BR: Turkey Shoot / Escape 2000 (1982)

February 18, 2016 | By

 TurkeyShoot1982_sFilm: Excellent

Transfer: Excellent

Extras: Excellent

Label:  Severin

Region: A, B, C

Released:  September 22, 2015

Genre:  Ozploitation / Action / Sci-Fi

Synopsis: Inmates of a re-education camp are forced to participate in a human hunt in this Orwellian, over-the-top ozploitation classic.

Special Features:  2003 Audio Commentary with director Brian Trenchard-Smith / 2003 Making-of Featurette “Turkey Shhot: Blood & Thunder Memories” (23:42) / 2003 Brian Trenchard-Smith Interview (9:49) / 2015 Roundtable Discussion with director Brian Trenchard-Smith, producer Anthony Ginnane, and cinematographer Vincent Monton (27:33) / Extended Interviews from 2008 documentary “Not Quite Hollywood” (77:15) / Theatrical Trailer / Alternate “Escape 2000” U.S. Title Sequence (1:42).




“Freedom is Obedience. Obedience is Work. Work is Life.”


Set in 1995, Turkey Shoot (released as Escape 2000 in America) begins when political activist Paul (Steve Railsback, fresh off The Stunt Man), lippy knick-knack seller Chris (Black Christmas’ Olivia Hussey), and ‘whorish’ Jennifer (Lynda Stoner) arrive at an Orwellian re-education camp and quickly witness a variety of brutalities inflicted upon attractive inmates by sadistic overlords, especially Chief Guard Ritter (gleefully sadistic chrome-domed Roger Ward). Jumpsuited inmates are kept in line using assorted fear tactics and theatrical punishments, yet everyone’s required to lather up in communal showers and get squeaky-clean before bedtime.

Paul tells camp commandant Thatcher (Michael Craig) he will not be broken, but his chances seem dicey when visiting political elites select him plus four inmates for a special hunt. Experts in tracking, maiming, and eventually killing their fellow bi-pedal kin include a snotty bitch (Carmen Duncan) who uses a customized crossbow like Rambo, a pompous oaf, and a two-man tag team consisting of a slick Spaniard (Michael Petrovich) and his trusty toe-eating mutant (Steve Rackman playing a half WWF wrestler-half something else, seemingly needle-dropped from H.G. Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau, although the character has a micron of continuity if one takes into consideration the Wellsian quote “The Revolution begins with the misfits” that closes the film).

Director Brian Trenchard-Smith Michael Craig (BMX Bandits, Dead End Drive-In) juggled a reduced shooting script, shrunken budget, and highly meddlesome executive producer David Hemmings (Blow Up, Thirst) and managed to construct what he terms is a comic book exploitation shocker with Fulci gore. Hunters and the hunted are arrowed, bisected at the waistline, cranially machete-split Bava-style, explosively detached limb-from-limb, and experience sudden vehicular crunching, while the sexploitation quotient is delivered in recurring shots of well-endowed Stoner running dry, wet, or illogically pausing to bathe la-dee-da in an open pond (albeit fully clothed) when she should be running for her bloody life. Naturally her character is dispatched to Heaven, but not before she’s assaulted (off-screen) by Duncan’s tongue and deadly arrows.

Railsback says he signed on to what was supposed to be a more political film with deeper character backstories and conflicts – perhaps vestiges of the original script, a period hybrid of The Dangerous Game (1932) + I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) – and in the extended / outtake interviews assembled from the 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood, he’s still quite pissed at what should have been, and what was ultimately made by the production company.

Trenchard-Smith half-jokingly refers to the film as a disaster, but he also acknowledges whatever its flaws (and he has giddy fun pointing them all out in his brilliant and hysterical commentary track), Turkey Shoot is a strange distillation of all the right juicy bits one expects to find in a Ginnane production. Railsback gives the film needed gravitas and offsets Hussey’s perpetual ‘Good Lord, what am I to do?’ visage, while the villains are gleefully mean and get their nasty comeuppance, especially camp leader Thatcher, whose chunk-blowing demise was initially censored in the U.S. release prints.

