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Peter’s Retro Rewind: The Exterminator (1980)

The Exterminator Movie Posterby Peter Nielsen

Do you remember back when I did a review about the movie Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, where Robert Ginty had a small part as a helicopter pilot? I wrote that I was eventually going to “talk” about The Exterminator. Well, it took me a while, but here we are… In 1981 when it was supposed to have been released in Sweden, it was outright banned, (Swedish censorship, remember?) and subsequently we never got to see it. No, we had to wait ‘til 1983 to see The Exterminator in all his glory… Or did we?

Well, because the censors once again wielded their sharp scissors, we didn’t! The version released in 1983 was a cut-down one and not really worth watching, so it actually took a fairly long while before I finally got the chance to watch it uncut. As I’ve stated before we don’t have censorship anymore, at least not in movies, but back then it was bad.

It is a brutal film, I won’t argue with that fact! It’s very brutal even. And it’s not just the acts of violence. It’s the total lack of empathy towards people. The criminals basically treat their victims as pieces of meat, and have no qualms about beating up old ladies or selling young boys to sick, depraved perverts.

The movie itself starts with a bang, literally, as we see a big-ass explosion throwing a poor soldier through the air and right at the camera. The soldier’s name is John Eastland and is played by B-movie, action-legend Robert Ginty. He’s maybe not the best actor around and he’s not even cool-looking, but… you know you’ll be entertained whenever you throw one of his movies into your VHS- or DVD-player. He’s been in Loverboy, White Fire or Madhouse to name a few.

Dalton having dinner at the office.

Dalton having dinner at the office.

Anyways, he lands hard and is helped by his best friend Michael, played by Steve James (Hero and the Terror, To Live and Die in L.A.), but they’re quickly caught by the Vietcong. During their interrogation when Eastland refuses to divulge secret information, the Vietcong leader graphically decapitates one of his army buddies. They manage to escape though, in a violent shoot-out and you know what? This is one hell of an opening sequence!!! Kind of gets your attention right away!

We now skip forward a bit and shift to New York, where we again meet the two friends, Michael and John. They’re working in a food warehouse, loading and unloading trucks and apparently doing ok for themselves. Michael has a wife and two kids, but John is more of a loner.

The exterminator in action!

The exterminator in action!

One day John interrupts a couple of thugs when they’re stealing from the warehouse and he and Michael chase them away. The thugs want revenge and later attack Michael when he’s on his own. They beat him up badly, using a meat-hook to destroy his spine and to finish the job they also break his neck, thus leaving him paralyzed. John swears revenge and when he finds one of the thugs, he ties him up and threatens him with a flamethrower.

The terrified thug eventually tells John where he can find the guys who crippled his best friend and John leaves him, still tied up, with the words: “If you’re lying… I’ll be back!” John doesn’t stop after avenging Michael though and after he’s taken care of that business, he sets his sights on the rest of the city’s low-life.

The side-story in The Exterminator revolves around the detective, Dalton, who’s assigned to the case. He’s played brilliantly by Christopher George from Enter the Ninja, City of the Living Dead and Grizzly for instance. He’s actually the best actor in the film and I like his character.

Hey, man... your helmet's too small!

Hey, man… your helmet’s too small!

Dalton is quite the ladies-man too and puts his charm on Dr. Stewart, the doctor who works at the same hospital where Michael is admitted. She’s played by the lovely Samantha Eggar (The Brood, The Phantom). I must admit that Christopher George actually made me smile. As I said, he’s not a bad actor and Dalton is a cool and funny character. He’s a cop who takes crap from no-one.

I like “The Exterminator”! It’s a gritty, no-nonsense film with a much debated subject. The lone vigilante who takes the law into his own hands… and gets away with it! That doesn’t go down to well with all audiences and when you also add sadistic violence to the mix, you got yourself a film surrounded by quite a bit of controversy.

I can see my house from heeeeeere...

I can see my house from heeeeeere…

The violence is kind of in your face and the camera doesn’t shy away from it either… I mean, even the implied stuff is bad, if not worse, because that’s when your brain takes over and fills in the blanks.

As far as I know, even the MPAA considered it too violent and demanded that it had to be trimmed down somewhat. The scene with the meat-grinder and the one with the soldering iron are two scenes that really jump out and smack you on top of your head in terms of sadistic violence.

So, if you’re a fan of the lone vigilante-genre and haven’t seen this one… What? Why the hell not? The director, James Glickenhaus (The Soldier, The Protector) has put together a great action-thriller with The Exterminator and I highly recommend it. It’s one I myself have seen several times and plan to see again sometime in the future. Because of all the controversy surrounding it and the fact that it was initially banned here in Sweden, it almost garnered cult-status and it was a movie you had to watch. Well, at least if you were an action fan!

And with that, I turn the word over to you, my friends… Please tell us what you think of this flick? The comment section is all yours!

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About Peter Nielsen

Peter was born in Denmark in 1968, but moved to Sweden at the age of six, (not by himself of course), and has lived there ever since. He’s married and has five children, so spare time is somewhat of a luxury. His main interests in life, apart from his family, are long walks, books and movies. Any movie! He has preferences, but he’s not particular as long as it's good or... so bad it's good... he just LOVES MOVIES!

4 comments for “Peter’s Retro Rewind: The Exterminator (1980)

  1. Johan Nilsson
    March 25, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Remember seeing this on VHS. Must have been the censored version. I liked it a lot then and thought it was really brutal at the time. 🙂

    • Peter Nielsen
      March 25, 2013 at 10:23 am

      Johan, my friend, thanks for commenting! Yeah, “The Exterminator” is definitely not for the squeamish…

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