he gets his comeuppance. Or the Warden tools around in what looks dangerously like one of those very silly luggage cars at airports but painted red. The other half of the humour derives from the sheer fucking stupidity of the film. For example, if you’re in the middle of a lush jungle would you really choose, as Railsback does, to climb the only exposed rock face in miles? Then there’s the marksmanship. The only person in this film that can shoot is Jennifer with her crossbow (as she demonstrates on Griff, who despite having relieved a guard of his gun then chooses to lie down in the middle of an exposed field), the Warden couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat, and Hussey’s attempts to use the mounted machine gun are so funny that they need to be seen to be believed. I’m not joking about this, despite her firing rounds everywhere but at her target, Trenchard Smith cuts back to show her capping them with unerring accuracy ever time- regardless of distance, angle or what we’ve just seen. It’s absolutely hilarious.
On the acting front? Meh. Meh to the max. Railsback is a crap actor, as seen in Lifeforce, and it’s nigh on impossible to believe that anyone would follow him. Hussey is hot, but a wet blanket, and the villains, particularly Petrovitch and Duncan are so, so ridiculously over the top that they’re flat out hilarious. In all honesty, though, the best performance (aside from Rackman as the Werewolf) is from Ward as sadist guard Ritter. Incidentally, one of the funniest moments of the film is Railsback’s quite incomprehensible attempt to beat Ward up. He does, unsurprisingly, get his arse handed to him before Chris intervenes with fatal consequences for the sadist rendering him harmless. Ward really hams this up, and it’s a completely deranged performance- his Ritter is clearly someone that enjoys his work far too much to be healthy.
Then there’s the violence. Oh my god, the violence. There is just so much of it here, and it’s all so OTT that it has a cartoonish quality to it. In no particular order Chris whacks Ritter’s hands off with a machete, Tito has Alph tear off Dodge’s toe before eating it, Jennifer puts about 900 crossbow bolts through Griff, Tito accidentally runs over Alph with his tractor thing (he takes this badly), Railsback sticks a machete in Tito’s head, shoots Mallory in the nuts with a tranquilizer dart before leaving him to burn to death in a cornfield, Chris explodes Jennifer with one of her own arrows, Thatcher runs a pin-cushioned Griff over with his stupid Luggage trolley thing, Chris kills more people than cancer with the mounted machine gun, before exploding Thatcher’s head with a quite unexpected level of accuracy, Jennifer tortures Rita to death (thankfully off camera), and there’s a fucking airstrike. That is the most ridiculous level of carnage in a film in a long time. God Bless the 80′s particularly when you consider that I’ve actually missed a few out.
One of the key strengths to this film is the direction. Trenchard-Smith doesn’t hang around, and the film rattles on at a fair old clip. Furthermore, although it is obviously exploitation, he actually has the more unpleasant and “realistic” pieces of nastiness take place off camera- for example we don’t get to see Jennifer torture Rita to death (thank the lord). As such, it is almost impossible to be bored by this film, and I had an absolute riot watching it. Yes, it is full of ultraviolence, but it’s just not, for the most part, realistic. This may be why the most difficult bit of the film to watch is Ritter slapping fuck out of that poor lass. And it features a Werewolf called Alph, for crying out loud.
Overall, this one’s a riot. You’ve seen the Most Dangerous Game format done hundreds of times from Hard Target to The Running Man, but it’s almost always fun. In this case, because the film is so, so over the top and outlandish, it’s monstrously entertaining and when you throw in that it’s so stupid that it rates on the Autistic Spectrum then it is an absolute blast. I have absolutely no hesitation at all in recommending Turkey Shoot/ Escape 2000/ Death Camp Thatcher, because it is quite simply hilarious.
And there’s a pet Werewolf.
Until next time,