Brian May’s disjointed score suggest the orchestra was replaced a day into scoring with a small synth setup, but John McLean’s cinematography and Alan Lake’s editing are superb, giving the finale both production value and great pyrotechnic and aerial kinetics. The idea the Air Force is alerted and sent to immolate the camp and its inhabitants is ludicrous, but Trenchard-Smith pulls it off the interpolation of stock footage (gorgeous F-111C fighter planes) with great skill and humour.

One aspect that will unexpectedly resonate with 2015 audiences is the stagey torment which the prison metes out to either discipline or kill its victims. There’s a strange ISIL quality to the sadism, largely because the prisoners do wear pastel-coloured jumpsuits, a bloodied cadaver is displayed in a cage as a portent to inmates, and in one scene in which everyone must watch a man beaten to a pulp by an entourage of guards before each tormentor flicks his lighter and ignites the fuel that was splashed from balls of gasoline tethered to his legs. It’s all staged to instill fear in the prisoners who have been assembled as playthings for their sadistic overlords in a corrupt dystopian world set in 1984, yet it feels eerily contemporary.

Veteran ozploitation producer Anthony Ginnane (Thirst, Strange Behavior) claims this sadistic and occasionally gory variation of The Most Dangerous Game was his most profitable film, and while slick and briskly paced with the standard sleazy elements of the era (guns, explosions, nudity), Severin’s plethora of bonus interviews candidly reveal a film production no one was happy making at the time, or perhaps not… depending on which extras you choose to rely on.

Severin ported over the documentary “Turkey Shoot: Blood & Thunder Memories,” a director interview + director commentary from the 2003 Anchor Bay DVD. In the 2003 extras, Hemmings is mentioned as producer and second unit director, but among the 90 mins. of Not Quite Hollywood interviews, he’s described as divisive, inferring a producer who seemed to hope the director would quit so he could take over.

A roundtable (er, ‘half-circle’) discussion with Ginnane, Trenchard-Smith, and cinematographer Vincent Monton (The Long Weekend, Road Games, Thirst) is quite lively, and is mostly devoted to describing Australia’s new wave of filmmaking which began in the late sixties and flourished through the seventies. In the Not Quite Hollywood interviews, there’s a suggestion some budget money was squandered prior to filming, whereas in his 2003 commentary Trenchard-Smith suggests the film’s loss of funding stemmed from an overhaul of the film investment tax credit which reduced the benefits for financiers and adversely affected further productions.

For Canadian / CanCon fans, the dilemma sounds strikingly familiar – a reduction in tax benefits caused a substantive reduction in home-grown productions – and there’s the added parallel of government funding agencies spewing monies to movies that reflected the national culture rather than productions which ‘could’ve been shot anywhere’ and were less deserving of taxpayer funding. That government agencies were becoming arbiters of taste & quality ultimately led Trenchard-Smith to relocate to Hollywood and restart his career, but neither of the men feel any guilt for having made commercial works – their efforts built up an internationally respected industry, and launched the careers of many skilled technicians and creative writers, directors, producers, and actors.

Perhaps the best closing line among the interviews stems from the ever-optimistic director, circa 2003: “If you love what you do, you’ll find a way to do it.”

Severin’s gorgeous Blu-ray edition gathers all the Anchor Bay extras (minus a stills gallery and PDF screenplay) and sports a wealth of new material that supports a guilty pleasure that’s outlived its detractors and endures as a classic and insane example of ozploitation at its best.

Turkey Shoot was remade in 2014 (and also released as Elimination Game) by producer Ginnane, and features small roles for Roger Ward and Carmen Duncan.



This review originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Rue Morgue magazine; revised & expanded 2016. © Mark R. Hasan



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