When I sat down to do our normal style review, I realized that it wasn’t really fair for this particular release. First of all, the release was originally intended to play as one half of a double-feature, backed with the equally ridiculous Italian-American knockoff picture Cruel Jaws — I’ll leave it to your imaginations to hazard a guess as to what film the latter takes influence from. When Scream Factory realized that the rights for Cruel Jaws were complicated by the fact that the film utilizes footage from the Jaws series, among other films, they decided to release Exterminators of the Year 3000 as a standalone film. Granted, the film itself is enough to warrant the release but it does lead to an overall lack in terms of features. Scream Factory is generally more than gracious when it comes to supplemental featurettes, so we are more than understanding why this package comes in slim.
For those who aren’t aware, Exterminators of the Year 3000 comes off a long lineage of Italian Road Warrior knock-offs, sharing screen time with other cult favorites like Escape from the Bronx, 2019: After the Fall of New York, and more. Where the aforementioned titles fuse Mad Max with The Warriors and Escape from New York, Exterminators plays off as an almost beat-for-beat reimagining of Road Warrior. The plot, thus, goes through the expected beats in all the right places. When massive droughts transform the earth into a giant desert wasteland, humanity de-evolves into a barbaric lifestyle. The fate of humanity rests in the hands of a small community of individuals set on reinvigorating life, but when their expedition to recover a reservoir fails, that fate is transferred into the hands of a young boy and treacherous loner named Alien. What is really fascinating about the film are the elements that aren’t really developed — in particular, the mutants who guard the water reservoir. By their costumes, it is implied that they are perhaps the remnants of some nuclear fallout, but it is never explicit. It may seem strange to say this about a movie that is so clearly a knockoff, but Exterminators of the Year 3000 is a film of ideas, sometimes so many that it has a hard time working through them.
So…what is a mother-grabber you may ask? Well, to be honest, I am not totally sure. I guess you can take it literally and say it is someone who grabs mothers. The more appropriate response would be that it is the favorite phrase of Exterminators of the Year 3000’s prime villain, Crazy Bull. The term is far from singular in terms of its usage, and Crazy Bull is more than liberal in his uttering of it. In fact, it is fair to say that almost every character to cross Crazy Bull’s path — be they friend or foe — will inevitably be called a mother-grabber. Crazy Bull is probably the biggest payoff the film, garnishing genuine laughs with every bit of screen time. It is as if a rejected Steven Segal stunt double dressed in a cheap Mad Max costume, and while that may sound like anything but a compliment, for this particular film it is a crowning achievement.
To be fair, for as much as Exterminators gets its best play as a fun piece emerging from a fascinating period of Italian cinema, there are some genuine moments in it. This may surprise some but I found Robert Iannucci, as Alien, to be rather impressive. Generally with these kinds of films, the lead is either stoic to a fault, or spends their entire screen time chewing the scenery. Iannucci finds a middle ground between these poles. For a rather low budget film, the set design is surprisingly great. From the run down colony to the nuclear water reservoir, the sets help to ground the film and make it — at least somewhat — believable. Additionally, while the film is not terribly action packed, Giuliano Carnimeo (known more for his spaghetti westerns) does do a fine job directing the film’s larger actions scenes, in particular the film’s open. The finest aspect to emerge from Exterminators, however, is the film’s score by Detto Mariano. Mariano’s score captures a lot of elements from many of my favorite composers including Goblin, Tangerine Dream, and Ennio Moricone. In fact, I am pleased to see that the record will be getting a rerelease on vinyl soon by Berlin-based label Private Records. While the film certainly has its scuffs and is far from perfect, it is hard to imagine that genre fans won’t have fun with this one.