In an interview for Arrow Video’s recent blu-ray release the writer/director of The Exterminator James Glickenhaus mentions the influence of Sergio Leone’s ‘Dollars’ trilogy, is unable to avoid (though one gets the impression he’d like too) the obvious debt paid to Michael Winner’s Death Wish (1974), but doesn’t even mention Rolling Thunder (1977) the film to which The Exterminator is most closely allied. It seems inconceivable that Glickenhaus wasn’t at least on nodding terms with the Flynn/Schrader production, which was the first film to explore the readjustment of returning veterans within the framework of the vigilante/action sub-genre. Admittedly The Exterminator places almost its entire emphasis on the vigilante/action angle, and emerges as less worthy and thought provoking as a result, but the plus side is that it is much more entertaining due to its total commitment to exploitation elements. In the years following Rolling Thunder cinematic representations of Vietnam had taken a more existential and philosophical route in and out of the conflict. The critical and commercial success of award winning productions such as The Deer Hunter (1978) and Apocalypse Now (1979) had made the subject the territory of self professed ‘auteur’s’ driven by ego, greed, and megalomania. By contrast Glickenhaus chose to drag the subject down into the sewer, to wallow in the shit of Grindhouse exploitation, and I for one am extremely glad of this.
© Shaun Anderson 2012