Thursday, November 24, 2011
Thoughts On The Exterminator Arrow Blu Ray
It's been a while since I last saw James Glickenhaus' vigilante action thriller The Exterminator, and in that time I'd forgotten just how seedy it is. The film features some of the most grotesque and reprehensible characters you'll find in movies and is packed full of exploitation goodness.
John Eastland (Robert Ginty), a vietnam vet, sets out to clean up New York after his best buddy Michael (Steve James) is paralysed by a gang called The Ghetto Ghouls. Eastland nicknames himself The Exterminator and lives up to the name as he relishes his task. Attracting not only the attention of the police, in the form of Detective Dalton (Christopher George), but the C.I.A as well and they aren't looking to play nice.
From it's obviously fake but undeniably effective Vietnam prologue (complete with one of the best decapitation effects I've ever seen), the violence flows freely, from the horribly unsavoury to the darkly comic, Glickenhaus covers just about all bases. The script is mostly played straight but has some fun dialogue including Ginty's catchphrase, "If you're lying, I'll be back". The cast is good, with plenty of memorable sleaze bags which a film like this needs, and Christopher George's cop giving good support to Ginty. Steve James, doesn't get enough to do and is pretty much wasted unfortunately. Ginty himself occasionally feels like he's in the wrong film but I couldn't help liking him anyway. The biggest star of The Exterminator though is the thick, grimy atmosphere provided free of charge by the streets of New York, which for a modestly budgeted film like this is priceless.
The Exterminator holds up pretty well as the exploitation film it is, while elements of the film try to suggest Glickenhaus was aiming for something more, the screenplay has too many holes and a little too much stupidity to achieve anything higher than a Saturday night beer and friends movie, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Arrow's blu ray release of James Glickenhaus' The Exterminator features a solid presentation of the film, with mostly good image and audio quality that varies a little from scene to scene, giving the impression the transfer was created from varying sources. Synapse released the film on blu in the US, I haven't seen that disc to comment on, but while the US version has a commentary from Glickenhaus, the Arrow disc has a few exclusive extras and although I'm not always a fan of the Arrow extras this disc has the best extra I've seen for a while, in the form of 42nd Street Then and Now.
Frank Henenlotter, the director of amongst others Basket Case and Frankenhooker, is our host as he talks us through the heyday of 42nd Street's grindhouse film culture through to the homogenised tourist trap it is today. Using brief clips from the film along with archive photos, the sheer amount of genre film titles shown on the cinema marquees is amazing, and a huge loss to genre film fans. It's a fascinating subject that deserves more time than the 15 minute tease we get here. Henenlotter is a wonderful host, packing as much info and as many anecdotes as he can in the time he has, he clearly loves his subject. The feeling of sadness and anger at what has become of 42nd Street feels completely genuine, and I don't know if his eyes are just irritated or if it is emotion from his reminiscences but in some shots he can be seen wiping tears from his cheeks as he speaks.