The Exterminator Unrated Director’s Cut (1980) – By Duane L. Martin

My birthday is on December 3rd. You may be wondering why I’d mention that here. Well I’m mentioning it, because the year I was born was 1970, and my brother took me to see The Exterminator at the drive-in when I was still nine years old. Now you may be thinking to yourself, "Why the hell would someone show a film like this to a nine year old?" Well, there’s a simple answer to that. I wasn’t coddled as a kid. I didn’t wear a damn bike helmet and I rode my bike with my friends all over hell. I didn’t wear elbow and knee pads when I rode my skateboard or motorcycle, and I have the scars to prove it. What did that do for me? It made me tough. I didn’t grow up to be a wussified beta male. Even though I have nothing to do with my brother now because of personal family issues, all the guy stuff he and my father did with me when I was a kid taught me to be mentally and physically strong, and to be a man. So yeah, when I was nine and I saw this film, I thought it kicked ass! You know what? I still do, even after all these years.

I was really excited when I saw that Synapse was releasing The Exterminator on blu-ray and DVD. This is one of those films, like Red Dawn and Stand By Me that you probably saw years ago, but something about it really sticks with you. There are a lot of revenge flicks out there, and generally I see them and then forget about them right away. This film is one I always remembered because it made such an impact on me. I was only nine, but I totally understood the message in it. The basic message of the film is that people have become nothing more than victims, caged in cities at the mercy of the scum of society, and a corrupt political and justice system not only allows it to continue, but will take down anyone who tries to change it, because it makes sitting political officials look bad when they do.

So what’s the film about? Well, John Eastland (Robert Ginty) and Michael Jefferson (Steve James) were in Viet Nam together. When the movie opens, they’re captured by some Viet Cong soldiers and taken back to their camp to be interrogated. While there, Mike manages to get free, kill the soldier who’s guarding him, and then grabs his gun and takes out all the other Viet Cong soldiers. John and Michael spent their years after the war as best friends, and even worked at the same job at a loading dock. One day, a few members of a local gang show up at the dock and break into one of the storage rooms so they can steal cases of beer. John happens upon them and confronts them. They hold him at knifepoint, but then Michael shows up, and between the two of them, they beat up the gang members and kick them out. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of it. The gang showed up later and ambushed Michael, breaking his neck and using a garden claw in his back. They left him parylized and on life support. His wife and children were devastated, and John was out for revenge. I won’t get into his methods, but the revenge didn’t stop with the gang. He continued on a one man mission to take out the scum that infested the city. He even took out a local mobster who had been taking protection money from the loading dock where he worked for years so he could get money for Michael’s wife and children.

Christopher George plays Detective James Dalton, who’s charged with finding The Exterminator and arresting him. He’s also an ex-Nam vet and a really good guy who seems more interested in scoring with his lady doctor friend Dr. Stewart (Samantha Eggar) than he is in catching the vigilante. Unfortunately, a corrupt government official sends in the CIA, and they’re determined to do more than just arrest him. They want him dead, because it’s two months before the election and he’s making the politicians look bad. By the way, Samantha Eggar is credited as one of the stars, and she is, but she’s more of a side character with no real significant role in the major events of the film other than being a reason for Dalton to be at the hospital when John cuts Michael off his life support at Michael’s request.

This movie, is probably my favorite revenge flick, and finally having a great release of it on blu-ray is cool as hell. This is one of those must see films if you’re a film buff, so I highly recommend grabbing yourself a copy. The release includes the original director’s cut, a restored original stereo sountrack mix, commentary with director James Glickenhaus, the theatrical trailer and television spots. The blu-ray release is a combo pack that includes a DVD copy of the film.

One final note. As far as the restored 2.0 stereo mix audio option, I actually found it really hard to catch a lot of the dialog listening to it on my home theater system. When I switched to the original audio, the dialog was much clearer and easier to understand. So if you get this release, that’s the audio selection I suggest you use.

If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out it’s listing on the Synapse Films website here.