Although Arnold Schwarzenegger is synonymous with the immortal line ‘I’ll be back’ from James Cameron’s classic 1984 hit The Terminator, it is easy to forget that, previously, the line formed part of a tagline on one of the most famous exploitation hits of all time – ‘If You’re Lying, I’ll Be Back’
It appeared on an unforgettable poster of a man brandishing a flamethrower under cover of dark headgear.
James Glickenhaus’ The Exterminator (1980) is one of the last remnants of the American Grindhouse, alongside Joseph Ellison’s Don’t Go In The House (1980). To the VHS generation of the early 1980s, the original Alpha / Intervision release is a rites-of-passage, with considerably graphic moments for its time, notably the lowering of a mobster into a huge meat mincer.
The film also represents a time when Times Square was the underbelly of sleaze compared to the tourist-friendly haven it has become. Arrow Video did an excellent job on the Blu-Ray release, which was uncut, and which looks great with some neat special features.
Four years on, The Cannon Group put together a sequel to the film, this time directed by the original’s producer Mark Buntzman, with some online reports crediting cult director William Sachs (The Incredible Melting Man) with additional scenes and co-scripting the film.
After his antics in The Exterminator, John Eastland (Robert Ginty) still possesses a flamethrower and has a police scanner to monitor all manner of criminal activity in the Big Apple. He has clearly managed to calm down from the first film and at a local bar he frequents, he befriends a dancer, Caroline (Deborah Geffner) and tries to build a relationship.
The spectre of conflict and violence is never too far away, this time in the form of X (Mario Van Peebles), a gang lord out to conquer the city, who launches a vendetta against Eastland in revenge for the death of his brother at the opening of the film….
Whilst it doesn’t have the same level of graphic violence and notoriety that the original had, in itself such a unique film for the period it was made; though still containing occasional ones, Exterminator 2 is a more action-based affair and does have sufficient stock to satisfy fans of the original. Given the reputation of Golan-Globus for cutting corners and focusing more on the big buck, you can see the compromises throughout the film. Cannon had more than one eye on the box-office, rather than creating a sequel that would be equally satisfying.
There has been debate over the years about the appeal of the late Robert Ginty and even STARBURST admitted back in the mid-1980s that he was not the reason for the original film’s success, as anyone could have been behind the headgear. That said, Buntzman and Sachs should be commended for trying to make Eastland more human than vigilante here. The Blu-Ray transfer makes it a slicker experience and adds to the TLC that a lot of these exploitation offerings from the period are getting digitally.
EXTERMINATOR 2 / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: MARK BUNTZMAN / SCREENPLAY: MARK BUNTZMAN, WILLIAM SACHS / STARRING: ROBERT GINTY, DEBORAH GEFFNER, MARIO VAN PEEBLES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW