THE EXTERMINATOR (1980) Reviews and overview

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‘If you’re lying, I’ll be back…

The Exterminator is a 1980 American action crime thriller about a Vietnam vet who turns into a vigilante when his friend is attacked. A street gang named the Ghetto Ghouls leaves him permanently paralysed in revenge for standing up to them in a failed beer robbery in which he stood up to them.

Written and directed by James Glickenhaus (Slaughter of the Innocents; The Protector; The Soldier; The Astrologer).

The Interstar production stars Robert Ginty, Samantha Eggar (The Brood), Christopher George (Pieces; City of the Living Dead) and Steve James.

A sequel, Exterminator 2, directed by producer Mark Buntzman (who also has a small role in the original) and also starring Robert Ginty, was released in 1984.


” …a weird vigilante action flick, mostly because it’s not quite the relentless bloodbath it’s been made out to be. It is a harsh movie, no question about it, but it’s not a non-stop blood and guts revenge tale. It’s actually a little more low key, a little more contemplative than that.” 411 Mania

“From the denim-flaunting, headband-wearing thugs (The Ghetto Ghouls) complete with chains, spiked accessories and bad attitudes, to the sleazy squalid atmosphere of a New York that could only have been filmed in the Eighties – seediness brimming with rat-infested menace – The Exterminator oozes atmosphere. An irresistible Abel Ferraraesque New York City provides the backdrop for the story…” Behind the Couch

“John disposes of a lot of really horrible people in ways that act as catharsis for the viewer – ones that see these kinds of films as harmless retribution perhaps, or a brief respite from the horrors of reality. Some may see them as wish fulfillment. Regardless, The Exterminator is set up to get a reaction from viewers, and that it definitely does…” Daily Dead

“There isn’t much of a story, and lacking a narrative, events seem to follow each other randomly and without really making sense. The scenes are loosely tacked together and the characters are straight from the 70’s/80’s factory line. You’ll be sure that you’ve seen most of them before, maybe you’ve even seen the film before.” Love Horror

The Exterminator is a sick example of the almost unbelievable descent into gruesome savagery in American movies. It’s a direct rip-off of Death Wish […] It is essentially just a sadistic exercise in moronic violence, supported by a laughable plot.” Roger Ebert

“Ultimately, The Executioner isn’t a really good movie in terms of originality, but it is definitely an entertaining one. Some really nice footage of the seedy side of early eighties inner-city New York gives it some atmosphere, and the violence is twisted enough in spots to hold your attention.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

The Exterminator is grindhouse cheese but it’s entertaining grindhouse cheese. The set-pieces are effective, the acting is understated but spot-on and the whole film’s got an unashamed seediness and grit to it. The final scene ruins what could have been a powerful ending, but that aside it’s one of the better-made films of its era.” That Was a Bit Mental

” …we still have car chases and squibs galore – but The Exterminator is a low budget take on genre cinema and it can’t help but look and feel a lot smaller than a movie like Death Wish. Certainly not a bad thing, as it brings with it that vibe of Punk Rock cinema. Where things are done by limited means, but with far greater intentions.” Varied Celluloid

“Ultimately, The Exterminator is second-rate trash, but at the end of the day, who cares? If you’re actively watching this movie so long after its release, you’re doing so for its fabled disrepute, and as a vehicle for breakneck exploitation it will not disappoint.” VHS Revival

“Of all the Death Wish rip-offs out there, this one is the best.  Even the most jaded of exploitation fans’ jaws will drop on this one (especially during the “chicken” sequences).  The effects are awesome and the decapitation that opens the film is one of the best you’ll ever see on the silver screen.” The Video Vacuum

“It’s a particularly brutal sleazy schlockfest, and a hugely entertaining one. The pace never lags and the film could never be described as dull. It may stretch credibility on occasion, and there is a streak of nastiness that runs through it, but all in all, The Exterminator is more than worth a watch.” Werewolves on the Moon

The Exterminator can be described as Death Wish amped up about ten notches with its brutal style of violence. Robert Ginty is great in the titular role as someone who’s just had enough and does something about the situation at hand, despite not following the laws of the city. Definitely a great 80’s cult action classic.” World Film Geek

“There’s a streak of slimy, gritty sadism throughout this movie, from the shocking opener involving a very gory and slow beheading in Vietnam, to the kills involving meat-grinders and flame-throwers […] Death Wish was a hundred times more powerful and memorable and well-written thanks to three-dimensional characters and a practical approach to vigilantism, whereas this one focuses merely on the cruelty and action.” Worldwide Celluloid Massacre

Choice dialogue:

John Eastland (Robert Ginty): “Hey, your fly is open.”

Cast and characters:

Christopher George … Detective James Dalton
Samantha Eggar … Doctor Megan Stewart
Robert Ginty … John Eastland
Steve James … Michael Jefferson
Tony DiBenedetto … Chicken Pimp (as Toni Di Benedetto)
Dick Boccelli … Gino Pontivini
Patrick Farrelly … CIA Agent Shaw
Michele Harrell … Maria Jefferson
David Lipman … The State Senator from New Jersey
Cindy Wilks … Candy
Dennis Boutsikaris … Frankie
Roger Grimsby … Roger Grimsby
Judy Licht … Judy Licht
Stan Getz … Stan Getz
George Cheung … Vietcong Leader (as George Lee Cheung)
Phil Chong … Vietcong Garrottee
Bill Saito … Vietcong AK-47
Kenny Endoso … Vietcong Fire Gag
John Hauk … U.S. Leader
Kirk Dangler … U.S. Radioman
Clay Wright … U.S. Pilot
Paul G. Hensler … Captured U.S. Soldier (as Paul Hensler)
John L. Fitzgerald … Mr Hoffman
Frank Ferrara … Collector #1
Tony Munafo … Collector #2
Ned Eisenberg … Marty
Irwin Keyes … Bobby
Antonia French … Jefferson’s Daughter
Dwouane Wilson … Jefferson’s Son
Santos Morales … Police Captain

Filming locations:

Indian Dunes – 28700 Henry Mayo Drive, Valencia, California (Vietnam sequence)
New York City, New York

Technical details:

104 minutes (director’s cut) | 101 minutes (original uncut)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Dolby Stereo


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