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Home | Film Reviews | Cult Films | Film Review: The Exterminator (1980)

Film Review: The Exterminator (1980)


A man’s best friend is killed on the streets of New York. The man (Robert Ginty) then transforms into a violent killer, turning New York into a great war zone and Christopher George is the only one to stop him.


It’s great to see some of the lost gems arriving on DVD, better yet on Blu-ray. Synapse Films has restored this violent classic with their new release which features both DVD and BR versions.

Although you may not remember this film which emerged in 1980, It stands as one of the early vigilante lone-justice movies inspiring several others to come down the pipe in future releases.

The movie opens up on a early flashback sequence of the Vietnam war as our 2 main characters avoid heavy explosions while at the heart of enemy territory. This early sequence helps to establish the hardships and brutality they experienced while at war, and provides a nasty beheading.

Robert Ginty plays the role of John Eastland, a former Vietnam soldier who has returned to New York years later trying to earn an honest living. His day job at the meat and produce plant is no cup of tea, but it’s a living and he is among friends. One friend in particular, (Steve James) Michael Jefferson also happens to be his best friend, an old colleague from the Vietnam days. They both suspect that the city has run it’s toll on crime and corruption but they try and keep to themselves by focusing on the job at hand.

That day runs out when they come across 4 thugs trying to make way with some un-authorized shipments. These thugs are part of an underground outfit known as the “Ghetto Ghouls”. Typical street kids, these Ghouls spend the day dealing drugs, partying and robbing local businesses. We see them in several scenes where they disregard anything they come across just to steal a few bucks..

When John and Michael step in and stop the ghouls from robbing from “their” workplace, it is assumed that all is said and done. Though these wicked times mean wicked players as the ghouls assault Michael while walking home from work. To make a point they run a 3 pronged device down his back, snapping his spine. The event doesn’t kill him but leaves him paralyzed from the neck down.

John, gets word of this and virtually transforms over night into a man with a vengeance. The streets begin to call him “The Exterminator” but to John, he is just a man fed up with the violence and corruption in his city. This begins a lone effort into killing off anyone who is involved with crime per way of execution. John takes out the Ghouls one by one, often at times leaving them in places to die a tortured death. He assaults and murders off the crime lords and even takes down what they call a “chicken farm” (a seedy location that sells off young boys for sex)

“The Exterminator” is an humorless exploitation action film that leaves very little room for compassion. Every kill is brutally carried out leaving a few of the shots to practical effect wizards to add to its gruesome nature. Notable scenes include the lowering of a crime lord into a meat grinder and some pretty well executed beheadings. As per the cover, there is some flamethrower fire action that John learned a thing or 2 about while overseas.

Christopher George plays Detective James Dalton, the nosey, but good intention protagonist in the film. His motivation is geared more towards taking down “The Exterminator” than dealing with the local crime.

Per the DVD, we are told that this is the “more violent and gory director’s cut, lovingly restored in high-definition from original vault materials”.

Upon research, it looks like earlier releases had been edited leaving out some of the more gruesome shots in the film. I read that the rat scene had originally been longer, but even in this version it is still cut short. It would be hard to tell which scenes were restored, but this version has plenty of nasty shots making me believe that its the full version.

The Exterminator stands as one of histories most cold-blooded releases from a time when violence wasn’t as accessible as it is now on the big screen. A definite part of movie collectors library, you should own this gem in its now-high definition version.

The Exterminator (1980)


  1. All ya gotta do is go here, to see the differences between the “Director’s Cut” Blu-ray version and the R rated cut: http://www.movie-censorship.com/report.php?ID=190745


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