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Archive for June, 2009

Turkey Shoot (aka Escape 2000) (1982)

June 16, 2009 6:47 am

Turkey Shoot

‘Freedom is obedience, obedience is work, work is life’

 Ozploitation is big business at the moment. Since the release last year of the excellent documentary Not Quite Hollywood, everyone and their dog has been jumping on the bandwagon and claiming that Brian Trenchard-Smith is an unacknowledged genius and Tony Ginnane movies piss all over Jerry Bruckheimer’s.

Of course this is nonsense. Whilst Aussie films of the 70s and early 80s did chuck up a few gems (Patrick, Road Games, the Mad Max series) they also made just as much useless tat as Hollywood did, and were as keen to exploit hollywood product as much as any other third world country (in cinematic terms, that is).

With this in mind, I finally decided to check out Turkey Shoot, a film which had sat unwatched on my shelves for almost two years.

It’s far from original, has some dreadful acting, a terrible script, and a budget that would barely cover a couple of episodes of Neighbours. And yet, bugger me, if it’s not one of the most balls-out entertaining exploiters I’d seen in a long long time.

In a dystopian near-future (aren’t they always), a totalitarian rule is enforced, and disidents and trouble-makers are rounded up and taken to ‘training camps’, where under a scrict regime of monotonous tasks and regular beatings, they are re-trained to be allowed back into normal society.

We open with three new residents on their way to Camp 47, the most notorious of the lot. Run by governor Charles Thatcher (sounds like Charles Gray, looks like Alistair Darling’s dad), and his vicious head guard Ritter. Our three new guys are seasoned camp escapee, Anders (Steve Railsback), gorgeous wrong woman in the wrong place at the wrong time, Chris (Olivia Hussey), and another woman who has been accussed of being a prostitute, Rita (Aussie TV regular Lynda Stoner).

The opening act introduces the day to day of the camp, including a couple of other characters including the cowardly Dodge, and Andy, both of whom are dragged into the governor’s evil plans.

What the residents of Camp 47 don’t know, is that Thatcher likes to have his rich friends over for a bit of sport. Each friend gets to pick a prisoner, who is then given their freedom, if they can avoid being hunted by their chosen big-knob for 24 hours. Such is the fate that befalls our heroes, each is hunted by either the odious Secretary Mallory (some kind of politician), lesbian femme fatale, Jennifer, “camp Freddie” look-a-like Griff (and his strange circus freak, dog-boy Alph(!), the film’s one big bad idea), and Thatcher himself, who has his sights trained firmly on Andy and Anders (not as confusing as it sounds).

If this all sounds familiar, well that’s because it blatantly is. Whilst the kids on imdb discuss which bits were ripped off for The Running Man (and undoubtedly some were) the rest of us will of course recognise it as the basic plot of The Most Dangerous Game, a story that has been filmed, officially and unofficially, so many times it’s orgins are almost forgotten.

Whilst the story may be as original as a baked bean, it’s execution (pun intended) is surprisingly good.

The pacing of the opening exchanges is superbly handled, taking in an introduction to the camp, the main characters, and the governor’s plot within about 20 minutes. Ritter (played by Roger Ward, should be familiar to fans of Mad Max) clearly establishes himself as the character you’re going to remember the most, and is, of course, not given nearly enough screentime.

Railsback and Hussey were, in 1982, very established names, but neither really excels here. Railsback falls into that category of actor where you just can’t help thinking “who the hell must have turned this down for HIM to get the part?”. After making his name as Peter o Toole’s confused prank monkey in The Stunt Man, he seemed to sleepwalk his way through the 80s and 90s, nearly always playing the confused prank monkey in films such as the underated Lifeforce, Alligator 2 and , god help us, Barb Wire. Hussey always seemed ready to break out into superstardom after her appearance in Jesus of Nazareth, but never did. Instead she ended up in TV movie/animation voice-over hell. Here she is given NOTHING to do, except cower and whimper lots. She does get her top undone a couple of times by the lecherous prison guards, but her big topless scene is rendered laughable by the substitution of a pair of stunt breasts which are hilariously over-sized in comparison to Ms Hussey’s own.

This scene in fact raises the question of taste. Ozploitation films were never known for their taste, and many feel Turkey Shoot is no exception. I disagree. In scenes like the one above, many American or Euro sleaze films would have gone on for a full clothes-ripping, full frontal rape scene for no good reason other than the director/producer wanted one. In Turkey Shoot, the scene takes place in a shower, where we have already scene copious nudity, both male and female, and the attack is over almost as quickly as it starts, with the potential rapist coming out second best.

