Jarv’s Schlock Vault: The Exterminator

“This “Exterminator” is the most dangerous serial killer in the United States and he is in New York City! Now what do you think about all this?”
“I think you need to take a shit. It’s coming out of your mouth instead of your asshole.”

Jarv’s Rating: 3 Changs out of 4- A good film. A nasty film, but a good one.

The esteemed ContinentalOp is a strange man. On one hand he inflicted two of the most offensive films of all time on us, and only Droid’s colonial Aussie stubbornness prevents the hat-trick. On the other hand, he’s got an encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema, and is particularly good at sleaze cinema. Two of his suggestions, Vice Squad and Angel, I actually reviewed as underrated simply because they were so far from what I was expecting and have both been unfairly maligned, and this, The Exterminator, was the third.

The Exterminator is one of those films that really does open with a bang. In this case, it’s a huge fucking explosion as we’re dropped straight into the middle of the Vietnam War. Robert Ginty’s John Eastland and Steve James’ Michael Jefferson have been captured by the Vietcong and are being brutally interrogated. Michael escapes and saves Eastland’s ass. Next thing we see is Eastland and Jefferson working a shitty menial job in New York City. There’s an altercation with some thugs that leaves Jefferson paralysed, which spurs Eastland to go on an all out rampage on the criminal scum of the city.

Included amongst the scum are: A homosexual paedophile brothel owner and a state senator with a nasty blow torch fetish; a mob boss; many street thugs; and a couple of guard dogs. The various kills, which is why I’m watching the film, are brutal, not for the squeamish and surprisingly enjoyable. The vengeance on the pervert senator (testicles blown off with a ridiculous gun) is hugely satisfying as we’d witnessed him take a soldering iron to a harmless hooker, but the star of the show is the mob boss and the mincer- yuck. That put me right off hamburger for a while.

The acting in this is pretty shit- Ginty only seems to have one facial expression and anyone that’s seen the awesome American Ninja knows that James hasn’t exactly got a huge range. The real acting chops of The Exterminator are supplied by Samantha Eggar as a Doctor and Christopher George as the cop chasing The Exterminator. They’re both good, with Eggar making the most of a really underwritten role. I just need someone to explain to me what the hell George is doing cooking a hot dog on a desk lamp- that can’t work, surely?

There’s quite a lot of interesting things to say about this film, notably that The Exterminator is arguably the first screen version of The Punisher and even taking my fondness for Punisher War Zone into account probably the best. The action is exciting and grimy, the brutality is satisfying and justified and the entire film is taut as a drum. I always find it surprising that there seems to be such difficulty adapting Frank Castle to the big screen- The Exterminator manages it with no little aplomb- is it because there’s a slavish desire to fit funny book canon? It makes no sense to me why so many different versions of The Punisher have failed- it should be so fucking easy.

Secondly, there’s a really sleazy, grimy atmosphere to the film. Take the exchange between Eastland and a “hotel” owner haggling over the cost of rental clean sheets. Fucking yuck. I dread to think what sort of diseases you could pick up there. Furthermore, the dialogue has an authentic feel to it, whether it’s the mafia boss berating an underling, or Eastland’s banter with Jefferson. The film reeks of verisimilitude, much in the same way that Vice Squad does, in its depiction of the underbelly of 1980’s America. Although, admittedly, the one man army that is Eastland wouldn’t have anywhere near as much in the way of ordinance and would undoubtedly be caught fairly fast.

There’s also a huge amount of unintended comedy in the film. The crimes and whatnot are meant to be harrowing, but some of them, particularly mugging the old lady, aren’t- they’re amusing. The best example of unintentional comedy in the film is when Eastland kidnaps the mob boss. His brilliant plan involves pitching up at the right restaurant at the right time, hiding in a bin in the toilet, waiting for the boss to take a dump, sneaking up while he’s washing his hands, sedating him, pushing him out of the window and escaping. This is fucking comedy gold- there are so many things that can go wrong, and on my second watch of the film, I did nothing but make smart arsed comments about it. Still, in a film as grim as this, you’ve got to take your chuckles where you can get them.

Interestingly, I’d never heard of this film before Conti recommended it. There’s a reason for this, and that reason is, for a fucking change, the British Censor. What happened was that The Exterminator was lumped in on the Video Nasties. It was never actually placed on the list, but intense pressure was applied which resulted in all copies of it being yanked from video shops across the UK. Many of the films on that list still haven’t seen the light of day in this country (for good fucking reason), and The Exterminator is one of them. It’s a crying shame, given the amount of toss that does get a proper release, that this film has been buried, but I see recently that it’s got a certificate so may well be unearthed soon. One can but hope.

