Thatcher’s Future – Rediscovering ‘Turkey Shoot’ (Australia 1982 – 93 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - May 23, 2014
Thatcher’s Future – Rediscovering ‘Turkey Shoot’ (Australia 1982 – 93 mins)

Over the years there have been many variations of the classic tale ‘The Most Dangerous Game’, all varying in quality. Some examples are Cornel Wilde’s cult feature ‘The Naked Prey’ (’66), Peter Watkins excellent ‘Punishment Park’ (’71), and Peter Collinson’s obscure ‘Open Season’ (’74). Modern takes include Kinji Fukasaku’s brilliant ‘Battle Royale’ (2000), and 2012’s ‘The Hunger games’. 1982’s ‘Turkey Shoot’ is the easily the most violent and controversial of all the rehashes. Also known as ‘Escape 2000’ and ‘Blood Camp Thatcher’, it’s a great piece of exploitation, and one of the most violent pictures of it’s time. The critics loathed it of course, but I think it’s one of the most exiting actioners of its day.

In the near future, ‘social deviants’ are sent to prison camps for modification. Among the new arrivals at one particular Camp, are escaped protester Paul Anders (Steve Railsback), Chris Walters (Olivia Hussey) a wrongly accused shop worker, and Rita Daniels (Lynda Stoner) a suspected prostitute. One day, Camp Commandant Thatcher (Michael Craig), organizes a deadly game (‘Turkey Shoot’) for a group of VIP guests. Paul, Chris and Rita are promised their freedom if they can prevent themselves from being re-captured before the following morning. Agreeing to the deal, they make a run for the forest, where they eventually turn the tables on their hunters, which leads to an all-out slaughter of survival and revenge.

‘Turkey Shoot’ boasts an excellent international cast for this type of exploitation piece. An athletic Steve Railsback top-lines here, in-between making cult favourites; ‘The Stunt Man’ (’80) and ‘Lifeforce’ (’85). Beautiful Olivia Hussey looks out of place and appears scared throughout. Olivia hated the production, and couldn’t wait for the filming to be over. 52 year old former British heart-throb; Michael Craig, plays camp commandant Charles Thatcher, forever spouting rules and threats to his captured ‘deviants’. A talented Australian supporting cast includes Noel Ferrier, Michael Petrovitch and a crossbow wielding Carmen Duncan, as the visiting VIP’s, and stunning Lynda Stoner as the doomed Rita. ‘Mad Max’ co-star; Roger Ward, (resembling Pat Roach’s baddie from ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’), is suitably nasty as Thatcher’s top henchman; Ritter.

English director Brian Trenchard-Smith, displays a lot of flare and imagination here, even finding time for some dark humour among the slice and dice moments. Trenchard-Smith worked largely in the action and horror genres, making such fan favorites as ‘The Man from Hong Kong’ (’75), the early Nicole Kidman feature ‘BMX Bandits’ (’83), and the atmospheric ‘Dead End Drive-in’ (’86).

‘Turkey Shoot’ was much censored at the time, with nearly six minutes cut from various releases, including the UK video. Thankfully, it has since been re-released uncut in most countries. The film is certainly very gory, and boasts a few imaginative killings, including one character being sliced in half, two murdered by crossbow, and others with various limbs and digits lopped off. The pièce de résistance is a very impressive effect that sees Michael Craig’s character being literally shot to pieces during the films explosive finale.

It may be no ‘Citizen Kane’, but I think ‘Turkey Shoot’ is a hugely entertaining film from start to finish. Both fast-paced and thrilling, it does what it sets out to do; entertain. You can’t ask for more than that!

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