Director - James Glickenhaus
Cast - Robert Ginty, Christopher George
Country of Origin - U.S.
Discs - 2
MSRP - $29.95
Distributor - Synapse
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (3.5/5)
I still remember the extremely inappropriate moment that I fell in love with vigilante movies. I was around 7-8 years old, and my Dad took me to visit my Grandma, what I thought would be a boring visit would be anything but. My Grandma had just gotten a VCR, and a copy of DEATH WISH. My Dad told me I wasn't allowed to watch the film, so I had to sit behind a mattress that was propped up against a couch while the film played, fortunately (or unfortunately, maybe I would have been a normy) my Grandma had an antique rack with a mirrored frame. Between the jacked up audio, and Charlie Bronson's reflected visage I became in inductee into the cult of the vigilante cinema.
Last year when Blue Underground released Vigilante I was excited. It was the first Vigilante film of it's era released on Blu, and it looked gorgeous. When Synapse announced The Exterminator for Blu my eyes nearly bugged out of my head. I have 2 reasons for this, 1) It's the freaking Exterminator! I mean next to Charlie Bronson's Paul Kersey character, Robert Ginty's John Eastland epitomizes this character, and this genre for me. 2) This was to be a Synapse Blu-ray, no one is better these days in the Exploitation Restoration game than Synapse's own Don May Jr., and so I knew the Exterminator was going to shine.
The film stars Robert Ginty as John Eastland a Vietnam vet who is rescued from certain death in the films opening scenes by his best friend Michael Jefferson. The film then picks up what feels like a decade or so later, the 2 friends work together in a warehouse that is besieged by a gang know as the Ghetto Ghouls (damn, I love these exploitation gang names!). The pair stop the robbery, but the Ghouls much like the sandpeople come back in greater numbers, and get their revenge. Later that day they viciously attack Michael in a park, and paralyze him from the neck down, from that point he is confined to a hospital bed, and only able to communicate by blinking.
Well, you don't mess with John Eastland's best friend, and like any good vigilante-to-be he hits the streets to take down the Ghetto Ghouls. He quickly dispatches a few of them, and having had his revenge, he decides to keep going. In the process he ends up taking down more gang members, pimps, and a mob boss. You would think the police would be happy to have the scum off the street, but they of course are not. Eastland (under his pseudonym The Exterminator) quickly gains the attention of the local police led by the always awesome Christopher George (City of the Living Dead, Pieces, Grizzly), and eventually the CIA.
Now by the time The Exterminator came out quite a few vigilante movies had come in the wake of Death Wish, and yeah, Exterminator definitely borrows plot elements from some of these. It's not the most original of films to hit the genre, but it is a damn good time. John Eastland while not much of an actor, is a great lead (there is indeed a distinction here), and I could watch Christopher George in just about anything. That man had serious screen presence, and he really does own reach scene he's in.
The films effects budget is stretched to it's breaking point, but is totally effective, and there is some really solid gore up on the screen, and let's be honest with a film like The Exterminator that's why you're really watching. The direction from James Glickenhaus is really solid, and he manages to create a fantastic dirty, sleazy atmosphere that really benefits the material. There are some continuity issues, and the dialogue is a bit hammy, but dammit this is quality exploitation cinema here! But it doesn't take anything away from the sheer awesomeness at play here. Now come on Synapse bring on Exterminator 2!
As predicted earlier in the review Synapse has brought the Exterminator to Blu-ray in a glorious 1080p 1:78:1 transfer preserving the films original theatrical aspect ratio, and restoring 47 seconds of violence excised from the film during it's initial release. The transfer is nothing less than stunning (from a 30 year old exploitation film perspective). The level of detail is increased, colors pop, black levels are deep, and flesh tones are largely accurate. The image is for the most part clean, although there is a good deal of film grain. However, if you are like me this is appreciated and offers a more film like presentation that makes it feel like itís being projected. Overall, The Exterminator has never looked better than it does here, and probably will never look better.
Synapse has presented the Exterminator with 2 English audio options, the standard mono track that has been included with every release, and a newly discovered stereo track that has been discovered and remastered for this Blu-ray. Both tracks are fantastic. The dialogue, music, and effects are mixed well, and there are no instances of any audio anomalies that I could pick up on close listen.
There isn't a lot in the way of extras on the Exterminator Blu-ray. The most substantial is the commentary track with Director James Glickenhaus which goes into various production related details, and is very entertaining, and informative. There is also a theatrical trailer, and 6 TV spots, all in 1080p HD.
James Glickenhaus' The Exterminator is one of the gory greats of vigilante cinema. If you are a fan, it's a pretty easy must buy. The restoration from Synapse Films exceeds all expectations. Highly Recommended.