Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Turkey Shoot (aka BLOOD CAMP THATCHER) (1982)

Turkey Shoot, otherwise known as Blood camp Thatcher, is an interesting addition to anyone's exploitation collection. Set in a strange, dystopian future, people who refuse to conform to a government-enforced ideal are thrown into a prison camp, where they are regularly beaten and humiliated by the fascistic staff. An odd mix of science fiction, action and horror, it stands out as one of the more unique entries in genre cinema from that most beloved of eras.

While the bad guys are for the most part a little generic, there are some real bastards amongst them, like the chief warden Ritter, played with malicious glee by Roger ward, whose imposing figure is one of the standout aspects of the film. The heroes of the film are played with equal measures of defiance and fear, and for the most part they do so admirably. Lead hero Paul Anders (Steve Railsback)and love interest Chris Walters (Olivia Hussey) are spot on as the main characters, and you do end up genuinely rooting for them once the carnage begins.

Some of the inmates are forced to take part in a 'Turkey Shoot', an ultra-violent manhunt which is instigated by the leader of the camp, Charles Thatcher (hence the title of 'Blood Camp Thatcher', which was originally taken as a sleight against the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher). Mayhem ensues, with machetes being embedded in heads, people being gunned down left right and centre and all manner of other atrocities hitting the screen.

It is a fun watch, but the social commentary aspects of it (shades of Nineteen Eighty Four are evident, for example) are a bit blunt at times. The plight of the inmates is played out nicely, with humiliation, torture and fearmongering leading to them sharing a kind of joint mania, but the film takes a little too long to get going to maintain interest in their struggles. By the time the action starts, you're getting a little sick of hearing about how hard life is in the camp.

Made in Australia, Turkey Shoot feels very different to many US and UK based genre films in terms of tone and construction, but it is also much more satisfying than many genre entries thanks to a fantastic final act and the refusal of the characters to give in, no matter what is done to them.

For the schlock fans there is plenty of action to enjoy, and red stuff is in evidence while there's never all that much of it to be seen. It has that great atmosphere that exploitation/Grindhouse style flicks of the era carried, and it is certainly an enjoyable watch if you try not to think too much about it.

One of the nicest touches to the film is the opening montage of riot footage, which sets up the film's world nicely and also gives it some scale. After that, the film takes place pretty much in one location, but you are given some nice clues as to what's going on in the rest of the world. While a long way from being perfect, Turkey Shoot is far from being a turkey.

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