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Thursday, September 17, 2015

TURKEY SHOOT -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

I've seen so many tantalizing trailers for "Ozploitation" flicks lately that it's always a pleasure to get to watch one of these trash classics in its entirety.  That's why a basically awful movie like TURKEY SHOOT, a.k.a. "Escape 2000" and "Blood Camp Thatcher" (1982), gets a cheerful response from me even though many viewers would most likely tune out within the first five minutes.

The Australian film industry during the 70s and 80s underwent a real renaissance of exploitation films that transcended their low budgets and meager production values by cramming in as much violence, gore, nudity, slam-bang action, and overall shock value as they could muster.

TURKEY SHOOT is a prime example, using its by-the-numbers plot (which director Brian Trenchard-Smith of BMX BANDITS fame describes as "I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG meets THE CAMP ON BLOOD ISLAND and then plays THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME") like a clothesline on which to pin various chase sequences, gleefully fake but extreme gore, several shootouts and explosions, and some gratuitious nudity for our entertainment. 

Much of the story takes place in a prison camp of the then-future year 2000, where a fascist government sends its disobedient citizens for "re-education."  This, of course, involves terror, torture, sexual humiliation, and mind-control, not to mention a little game in which prisoners are offered freedom if they can survive being hunted like animals by the sadistic warden Thatcher (Michael Craig, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, THE VAULT OF HORROR) and a group of wealthy, jaded sophisticates.  

Docile citizen Chris Walters (Olivia Hussey, BLACK CHRISTMAS, ROMEO AND JULIET) is imprisoned for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, while Paul Anders (Steve Railsback, LIFEFORCE, "Helter Skelter") is a chronic political offender caught running a renegade radio station.  Rita (Lynda Stoner, "Prisoner: Cell Block H") is a "loose woman" who seems to have been chosen solely for the amusement of the guards.

Our own twisted amusement is piqued early on when hulking chief guard Ritter (Roger Ward, "Fifi" in MAD MAX, QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER) beats inmates to death while his cackling toady Red (American actor Gus Mercurio) tries to violate Chris in the shower but gets the old "caught in the zipper" treatment.  Paul, meanwhile, is subjected to a torture cage which allows Railsback to indulge his penchant for method acting. 

The fact that everything is done on the cheap is more obvious in these early camp scenes than during the hunt, which takes place in the Australian wilderness.  There, however, we get an abundance of hokey gore effects (hands are chopped off, a skull is cleaved by a machete, etc., and a strange man-beast character who accompanies one of the hunters gets cut in half after chowing down on someone's pinky toe) and some poorly-staged action involving a mini-bulldozer that looks quite comical at times. 

The huntress Jennifer (Carmen Duncan) cuts an impressive figure riding her horse while wielding a crossbow that shoots explosive arrows.  Thatcher and Ritter get in on the action as well, as does Noel Ferrier of THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY in the role of "Secretary Mallory."  It's a no-brainer that Paul and Chris will eventually get together and turn the tables on their pursuers, leading to a lively camp-revolt finale that packs in all the blood squibs, explosions, and stock footage that the producers could afford. 

Railsback, hot off his success in THE STUNT MAN, seems a little awkward as an action-guy character and clearly wonders what the heck he's doing shooting a turkey like TURKEY SHOOT.  I've always found him to be an interesting actor though, ever since he played Charles Manson in the 1976 TV-movie "Helter Skelter."  Olivia Hussey seems jittery and uncomfortable throughout--as we learn from cast and crew interviews, she was constantly terrified that the Australian wildlife was out to get her.  This does work in her character's favor, however.  (Her shower scene, incidentally, clearly involves a body double.)

On a technical level, the film is hardly more lavish than a "Mr. Show" sketch.  The camp itself resembles a collection of storage buildings, and there's very little to indicate the story's "futuristic" setting.  (A rousing score by Brian May of MAD MAX fame is a definite plus.)  While director Trenchard-Smith claims that the character name "Thatcher" is part of the film's underlying political message, none of that goes beyond the impact of the typical Facebook meme.

The Blu-ray from Severin Films is in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  Severin's typically generous bonus features include: "The Ozploitation Renaissance", a recent interview with Aussie filmmakers Brian Trenchard-Smith, Antony I. Ginnane, and Vincent Monton; a solo interview with Trenchard-Smith from the 80s; a director's audio commentary; behind-the-scenes doc "Turkey Shoot: Blood & Thunder Memories"; the film's trailer and an alternate "Escape 2000" title sequence; and in-depth cast and crew interviews from the documentary "Not Quite Hollywood." 

In interviews, both Steve Railsback and Lynda Stoner express their dismay at the finished product, especially in regard to how the original script they were given was gutted and the budget slashed.  Still, none of this really matters--with all its faults, the film has its own sordid charm--and the people most likely to enjoy it are bad-film fanatics anyway, an area in which TURKEY SHOOT delivers in spades.   

Buy it at

Street date: Sept. 22, 2015
Stills used are not taken from Blu-ray



Bill Dan Courtney said...

I saw this years ago. Seems to work as an Aussie film, of which I am a huge fan. Recently going through lots of Australian horror/crime films. A few duds but mostly good stuff. This one was more of a low end feature but I recall it was fun.

Porfle Popnecker said...

Thanks for the comment!