Directed by: James Glickenhaus
Starring: Robert Ginty, Christopher George, Steve James

Vigilante revenge flicks have always been a favorite of mine. Whether somebody has been raped or tortured or had their families killed it always feels good to see the victim get even, and then some.
THE EXTERMINATOR takes this most basic of premises and although it doesn’t really add anything new it still comes across as a decent DEATH WISH-like vigilante film.

The movie opens with an explosive Vietnam War prelude with bullets flying and bombs exploding all over the place. A small group of American soldiers find themselves surrounded and captured by the Viet Cong and after one of them is killed (in a surprisingly satisfying decapitation sequence) another soldier Mike (James) attacks the enemy and saves his fellow soldier John's (Ginty) life. Obviously taking place on a sound stage, this sequence was actually shot in only 4 days as an afterthought, perhaps to try and add something different to the film but more probably to give it a bit of an APOCALYPSE NOW vibe.

Post Vietnam and the two surviving American soldiers John Eastland and his pal Michael are settling into their civilian lives, but when Mike is mugged by a gang of street thugs calling themselves the Ghetto Ghouls, his neck is broken and he is left paralyzed and unable to speak. John swears revenge on the gang and becomes The Exterminator. But wreaking revenge on his pal’s muggers is only the first step. Next he needs a quick way to come up with some money for Mike’s family since Mike obviously can’t work anymore. Eventually he finds himself involved with an abused prostitute and soon he’s wiping all kinds of scum off of the streets. But of course not all of this goes unnoticed and soon the police and CIA are hot on his trail.
The traumatic experience of war is something I hope I’ll never have to go through, but we’ve all heard stories and seen films which show what can happen to a soldier’s mind (FIRST BLOOD being a perfect example). I suppose this was the reason the extra Vietnam scenes were added in afterwards, to give John a better excuse for flying completely off the handle.

And of course the film wants you to side with John Eastland so it throws in the type of villains you have to hate; thugs, gangsters and child molesters, leaving you to cheer on The Exterminator as he blows them all away. Well that’s the theory anyway, but John isn’t exactly the kind of guy you feel like cheering on. He’s much too bland a character and after he achieves revenge he really has no cause to kill anymore, so why does he?

After the decapitation at the movie’s beginning, I had expected the violence to continue throughout, but it’s really nowhere near as brutal or graphic as I had expected (or hoped) which was a bit disappointing.
There is a nice scene involving an industrial sized meat grinder but for an exploitation flick which was banned in more than one country you would expect to see a lot more explicit violence.

There is an unnecessary romantic sub-plot involving the cop James Dalton (George) jammed in there and also an underdeveloped plot involving the CIA which was very sloppily inserted in the film. The script and dialogue are pretty terrible (when asked what Vietnam was like, all that Detective Dalton can reply with is that “It was bad”) and the acting ranges from average to shit.

THE EXTERMINATOR isn't such a bad movie really, and for an exploitation flick it ticks all the boxes. It probably could have been a bit more violent in my opinion, but mostly by the time the credits roll the movie will make you realize just how much better a film like DEATH WISH is. Recommended for exploitation fans but others may be disappointed.


  1. If the movie was even half as good as the cover, I'd probably have to watch it every day.

    1. The cover for the sequel is even more badass. Too bad the movie sucks.