Home / Film / Home Video / How Low Can You Go: ‘Turkey Shoot’ (1982)

How Low Can You Go: ‘Turkey Shoot’ (1982)

Watching some of the archival and recently filmed interviews for this fantastic release from Severin, almost everyone connected to this film was apologetic and/or upset about the final product. The cast and crew recount the money issues the film ran into and how it went from unique script with potential, involving a future ruled by governmental fascism, to the exploitation trash it became. When the money issues arose right before filming — cuts including the first fifteen pages of the script, had to be made –which included a prologue of the Steve Railsback (Paul Anders) and Olivia Hussey (Chris Walters) characters before their governmental forced incarceration. So, the producers decided to use stock footage to replace those fifteen pages, and they added two very brief flashbacks to highlight what two of the three young people being transported to Camp 47 had done to be sent there.

The camp is one of many of its kind and is filled with only young people, who are called deviants and have been sent there to be part of a special project — a behavior modification program. They are then forced to obey the state and learn how to be an asset to society. The slogan the camp preaches to its inmates is “Freedom is obedience, obedience is work, work is life.” Camp 47 is run by the strict, sadistic camp commander Charles Thatcher (Michael Craig), who, aspiring to further his political career, has invited a few upper-crust people to join in on a hunt of a small group of inmates, who have been given the chance to run for freedom or stay in the camp for the rest of their lives. Each inmate is selected by their hunter as their prey, and the hunters can only kill their selected target. The inmates are released, and they must try to evade their predators, who are out to kill but wish to do so in the most challenging ways.

The film moves from the camp, which is a brutal male-orientated rapist co-ed confinement area, to the outlying wild areas and then back to the camp for the spectacular showdown at the end. The movie is littered with nudity, torture, uncomfortable scenes and some over-the-top spectacular gore. I’m not sure how the original script would have translated on the screen if the full money originally allotted was available, but I can tell you what was released is a gooey, cheesy, big slobbering hunk of spectacular exploitation trash. The film uses many literary devices as its plot construction, including the 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game, George Orwell’s 1984 and other literary and non-literary works. While trying to keep its literary aspirations relevant and its intended high-mindednesses as part of the working product, the film initially falls a bit flat — that is until the gratuitous nudity, violence, and gore kick in.

The cast is decent for the most part, but Steve Railsback comes across is weak and fragile, and his fight scene with the monstrous Roger Ward near the end is poorly staged and lacking in intensity. Olivia Hussey must have been in shock at what she had gotten herself into as her awed expression stayed the same throughout the whole production. Michael Craig as Charles Thatcher turns in an outstanding performance, as does Noel Ferrier as Secretary Mallory. But the glue that holds this sadistic little number together is the always reliable — and menacing — Roger Ward as chief guard Ritter, who, with his large stature towers over everyone else in the movie as he tortures, throttles and intimidates everyone. Ritter would rather kill the deviants to eliminate the problem altogether, and his way of thinking is ultimately in line with what Secretary Mallory says the “Ultimate Solution” entails. The direction from the competent Brian Trenchard-Smith is fluid and reserved, until its kicked into high gear when the action picks up during the hunt. Trenchard-Smith has continued to direct and has made a few notable flicks along the way including Stunt Rock (1980), BMX Bandits (1983), Dead End Drive-In (1986) and Night of the Demons 2 (1994), among others. The actor/director/producer David Hemmings was a second unit director on the film, going uncredited. Steve Railsback shot to fame in the 1976 television movie Helter Skelter, in which he placed the infamous Charles Manson. Olivia Hussey appeared in, among other films, Romeo and Juliet (1968) and the classic horror film Black Christmas (1974). Sadly, though, mainstream fame was to elude Railsback, though he did appear in a few noteworthy films including The Stuntman (1980), Lifeforce (1985) and Ed Gein (2000). Filmed in Australia and with its exploitation nature, it slips firmly into the Ozploitation category of films.

The Severin print of this film is outstanding; the visuals are flawless and the sparse but effective soundtrack by Brian May sounds great here. The release is totally uncut and in HD for the first time ever. So, let me say in closing if you want a violent, nudity-filled, gore-laden exploitation film, with a hint of artistic sensibilities then this one’s for you. All the aspiring to lofty heights this literary mix-mesh was trying to achieve provided a solid foundation. Those literary sources also give the film a firm narrative base, but what it ultimately becomes is a fast moving exploitation classic that wallows in the lowest muck imaginable… a lowness many films could only wish to stoop as spectacularly low as.

Now that you know what you’re getting with this sleazy slice of life Down-under, what are you waiting for? Order this gutter-rolling, head blowing off, balls being pierced with arrows, piece of artistic shit now!!!! Oh, and lets not forget to mention the ape-like creature named Alf, whose inclusion is just another bit of exploitation genius.


About Mike Hauss

Besides writing for Diabolique, Michael has also written for the magazines Monster!, Weng’s Chop, We Belong Dead, Grindhouse Purgatory, Exploitation Retrospect and various others. A regular contributor to the online blog Theater of Guts and to the Spaghetti Western Database. Has also had his work published in three books; 70’s Monster Memories, Unsung Horrors and Son of Unsung Horrors. Lives in the United States with his daughter and their cat Rotten Ralph.

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