Friday, 12 March 2010

Turkey Shoot (1982)

"Help! My hands are caught in my sleeves
and I've spilt pasta sauce everywhere."

Turkey Shoot (aka Escape 2000 aka Blood Camp Thatcher) is another Australian genre film made for international markets, which means it's got a lot of blood, tits and explosions. It's produced by Antony I. Ginnane (duh) and directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith (The Man From Hong Kong) both of whom have a lot experience with capturing all three on film. It's pure exploitation cheese, but Trenchard-Smith has enough skill behind the camera to make it watchable and generally entertaining.

The movie begins with some stock footage of riots and conflicts from around the world, which is movie shorthand for society going down the shitter. It's the far-flung year of 1995 and a totalitarian government has risen up and taken control of the country (Australia, I guess?), shipping off all youthful dissidents to remote re-education camps. Arriving at one such camp are the multiple-escapee and freedom-fighter Paul (Steve Railsback), prostitute Rita (Lynda Stoner) and the naive, wrongly-accused Chris (Olivia Hussey). They are greeted at the camp by the head warden Thatcher, who gives them a standard welcome-to-hell speech while his Chief Guard Ritter (a bald, moustachioed Roger Ward) slaps around some poor girl for failing to recite the camp rules.

Early on, this film reminded me of a women-in-prison flick. Chris is taken under Rita's wing and taught the ropes. She is forced to do menial tasks like gutting fish and dodge sleazy wardens who try to molest her while she's taking a shower. Thankfully the movie takes a different turn when Thatcher and all his bigwig cronies gather up a number of prisoners (including Paul, Rita and Chris) and send them out into the wilderness to be hunted with exploding crossbows, machine guns, bazookas, bulldozers and silly-looking cars that were probably pretty futuristic-looking back in '82. Dick Cheney would love this shit, although at one point they decide to remove a victim's pinky toe because the big toe would slow him down too much; there's no way Cheney would be that sporting.

A big problem with this film is that I found the villains a lot more interesting than the heroes. There isn't much character development, so all the heroes do is run for their lives while wearing identical yellow jumpsuits. The bad guys, on the other hand, have memorable personalities and unique costumes and weapons. For instance, one of the hunters is a sexy lesbian named Jennifer (Carmen Duncan), who is openly homosexual (despite it being a capital crime). Almost every line out of her mouth is some sort of double entendre about guns, she wields a crossbow with exploding bolts and enjoys hobbies such as customising rifles and assembling machine guns while blindfonded. Rich people are pretty different in the future.

One of the strangest elements of this film is that one of the hunters has a wolf man wrestler as a sidekick. They casually slip in a line that he picked him up at a carnival freakshow, but seriously I don't know what the fuck. Maybe one of the producers owned a wolf man as a child and only agreed to fund the film if they included one in the script to honour his memory. For hours and hours he'd play with Fido in the back yard, feeding him human toes and practising wrestling moves. Well he got his wish, and the wolf man even gets to snap a guy's spine over his knee. Unfortunately things go awry when the hunter tries to attack Paul with a bulldozer, accidentally pinning the wolf man to a tree and cutting his legs off, forcing the hunter to use a rocket launcher that he probably should have used in the first place.

Eventually Chris and Paul team up together, and after a fight with Ritter that ends with Chris chopping off his hands (which she apparently almost did it for real during shooting, misunderstanding Trenchard-Smith's shouts of "cut!"), they get control of a jeep with a mounted machine gun and stage an assault on the camp, busting out the prisoners and leading them in a rebellion against Thatcher. This action sequence is a lot bigger in scope than I was expecting (if a bit ridiculous; there appear to be more camp guards than prisoners) but it's lacking in stuntwork and the gunfire and explosions get slightly repetitive after a while. Thatcher ends up being blown apart by machine gun fire, an effect using an exploding dummy that was totally awesome. A definite rewinder.

According the DVD extras, the film had almost a quarter of it's $3.5 million budget cut at the last minute. Consequently the action sequences were scaled down and a big helicopter chase sequence was scrapped. They also removed some of the so-called "1984" scenes that fleshed-out the totalitarian government, so the political commentary begins and ends with the head warden being named Thatcher (although that fact probably accounted for the brisk ticket sales in the UK, which were the only thing that saved this film from being an epic bomb). Boobs are lacking, mostly confined to a single shower scene, and the movie is quite chaste around the two leading women. Hussey uses an obvious boob double during her only shower scene and they even have a sexy bathing scene where Stoner doesn't remove her jumpsuit.

I suppose I'd recommend this one, if only for the wolfman and the level of skill that Trenchard-Smith brings to the proceedings. It moves at a brisk enough pace and I can't say I was ever bored, but it definitely requires a certain tolerance for campy gore for one to derive any enjoyment out of it. I enjoyed it, but you probably won't.

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