Exterminator, The (1980)

Exterminator, The (1980)

“If you’re lying, I’ll be back.”

Vietnam vet John Eastland (Robert Ginty) seeks revenge for the brutal beating of his best friend (Steve James), and eventually becomes an all-purpose vigilante in New York City.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • New York City
  • Revenge
  • Samantha Eggar Films
  • Veterans
  • Vigilantes

Response to Peary’s Review:
This “ugly urban melodrama” is a clear rip-off of Charles Bronson’s Death Wish (1974) — and, despite its erstwhile popularity (according to Peary, “audiences cheered when [Ginty] tortured the bad guys”), it’s certainly not must-see viewing. The screenplay lacks any nuance at all, with director James Glickenhaus portraying his villains as “the dirtiest, hairiest, most disgusting youth gang imaginable”. Perhaps most interesting is the film’s status as part of the subgenre of “Vietnam vets gone wild”; along with Shoot (1976), Deathdream (1974), Joe (1970) and others, The Exterminator capitalizes on the titillating trope of trigger-happy vets.

Redeeming Qualities:

  • A mildly interesting premise

Must See?
No, unless you’re a fan of vigilante films.


2 thoughts on “Exterminator, The (1980)

  1. Not a must. First (and last) viewing. I can’t believe I actually watched this thing, but I did – and the ‘unrated, director’s cut’, no less (not that it matters…one single bit).

    In total agreement with the assessment given. This may have been popular upon release – but that clearly was then. For whatever possible reason, Peary does include titles of somewhat ‘blockbuster’ renown that were out around or just before the time his book appeared – but, for reasons not really necessary to go into, this one is both of its time and immensely (even on its own terms) forgettable. Ugh.

  2. An example of US Grindhouse cinema made in the wake of Death Wish (1974). A notorious title, entertaining in that it shows a New York City now long gone and it’s very much a product of it’s time. Robert Ginty was a fine actor and he does a great job here, but the script isn’t up to much and the whole thing lacks momentum. Not essential viewing unless you’re a student of Grindhouse cinema and independent productions.

    The sequel Exterminator 2 (1984) makes the first look positively realistic with some of the most loony, cartoony villains yet seen on screen; very much in keeping with the likes of Death Wish II (1981) and Death Wish 3 (1985).

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