It's open season on humans in the Ozploitation disasterpiece TURKEY SHOOT, out on Blu-ray from Severin Films.
In the repressive future of 1995 where the motto is "Freedom is obedience, obedience is work, work is life" and the disobedient and defiant are branded "deviants" who are shipped off to rehabilitation camps. Activist and multiple camp escapee Paul (Steve Railsback, HELTER SKELTER) and prostitute Rita (Lynda Stoner, PRISONER: CELL BLOCK H) along with shop girl Chris (Olivia Hussey, BLACK CHRISTMAS) who came under suspicion after trying to intervene when she sees a suspected deviant being beaten. As soon as they arrive, Paul is dragged off to be tortured and Chris catches the eye of visiting Secretary Mallory (Noel Ferrier, DEATH CHEATERS). While Paul remains defiant in the face of camp master Thatcher's (Michael Craig, VAULT OF HORROR) attempts to break him, Chris is most willing to conform to survive the camp's brutal rule until she witnesses the execution of a failed escapee. When Paul, Chris, Rita, and Coke bottle-glassed weasel Dodge (John Ley, MAD MAX) are assigned rehabilitation ID cards and told that they are free if they manage to survive the "Turkey Shoot" arranged for the amusement of Thatcher, Mallory, and wealthy friends Tito (Michael Petrovitch, NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND) and Jennifer (Carmen Duncan, HARLEQUIN). Paul is skeptical but the others – including troublemaker Griff (Bill Young, BODY MELT) who has been added to the group as a target for execution by Thatcher – think it is worth risking their lives when the only alternative is to remain in the camp forever. Racing through the jungle with Thatcher, Mallory, Tito, and Jennifer on the trail – with the help of camp guards Ritter (Roger Ward, STONE) and Red (Gus Mercurio , THE BLUE LAGOON) and Tito's circus freak (wrestler Steve Rackman, CROCADILE DUNDEE) – they will need to survive and outwit their hunters before attempting to bust out their fellow inmates.
Working with a suddenly reduced budget that necessitated dropping the entire opening as well as some of the more expensive stunts, director Brian Trenchard-Smith (BMX BANDITS) focuses on making the remainder the grindhouse-iest Ozploitation film ever with nudity, rape, a little lesbianism, shower scenes, severed limbs (and digits), bullet-riddled bodies, exploding torsos, machete mayhem, and an excess of pyrotechnics to liven up the already frenzied finale. Also known as BLOOD CAMP THATCHER, the film's social and political commentary as it stands in the final cut is window dressing, and the film drags a little in the middle since we know which characters are going to be around long enough to participate in the hunt. There is little for Railsback to do but be a "stunt man" and Hussey apparently real offscreen fragility translates to the screen to make her the most fearful woman to mow down hundreds of guards with a machine gun. The film thoroughly entertains on a visceral level with some satisfyingly splattery deaths – courtesy of prosthetics artist Bob McCarron whose career encompasses everything from the splattery BODY MELT and DEAD ALIVE to the more mainstream DEAD CALM's death by flare gun and THE PIANO's finger lopping – but the whole affair does seem compromised (even the ending has the characters seeming to settle for survival rather than fighting and exposing corruption and hypocrisy). Trenchard-Smith's punk-era "part MAD MAX, part EXTERMINATING ANGEL" DEAD END DRIVE-IN was more satisfying and entertaining treatment of some of the same themes but was less satisfyingly gory. The film was loosely remade as TURKEY SHOOT last year by Jon Hewitt (X: NIGHT OF VENGEANCE) and released over here as ELIMINATION GAME and is said to have more in common with THE HUNGER GAMES.
Released here theatrically by New World Pictures in 1983 as ESCAPE 2000, and then on panned and scanned VHS by Nelson Entertainment, TURKEY SHOOT hit DVD in 2003 via Anchor Bay Entertainment in an anamorphic widescreen transfer with 5.1 audio, commentary by Trenchard-Smith, and other extras. The film first hit Blu-ray in Australia as a 1080i50 extra on the Umbrella Blu-ray of the remake. Severin's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen transfer is a quite satisfying even if the enhanced definition does make the gore effects look a bit more rubbery (they are still grisly enough). The film is mainly shot in bright settings, but the scenes that evince the grainiest shadows appear to be those most affected by the rushed shooting schedule (mainly the opening which attempts to inject a bit of backstory for Railsback and Hussey which was shot at the end since Trenchard-Smith brought in the film two days early hoping to come up with something to give the film context). Damage is minimal, although the increased resolution makes the stock footage stand out even more painfully (not the opening credits stuff but the military jet footage during the climax). The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track's strong rendition of Brian May's hybrid electronic/orchestral score suggests that that effects and dialogue are just as faithfully represented even if the sound effects do not always have the same umph that they should.
