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"Disobedience is treason, treason is a crime, crime will be punished!"
on 14 November 2012
In the near future, people that are deemed to be "social deviants" are sent to prison camps for re-education and behaviour modification. The film opens with three new arrivals, Paul (Steve Railsback), Chris (Olivia Hussey) and Rita (Lynda Stoner). As soon as they arrive they're met by Chief Guard Ritter (Roger Ward) and later witness him beat a female prisoner into a bloody mess, something that not only seems to be acceptable to Camp Master Charles Thatcher (Michael Craig), but endorsed. After the three put up with several weeks of brutal treatment from Thatcher and his men, they accept Thatcher's invitation to participate in a deadly game of cat and mouse. Thatcher and a few selected others will hunt them down on the island and kill them, but if they survive until sundown they'll be set free. It's obvious there's no way Thatcher will stick to his word, so the prisoners attempt to fight back and kill the hunters.
Steve Railsback is a very likeable lead, something that wasn't too difficult when you consider that almost everyone else at the camp are perfect "love to hate them" characters. He's definitely the main star, and carries the film extremely well. Railsback is a method actor, something that really annoyed Michael Craig in particular. From what several people connected with the film have said, Olivia Hussey was extremely shy, miserable and upset during filming believing that Australia's dangerous wildlife would hurt her. This made shooting her on location very difficult, but it works for the character she was playing. Whenever she looks upset, it looks completely real. Lynda Stoner seems quite disinterested most of the film, she was apparently very difficult on set and looks like she would rather have been anywhere else. Michael Craig and Roger Ward are great as Thatcher and Ritter, they seem to be having a blast playing the bad guys. There's some really fun performances from the rest of the cast as well, especially from a couple of the hunters. It was a very troubled shoot, so I think a lot of credit has to go to director Brian Trenchard-Smith who still managed to make an exciting, fun film. He's probably best known for the film he made after Turkey Shoot called BMX Bandits with Nicole Kidman, he also directed the underrated Dead-End Drive In and Night Of The Demons 2. There's a bit of nudity, some pretty decent gore including a brilliant head explosion and the music is great.
Apart from the problems with Hussey and Stoner on set, the film also lost $700,000 from its budget just before shooting began when an investor pulled out. This led to the first 15 pages of the script being torn out and a 4 page helicopter chase scene being removed, the shoot was also reduced from 44 days down to 30. It's quite obvious from the interviews on the extras that the film was initially meant to be a much more serious film, with a much larger social commentary. For the first 15 minutes or so it's still quite a serious film, but we're then introduced to a wolfman wearing a waistcoat and top hat from a circus and it becomes clear that they decided to just have fun instead. I was initially shocked the first time I saw the film and the wolfman appeared, suddenly it went from a serious, brutal, nasty film to a film where suddenly I knew anything could and probably would happen. Even Thatcher's name wasn't in there by mistake, this was the early '80s and the iron fisted warden was a pop at Margaret Thatcher. The film was even released in the UK as Blood Camp Thatcher, it was called Escape 2000 in the US despite the trailer claiming that it takes place in 1995.
The dvd from Optimum has a beautiful widescreen print, I've seen a few blu-rays that don't look as good as this. The sound is fine, everything's clear and there's no hiss or other problems. There's a 10 minute featurette which is Brian Trenchard-Smith talking about the film and its problems, there's then a very interesting 24 minute retrospective with several of the actors discussing the film. I actually got a little annoyed watching it, Lynda Stoner clearly hates the film and regrets being in it, she sure doesn't waste any opportunity to let us know how disgusting and pathetic she thinks it is. For an actress that never really went on to do anything, I would have thought she'd get a kick out of this film becoming a cult classic and it's surely the film most people will remember her from. Thankfully Roger Ward and Michael Craig come across much better and seem to have fond memories of the film, unlike the eternally ungrateful Stoner. There's no subtitles.
A lot of people think of Turkey Shoot as a "so bad it's good" movie, I don't. I genuinely love the movie and think it's one of the very best Ozploitation movies ever made, especially considering the amount of problems the film had prior to and during shooting. It mixes horror, prison drama, comedy and action together to make one of the most fun films of the '80s. Whether you love it because you think it's awful, or simply love it because of its over the top awesomeness, everyone should give it a go if you can just accept films as pure entertainment.