In the violence stakes too, the film manages to stay just the right side of the taste barrier. Most of the deaths are messy, and in-your-face, but, possibly given the slightly amateurish effects work, they somehow retain a charm that is never repulsive, and mostly raise a giggle. There is one exception, but thankfully the fate of one protaganist is kept off-screen, with the viewer merely left to view the build up and aftermath, and are left to wonder what happened in between.

The hunt itself takes up the majority of the film, and is surprisingly tense. Each prisoner is released at half hour intervals, allowing each to have their own mini-adventure in a suitably lovely looking location, each offering its own dangers. Railsback gets to clamber over some very dangerous looking wet rocks, whilst Hussey has to deal with a burning cornfield.

After a couple of deaths for either side, the scene is a set for an explosive finale, with the air force called in to firebomb the camp when it becomes apparent that Thatcher has lost control. Here, we get some nicely intergrated stock footage and some nice explosions.

There has been much discussion of the various versions of the film, with some said to be cut by anything up to fifteen minutes. The uncut version under review runs a tad over 90 minutes, and is a breezy ride. It motors along without pause for breath, and whilst the sleazehounds may be a little disappointed, anyone out for a fun action movie and some good gore could do far worse than this, mainly because it’s simply the sort of thing that just doesn’t get made anymore.

There are 3 clips on this page

Trailer

(Director Brian Trenchard-Smith briefly achieved fame by following Turkey Shoot with BMX Bandits, which introduced the world to a bright young actress called Nicole Kidman.

The DVD under review is the UK edition on the Hardgore label. If you shop around you should be able to get it pretty cheap; I got mine in my local Poundland. The cover prominently features the dog-boy Alph for some reason. The picture quality is excellent, but the sound is tinny and crackly.

Although the film never states it, the trailer says the film is set in 1995, so why the American title was Escape 2000 is a bit of a mystery.)

Holocaust 2000 (1977)

June 1, 2009 7:34 am

holocaust 2000 poster

 With Hollywood seemingly on a mission to remake every single film of the past 30 years, it’s nice to remember those more innocent times when smaller nations would shamelessly just rip-off the latest big budget blockbuster with little or no concern for international copyright law.

Whilst the Turkish variants of Star Wars and Superman are now the stuff of post-modern, kitsch legend, the kings of the rip-off were undoubtedly the Italians. usually they would just make a cheap knock off of a hit and stick a ‘2’ on to it’s title, until the lawyers came-a-knocking and they’d have to come up with something a bit more original (Alien 2 aka Contamination, Terminator II), or simply churn out their own variants of popular genres, such as the Dirty Harry riffing Mark the Cop series. Even the spaghetti zombie craze of the late 70s/early 80s was a response to the success of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (titled Zombi in Italy, Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters, was known as Zombi 2 in its homeland… try and keep up).

“Alright, smart arse, what’s that got to do with Holocaust 2000?”, I hear you murmer. Well, perhaps the king of Italian rip-offs is one Alberto De Martino, the man behind Operation Kid Brother (aka OK Connery), Blazing Magnums and The Antichrist. It shouldn’t take long to work out the uncredited ‘inspiration’ behind those films. For it is he who also directed the film under consideration.

Consider the following: American industrialist, played by Hollywood has-been, lives in London; he has a rather odd son; he receives ominous, religious-flavoured warnings about the end of the world; several British character actors die in ridiculously contrived accidents… any of this sound familiar?

OK, one more clue: his son is in fact the son of Ol’ Nick himself!

Yes, it’s Omen 2! Except they couldn’t call it that because 20th Century Fox were already making that, so instead we get the Tesco Value Omen 2, Holocaust 2000.

Kirk Douglas plays Gregory Peck, an American in London, who has married into a rich family business. We’re not quite sure exactly what they do, but currently they are planning a large nuclear energy making machine in an unspecified Middle eastern country, that looks like Tunisia (very popular location at the time), but isn’t.

Just before destroying large swathes of the landscape, Kirk shows a sexy photographer an inscription, “IESUS”, in a cave, that has been there for over 10,000 years. Then blows it up. There’s the suggestion that this is all very ominous, thanks to one of the more barmy Ennio Morriconne soundtracks (much of which sounds like it was rejected from Exorcist 2 for being slightly OTT) , but this pre-credits sequence chucks so much at you in five minutes, that you’re not sure what’s important and what’s not. It is vital to remember how Kirks sexy new reactor will work to create the heat only found at the centre of the sun: “combining atoms and laser beams”. So that’s how it’s done.

