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Turkey Shoot (Blu-ray)

Review by: 
Escape 2000
Release Date: 
Severin Films
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Brian Tenchard-Smith
Steve Railsback
Olivia Hussey
Michael Craig
Bottom Line: 
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While all reviewers receive more film that they know what to do with, it is rare that a reviewer will ever receive a film that is something they already know and love. Because most titles sent for review are new releases and most companies have a real problem sending you their older stuff it is rare that a reviewer will be ever receive the exact sorts of titles that they are familiar with, the films that got them involved in cult film to begin with.

Even more rarely are the odds of a reviewer receiving a title released over thirty years ago that would become their favorite cult title of all time.  Until the day it happens…For me, that day is today.  Here is my review of TURKEY SHOOT/ESCAPE 2000, none other than my personal favorite cult film of all time. 

Of course I was awestruck when I first held the box in hand, yet I had some trepidation. Would it still be as good as I remembered when I I first saw it two decades ago?  Let’s just say that when it comes to the essential elements inherent in every decent sexploitation cult film, this TURKEY SHOOT is a satisfying, target rich environment.

But first, as usual, here is the story. The year is 1995 and the world is run by a totalitarian police state, though unrest is everywhere. By order of the powers that be, all political dissidents, rebels and persons of suspicious character are arrested by the state.

We meet three of such lost souls in these opening credits riding in the back of a police van, heading off to some unseen location: A man named Paul who is arrested for being an obvious political activist. Then there is Rita who is being arrested for being a ”prostitute” even though she claims “she is most certainly not” and another woman named Chris whose only crime was working in a gift shop when a bad man on the run from the state police was apprehended there.  In time we see them unloaded at a maximum security stockade in the middle of nowhere, run by a crazed camp commander named Thatcher and his crazed henchman Ritter, who looks a little like Popeye’s arch enemy “Bluto” if he were a real person, only somehow, even more oafish, mean and prone to brutalizing the weak.  If they were to have just stopped here and let the film play out, it could have still been a serviceable B movie picture about a goofy prison, After all TERMINAL ISLAND (1973) had nothing else going for it (except for a young Tom Selleck) and people still remember it fondly.  But here is where Turkey Shoot pours on the crazy cult goodness, and becomes something no one who sees it will soon forget. Shortly after the new recruits arrive, a bunch of deranged characters all show up, each of looking like they have been taken out of another movie, yet all of them, somehow dressed up for sport?  There is Jennifer, the blue blooded lesbian woman dressed in classical Equestrian garb who is armed with a crossbow and a quiver full of sharp, exploding, pyrotechnic arrows. There is a small loud, sociopathic man named Andy and his “weapon” of choice; a large werewolf looking circus freak of a man named “Alph” who probable origins could never adequately be explained (if I were to devote this whole review trying to do so).  Finally there is a head of state named Secretary Mallory, just a soft bodied old politician who drinks brandy while picking the woman from the surveillance monitor that he would eventually stalk, hunt and kill through the Australian outback. Soon it dawns on you, the viewer, this camp is not so much a holding box for enemies of the state as it is kind of a killing jar to eradicate them in the most outlandish B movie manner possible. 

Of course movie goers have seen this sort of thing before, but this film was probably responsible for much you have seen in every “Sci-fi version of The Most Dangerous Game” film ever made since its release, only it was done here best in this original 1981 film and of its many unique visual elements been largely copied in every “game of death” film since then.  For example, the shock yellow jumpsuits of the hapless “players” and developed, three dimensional “stalker” characters with distinct and different personalities were surely an inspiration for RUNNING MAN (1987). The single file releasing of a new player into the wild every minute at the start of the game and the fact it is largely played on an unpopulated, uncharted island under technological surveillance, by a central game master authority, is surely some of the inspiration behind BATTLE ROYALE (2000). Perhaps finally, the facts that the evil game masters in this film are actually government heads of state who use the game to not only eradicate troublesome political dissidents, but to amuse the insane bloodthirst of the ruling class is surely a page taken out of HUNGER GAMES (2012).  Of course, aside from its originality there are other reasons why this is my favorite cult film and the other films I mentioned in this paragraph are not, and that is because TURKEY SHOOT knows the simple law of cult film, it is better to be bombastic than believable.  Admittedly there are moments where this budgetary threadbare film bogs down in the mud, as it almost tries to take itself seriously as a real tale of allegorical crime and punishment, but then something wonderful (and often terrible as well) happens. Someone pulls off an insanely creative kill shot, so goofy and grisly that it would easily rival the murder scenes from a horror movie, (whether from 1981 or today). As such, even if the usual sci-fi plot of the evil futuristic authoritarian regime bores you, this TURKEY SHOOT provides adequate spectator sport for any lovers of lurid B movie sport, everywhere. 

And as if that wasn’t enough, there are some darker if not deeper subtexts to the story.  There are sexploitation elements throughout this film, but they largely take place in the viewer’s brain, (which I find is most satisfying of all) including a certain death scene so darkly fetishistic that it will remain in your mind forever, as you wonder what actually happened, even though you will already know from all the clues.  Additionally this entire Ozsplotation film takes place in the Australian bush featuring vehicles, weapons and an overall onscreen aesthetic that was naturally exotic for its day, and even more so some thirty years later.

Yes, they simply don’t make them like this anymore and this is why I am going to tell you to do something I haven’t done in years. I am going to tell you that you need to buy this film. The last time the uncut version of this film saw a proper disc release was in 2003 and it quickly went out of print soon thereafter and prices for it steadily climbed until a new copy reached prices of about $100.00 off of Amazon a decade later. Even with the release of this new Blu-ray version (which is superior to the old Anchor bay version in every possible way), the old “Premiere DVD edition” still sells for around $44.00 while this, the Blu-ray, currently sells for around $22.00, exactly half that price. Who knows what a copy of this, the “Premiere Blu-ray edition” will go for when it sells out again on this medium?  One thing is certain; it will be for much more than $22.00. All Ebay speculation aside, this film contains all of the elements, the necessary themes: “Sensual, Savage and Silly” that I feel any truly awesome cult, underground cinema must absolutely possess. In fact, if you watch this flick and see absolutely nothing you like within its running time, suffice to say, you probably don’t need to be reading my reviews anymore because it is unlikely you will find agreement to anything I ever say when it comes to matters of art as this film is one of the standards against which I judge all other underground action films and one of the titles that got me into B movies to begin with.  What more is there to say?

Hunting is the Sport. People are the Prey. This movie is a satisfying cinematic carcass.

Special features include short featurettes about the Ozsploitation phenomenon, an interview with the actors, and extended interviews from NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD, Audio Commentary, Theatrical trailer and two alternate opening title sequences. Had they included a DVD copy here, it would have amounted to everything needed for a 5 skull score.

Buy it here!


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