Overall, this is a good film. It’s a particularly brutal sleazy schlockfest, and a hugely entertaining one. The pace never lags and the film could never be described as dull. It may stretch credibility on occasion, and there is a streak of nastiness that runs through it, but all in all, The Exterminator is more than worth a watch.

Until next time,

Jarv

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

25 responses to “Jarv’s Schlock Vault: The Exterminator”

  1. just pillow talk says :

    Hmm…not on netflix. It certainly sounds like it’s worth a watch, but alas…

    On a sidenote, I’m saddened to learn that Steve James died of pancreatic cancer back in ’93.

  2. just pillow talk says :

    I have the double feature of American Ninja 2 & 3 in the queue, but right now it’s a very long wait. I would expect nothing less from that epic series.

    And he would have fit perfectly into Mortal Kombat.

  3. Droid says :

    I remember we thought we were somewhere in the middle of the film when we started watching it because it LITERALLY opens with an explosion. I think I said “That’d be an awesome way to start a movie.”

    I still don’t understand the hot dog thing. Totally random. And was the senator also buggering a kid as well? The ending is also a bit half-baked. My favourite part I think is the mob boss dangling over the meat grinder. And also after he battles the guard dog, crashing and smashing his way around the house, he wipes down the kitchen tap or something. Like thats the only place he would’ve left fingerprints.

    I wouldn’t go so far as giving this 3, but its a solid 2 1/2.

    • Jarv says :

      The “chicken” place was serving up underage boys to the Senator- although the kid that he rescued was clearly over 18. Nasty.

      Still, I like it.

      I’d forgotten the fingerprints thing. Second funniest bit of the film after the genius kidnap scene.

  4. Continentalop says :

    A little bit of advice for everyone, avoid The Exterminator Part Two (unless you want to see Mario van Peebles ham it up).

  5. Continentalop says :

    BTW Droid, thanks for ruining my hat trip.

  6. Continentalop says :

    Jarv, I believe I suggested this before but I will suggest it again: you should check out the Milieu Trilogy, which is an awesome series of Italian poliziottesco films. Awesome crime exploitation IMO, especially the first one, La mala ordina/The Italian Connection/Manhunt/The Hitmen (and probably 20 other names).

    • Tom_Bando says :

      Or you could just go for the gusto and do the Christopher George Tricfecta(TM)-Grizzly, Day of the Animals and El
      Dorado. Day of the Animals is fun.

  7. ThereWolf says :

    I used to champion this film back in the day. Memory is hazy but I think this was another ‘under the counter’ job at the local VHS rental emporium, coz of the Video Nasty thing as mentioned. I remember turning a few people onto ‘The Exterminator’ and them coming back going – “Hey, that’s a great film!”

    Great? Hmmm. Grubby – oh, aye! And the mincer – yech!

    I should rewatch this.

  8. Xiphos0311 says :

    This has to be one of the sleaziest nastiest movies every filmed. That being said it’s also pretty damn effective and good. I saw it when it came out at a drive in a double feature with Ft. Apache the Bronx I think. They left a lasting impression.

    • Continentalop says :

      I liked Ft. Apache the Bronx when I saw it years ago. Have to check it out again but the hooker with the razor blades in her mouth have left a lasting impression.

      And I think the sleaziest film I have ever seen might just be Bronson’s 10 to Midnight.

      “You know what this is for? It’s for JACKING OFF!!!”

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        yeah the Hooker scene leaves a lasting impression when you are 11.

        I agree 10 to Midnight might just win as the sleaziest real studio movie ever made.

      • Continentalop says :

        Death Wish 2 was pretty sleazy as well.

        Damn, I think the late 70s and early 80s was full of sleazy movies.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      There was just something so greasy and off about 10 to Midnight it’s hard to believe a studio actually made it.

  9. Stuntcock Mike says :

    Hey gents haven’t chimed in for a while but had to since Glickenhaus’ films are right up there for me(Shakedown)

    Good review Jarv. Agreed the acting is spotty as fuck but that head lobbing Vietnam bit at the beginning is great.

    How about The Soldier? Not that great a movie but the villain is goofy as fuck and you get a nice scene of a Porsche jumping the Berlin Wall.

    Now I mat be wrong, but wasn’t the razor blade whore in Fort Apache, The Bronx PAM GRIER?

    That movie still holds up just fine.

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