Back in London, Kirk holds a banquet for his investors, whilst some anti-nuke interpretive dancers protest outside. Mrs Kirk decides she doesn’t like his project anymore (maybe it’s a bit late for that), and as, technically, it’s her company, there’s nothing he can do about it. Luckily for Kirk one of the protesters (bearing a spooky resemblance to General Zod from Superman 2) has crashed the party simply by putting on a tux and lighting a cigarette. He mumbles something about Kirk being evil and tries to stab him. Kirk’s grown-up creepy son (Angel, groovy name… or is it?) intervenes, only for Mrs Kirk to receive a gloriously gory shivving instead. So Kirk’s back in business.

This pretty much sets the tone for the first half of the film.  An obstacle is put in Kirk’s way, the obstacle is overcome by the intervention of a gory special effect. The best example probably bestowed on the military dictator who takes control of Madeupistan and decides to oppose the building of a giant bomb machine on his doorstep. He falls victim to one of the squishiest beheadings in film history (incidentally, this is far better than the much-loved version in Dawn of the Dead released the following year).

Within about two minutes of Kirk’s wife’s passing, he shacks up with the saucy photographer from earlier. Creepy son seems to positively encourage this. There is a truly jaw-dropping sequence where the two go to Kirk’s country retreat for a weekend of rumpy, which is preceded by a five minute sequence of them cooing over a deer. It’s like a catalogue photospread in movie form, made all the more insane by Morriconne’s music, which sounds like a rejected Emmerdale Farm theme.

holocaust 2000... Jesus!

Kirk says what we’re all thinking

Now things start to get a bit bonkers. There’s really far too much to go into everything, so here’s the edited highlights… A supercomputer testing the failsafe systems keeps churning out the number 2√231 (IESUS backwards in this film’s logic). The design of the reactor bears a ‘strong’ resemblance to the description of the beastie that will destroy the world in the Bible. Anyone who opposes the project meets a swift end (including one that was, believe it or not, ripped off itself in Omen 2). Kirk has a nightmare that spells out all the plot points in BIG BOLD LETTERS in case we haven’t got it yet… and gets his arse out. Yes, Kirk Douglas’ arse. It’s certainly the scariest thing in this film.

Through some exposition that I wasn’t really paying attention to, it transpires that Kirk’s second son is the son of the devil. As his new girlfriend is up the duff, this comes as a bit of a shock, and he spends the next 20 minutes of the film trying to trick her into an abortion. Then he remembers that earlier in the film he’d told his girlfriend that Angel had been born a twin, but his umbilical cord had strangled the other twin and it died at birth, so… DUN DUN DUUUR! Do I need to spell the rest out?

The final, delirious half an hour includes Kirk bashing his wife’s murderer’s head in with a wooden pole, a ward of babies being poisioned by a miopic nurse who keeps vitamin drops and bleach in identical bottles, and one of the most anti-climactic non-endings I’ve ever seen.

(NB: It’s here I should point out the various versions of the film. Apparently in Europe, the film has an open-ended climax where you don’t know what is going to happen re good vs evil. In the States an additional ending was filmed and clumsily tacked on to ensure you know who wins. Details of this ending can be found the imdb message board for the film. Incidentally, many reviews mention Kirk stomping the murderers’ head, but in the version I saw, entitled Rain of Fire, he definitely smashes it with a pole.)

And I still haven’t mentioned the Kubrick-a-like mental institution, where the inmates are bunched together in perspex boxes, the oh-so-subtle religious symbolism, or the terrible sight of actors like Anthony Quayle having to do this kind of nonsense to pay the rent.

What’s perhaps most suprising, apart from Kirk’s arse, is the fact that this was co-financed by a British film company. At the arse-end (pardon the pun) of the 70s there was very little British film industry to speak of, so you can’t help but wonder if they had the kind of money to spend on toss like this, what films they could have been making.

Toss it may be, but it’s entertaining toss if you are so inclined. Kirk gives a very enthusiastic performance, and doesn’t look anywhere near as embarassed as he could be. The set pieces are handled well and it’s rarely dull. It is appallingly written though. Scenes begin and end at arbitrary moments, there are plot holes so big you expect the film to be sucked inside out, and ultimately it makes little sense. Purveyors of bad movies will lap up every bonkers second of it.