Joe’s Blog

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.)

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