Severin Films carries over most of the extras while adding some new ones. Carried over are the audio Trenchard-Smith commentary as well as "Blood & Thunder Memories" (23:44), a retrospective featurette with actors Craig, Ward and Stoner. They all concede the budgetary issues and morphing of the concept but look on the experience differently. Craig calls the film "eighty minutes of pure schlock" and sees Railsback's method acting, Hussey's sensitivity, and Stoner's objection (as a member of Green Peace) to gutting fish as counterproductive. Ward was only concerned with the money (including the thousand dollars his agent got out of Ginane for having the actor shave his head) and proud of his contribution. Stoner dislikes the film because it ended up not what she signed up for (in addition being pressured to do nudity) but concedes that the film can entertain if it is approached as a black comedy (and believes it would have been a better experience had they approached it as such in production). In his separate interview, Trenchard-Smith (9:48) cops to being a "good soldier" and adapting to circumstances after half the budget disappeared and the schedule was pruned down by two weeks. He does reveal that the original script – by Americans Jon George and Neil D. Hicks who joinly authored HARLEQUIN as well as THE FINAL TERROR – was set in America after the depression (half I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG and half THE NAKED PREY), and that he and Ginnane rewrote it as 1984 meets CAMP ON BLOOD ISLAND meets THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, and that they could not afford to shoot the 1984-esque opening or a helicopter chase and some other stunts. Besides the film's theatrical trailer (2:46), the disc also features the ESCAPE 2000 alternate title sequence (1:42) used on the Anchor Bay DVD.
New to the Severin release "The Ozploitaiton Renaissance" (26:34), a roundtable discussion with Trenchard-Smith, producer Anthony Ginnane (THIRST), and cinematographer Vincent Monton (who shot a number of Ginnane productions but not TURKEY SHOOT which was shot by THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS' John R. McClean). Ginnane recalls how he decided to go into filmmaking rather than become a lawyer and understood that horror, biker films, and softcore sex were the sure bets. Monton became involved with filmmaker Richard Franklin (PATRICK) on ESKIMO NELL and they would both work on Ginnane's film FANTASM which was initially mounted as a nurse sex film pitched to Corman until he got back to them and said the last nurse film did not do well. It then became a parody of Swedish sex documentaries shot in Los Angeles with a cast of hardcore porn actors. Trenchard-Smith grew up in England and had come to enjoy both art films and popular cinema, but the country's filmmaking industry was in a slump in the seventies so he headed to Australia. Working for a television company cutting promos, he decided to form his own company and made the documentary THE STUNT MAN with burgeoning stuntman Grant Page (STUNT ROCK) and two other scripted documentaries on stunts as a means of learning how to direct action sequences. Besides discussing the film, it's performance domestically, in the UK and the states (where Corman got in trouble with the MPAA for distributing prints that had not been pruned for the R-rating) and politely talking around their points of contention (how much of the script was sacrificed because of the budget and how much of the budget disappeared), they muse on their luck in being in the right place in the seventies.
Also included are extended interviews (77:08) from Mark Hartley's documentary NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD by Trenchard-Smith, Ginnane, Railsback, Stoner, Ward, Mercurio, and McCarron. Trenchard-Smith, Ginnane, Stoner, and Ward repeat many of the same anecdotes from the other interviews almost verbatim but provide some additional details as well. Trenchard-Smith mentions that he got his "revenge" on the MPAA for cutting Thatcher's explosive death that he included it as one of the clips on the drive-in theater screen in DEAD END DRIVE-IN. Ginnane is outspoken in his opinions of the actors who spoke out against the film after its release, and Stoner does not hold back on her opinion of him or David Hemmings (DEEP RED) – who did some of the second unit direction and co-produced with John Daly (YELLOWBEARD) through their Hemdale company – while she and Ward also suggest that people in the cast and crew did little to alleviate Hussey's fears and enjoyed winding her up (both Stoner and Mercurio suggest that Hussey would have been better off doing her own nude scene and found the double less flattering). Railsback is still annoyed with the script changes and feels that the production still should have been able to do more with $2.5 million than they achieved. Dropped from the release are the BLOOD CAMP THATCHER title sequence and PDF screenplay but Severin's Blu-ray remains the best way to reassess or see the film for the first time. (Eric Cotenas)
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