Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Exterminator Is Dead

As you know, 2009 has been a bad year for drive-in movie-star deaths, and actor Robert Ginty is the latest to journey to the Big Grindhouse in the Sky. Ginty was just 60 years old when he died of cancer yesterday in Los Angeles.

Ginty co-starred on BAA BAA BLACK SHEEP, THE PAPER CHASE, and HAWAIIAN HEAT, and later became a director of television shows and low-budget features, such as 1989's THE BOUNTY HUNTER, in which he also starred.

However, Ginty is best known for playing the title role in the 1980 grindhouse classic THE EXTERMINATOR. This Avco Embassy release plays like two different films spliced together, as if director James Glickenhaus (SHAKEDOWN) had already finished the film, and then received word from the studio that it had retained actor Christopher George (THE RAT PATROL) for ten days of work and could you please create a part for him in the movie, thank you.

Ginty made his exploitation debut as John Eastland, a Vietnam vet who stalks the streets of the Big Apple, tracking down the street scum that paralyzed his best pal, Army buddy Jefferson (James). Glickenhaus, who also wrote the screenplay, has a firm grip on the tackiness and despair that permeated 42nd Street at that time, and captures the worst aspects of New York City with his camera, shooting in locations squalid enough to make Andy Warhol vomit.

He also stages some shocking action sequences, including a prologue set in Vietnam that opens with an exploding body vaulting off the top of a hill and Eastland’s merciless revenge against a mobster by lowering him into a meat grinder.

Unfortunately, nearly half the film is taken up by George’s character, a cop named Dalton assigned to investigate the serial killings, which the media have attributed to a vigilante called “The Exterminator”. As much as I like George, Glickenhaus gives him very little of substance to do, and, in desperation, tacks on a superfluous romantic subplot between George and a nurse played by Samantha Eggar (THE BROOD). These scenes are so pointless and dull that they make Ginty’s scenes seem more interesting than they actually are when Glickenhaus cuts back to them. Late in the game, the film also throws in a CIA conspiracy and a bummer ending that serve little dramatic purpose. George’s novel method of roasting hot dogs is funny though.

THE EXTERMINATOR was quite a hit in 1980 and eventually led to the sequel EXTERMINATOR 2, which I saw at Market Place Cinemas in Champaign, Illinois in 1985. Ginty returned with his trademark flamethrower to broil the asses of more inner city bad guys, but without Glickenhaus' skill at creating kinetic energy (Mark Buntzman directed the sequel), EXTERMINATOR 2 fizzled.

Make sure you watch the original EXTERMINATOR on Anchor Bay’s DVD, which restores the film to its original X-rated cut with crucial moments of gore that provide the film with extra kick. the well-known Stan Winston and Tom Burman provided the bloody squibs and makeup effects.

R.I.P., Robert Ginty. The original theatrical trailer for THE EXTERMINATOR follows.

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