The exterminator is a low budget independent production which became quite a big hit in 1980 no doubt fuelled by the controversy surronding its violent scenes, many of which received serious pruning by the censors on both sides of the atlantic.
Most notably the opening vietnam sequence and the the torture of a prostitute fell foul of the censors scissors, scenes whch are now restored in this directors cut dvd. Although fairly tame by todays standards of violent mayhem, this was tough stuff in 1980, and the opening scene still packs a punch after all these years. That it does is down to the excellent sfx of stan winston and more importantly the direction of James Glickenhaus, a vastly underrated director of condirable talent.
Make no mistake, this is a low budget independant film and it is to Glickenhaus' credit that he gives this film a scope and depth that its belies its budget, the aforementioned vietnam sequence is extremely well photographed and directed and effectively captures the horror of war in the first reel. No other film before or since has shown the butchery that went on in that war, directors such as Stone and Coppolla chose to gloss over the gory details to a certain extent, Glickenhaus does not compromise, which is to his great credit.
An excellent credit sequence consisting of helicopter shots of the NY skyline at night again belies the budget of this film before we are brought down to earth to the grit and grime of the NY streets and the story begins. On watching the film again its nice to see a film that captures the struggle of working class people in their harsh everyday environment with no hollywood gloss, this film keeps it real and is so much better for it.
Robert Ginty gives a subtle understated performance as an average Joe haunted by his war experience who is compelled to act after the brutal assault on his war buddy by a nasty street gang. There are no Charles Bronson type heroics here, revenge is served swift and cold. Christopher George is also good in his role as the cop on Ginty's tail. The supporting cast is good too with an impressive array of sleazy scumbags effectively portrayed by NY character actors Ned Eisenberg, Tony DiBenedetto and Tom Everett.
Obviously inspired by death wish and taxi driver, the exterminator is a rip off of neither, it stands up as a film in its own right and is an excellent mix of realistic gritty drama and violent action. The violence in this film is not gratuitous but well staged and necessary to the story.
Director James Glickenhaus should be comended for using the low budget to its maximum and making something far bigger and better than he wouldve been expected to acheive. The Extermninator is an extremely good thriller that all lovers of gritty 70's dramas should see. Tough, realistic and uncompromising, the film has a great ending aswell that is most satisfying. Top Notch.