Review: Ozploitation Classic TURKEY SHOOT on Blu-ray

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Ozploitation classic TURKEY SHOOT comes to Blu-ray.

When I was a kid, lost in the delirium of my swelling obsession with absorbing every horror movie ever made, I had a two-pronged method of attack. First, I’d comb both the regular TV guide and the Pay-TV guide and search for horror and exploitation films, highlighting them and using their scheduling to plan my week. Then I’d ensure I had enough blank videotape space to record them all (I would actually stay up late just to edit out the commercials on standard TV broadcasts, pausing and un-pausing to ensure a seamless, ad-free presentation). Now, you may think this a sad sack pursuit, but I assure you, this was my real education. This is the school that has actually paid off…

But I digress.

In 1986, Canadian movie network First Choice had a glut of awesome genre titles rolling out in rotation and it was via that outlet that I watched and recorded such masterpieces as Tobe Hooper’s LIFEFORCE, Dan O’Bannon’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, Tom Holland’s FRIGHT NIGHT and so many other incredible, energetic and now classic dark fantasy film titles. Among the list was a flick called ESCAPE 2000. I did what I always did pre-internet, I referred to my Leonard Maltin movie book to learn more about the picture. Say what you want about Maltin and company’s often dismissive reviews, but it was there that I could reference cast, running times and countries of origin. And alternate titles. And when I learned that ESCAPE 2000’s alternate title was TURKEY SHOOT, I was turned off. Why on earth would I want to watch a movie called TURKEY SHOOT? Never mind that the film was Australian and to me, the only Australian movie I was aware of at the time was CROCODILE DUNDEE. And I hated fucking CROCODILE DUNDEE.

I can excuse myself now, as I was just a sprout, but my, oh my, what an idiot I was. Because, 30 years and a lifetime of Aussie cult cinema immersion later, I’ve just seen TURKEY SHOOT. Great God Ginnane, what a towering work of titanic, post-MAD MAX trash it is…
Severin’s gorgeous new Blu-ray release of Brian Trenchard-Smith’s magnum 1982 junk opera of cheerful sadism, ham-handed political allegory, illicit sex and campy prison camp mayhem is a beautiful thing, packed with affectionate extras that celebrate not only this picture, but the jubilant spirit of all of producer Anthony I. Ginnane’s Ozsploitation gems (see THIRST for this writer’s all-time fave).

The film is set in one of those dystopian future-shock civilizations (1995, in fact!)  where everyone is cartoonishly divided into capitalist scum and virtuous opposition. When those rebellious types from the latter category transgress, they are pegged “deviant” and sentenced to brutal work camps that would make Ilsa wince. One such repeat deviant is Anders, played by LIFEFORCE and HELTER SKELTER’s Steve Railsback, a rabble rouser who apparently stinks at covering his tracks. After preaching a typically windy counter-culture diatribe over a pirate radio frequency, Anders is apprehended again and thrown into the most barbaric of those camps where he meets the beautiful Walters (the wide eyed Olivia Hussey, only a few short years post-BLACK CHRISTMAS); after witnessing atrocity after atrocity, the pair reluctantly accept an offer from the powers that be to become human prey in a “most dangerous game” wherein the uber-elite will hunt them in the dense outback surrounding the prison. If they’re caught they’re dead. But if they escape, they’ll be set free. Of course, the dynamic-duo soon learn that escape is futile from this “turkey shoot” and it’s up to them to turn the tables on their sniggering, moneyed mean-spirited antagonists. Did I mention that one of the dandy sadists keeps a drooling cro-magnon werewolf monster in a suit as a pet? Well, he does. Said monster even chows down on a poor schlub’s crudely removed toe in a revolting scene that is as vile as it is gratuitous…

In fact it could be said that the entire film is gratuitous, but really, TURKEY SHOOT’s freefall into excess is what makes it so unrelentingly awesome. It would also be easy to express shock that this lurid, leering and ultraviolent romp being directed by the same man who made the Nicole Kidman-starring Aussie family classic BMX BANDITS, but we won’t. Because in fact, BMX BANDITS is plenty weird and oddly cruel, as is TURKEY SHOOT. Trenchard-Smith is the gentleman of Down Under trash filmmaking and TURKEY SHOOT, with its bizarre performances (Hussey was apparently in a real state of terror the entire time and it shows), overbearingly amazing score by the late, legendary composer Brian May (NOT the same Brian May from QUEEN, thank you very much…he’s very much alive) and buckets of nudity and gore, is his crown jewel. To think that back in my youth, I hesitated…

Severin’s lovely, uncut Blu comes packed with extras that serve to deepen your TURKEY SHOOT experience. “The Ozploitation Renaissance” is a particularly great feature, gathering as it does Trenchard-Smith, the amazing Ginnane and cinematographer Vincent Monton (ROAD GAMES) to talk not only about TURKEY SHOOT but the Australian genre scene full stop. There’s also the fun “Turkey Shoot: Blood and Thunder Memories” that gathers veteran UK thesp Michael Craig (VAULT OF HORROR) and others from the cast to riff on what a strange trip it all was. There are further interviews, a trailer, an alternate opening sequence and best of all, a lively commentary by the dryly hilarious and charming director.

If you’ve already seen TURKEY SHOOT (this one, not the tepid 2014 remake), then this review was moot; I’m preaching to the converted. But if you haven’t seen TURKEY SHOOT yet…put down your damn phone and go find a copy before I hunt you down and feed your feet to my werewolf.

 

Turkey Shoot 3

 

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Weekend: Nov. 22, 2018, Nov. 25, 2018

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