Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about.
Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD.
Title: Exterminator 2
Tagline: In ‘The Exterminator’ he made the streets of New York safe. All has been quiet – until now!
Released by: MGM/UA Home Video
Director: Mark Buntzman
Plot: John Eastland (Robert Ginty), the flamethrower-wielding vigilante is back to rid New York of a ruthless drug lord named X (Mario Van Peebles) and his gang.
Thoughts: As a huge fan of James Glickenhaus’ gritty 1980 revenge thriller The Exterminator, the tale of a Vietnam vet cleaning up the streets of New York after his best friend is killed by a group of thugs, I remember having only one criticism for what I felt was a nearly flawless film. The VHS box cover art featured a motorcycle helmeted figure with a FLAMETHROWER in his hands, which gave me the expectation of seeing this weapon utilized to its fullest potential in much the same manner that William Devane used his metal hook in the revenge classic Rolling Thunder. And although The Exterminator is an excellent movie that I love, the flamethrower is in one scene and is sadly only used for intimidation purposes. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to promise me a flamethrower-yielding vigilante on the cover than that’s what I want to see and plenty of it!
This must be exactly what the B-movie producing juggernauts of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus of the legendary Cannon Group must have thought when they picked up the rights for the sequel Exterminator 2, because there’s barely one scene in the movie where Robert Ginty isn’t using a flamethrower to burn some punk to a crisp. As a matter of fact the opening title credit shot is The Exterminator blasting his flamethrower into the camera lens. Not subtle.
After his brother is fried alive during a holdup attempt, the psychotic X (Mario Van Peebles) – leader of a multiracial army of heavily armed thugs, decides it’s time to exterminate The Exterminator. They unleash a fury of crime and violence upon the city by robbing an armored car, shooting down a police helicopter with a bazooka, and throwing a kidnapped guard in front of a moving train. Then they join up with the mafia in a big drug deal with their stolen cash. It appears that X and his legion are primed to take control of the entire city’s underworld.
When he isn’t burning criminals to death in his spare time, John Eastland (Robert Ginty) is working his days as a city garbage man with his old friend Be Gee (Frankie Faison) and courting a lovely young club dancer named Caroline (Deborah Geffner), who dreams of one day becoming a famous ballerina. That dream tragically ends when X’s gang cripples her in a violent attack by beating her legs with a baseball bat. It’s a mistake they’ll all soon regret as The Exterminator straps on his metal welding mask, army jacket and trusty flamethrower and starts turning X’s gang into crispy critters all over town.
After Be Gee is gunned down during a daring raid on a big drug deal, The Exterminator launches an attack upon the gang’s headquarters in a garbage truck that he modifies with a sharp metal plow and various machine gun turrets. The results are a lot of dead punks. In the final showdown with X (featuring one of the greatest over-the-top villain deaths ever filmed), Ginty tricks him into opening a bag he thinks is filled with cocaine, but is actually a bomb, which explodes. There’s a shot of X’s burning body falling in slow motion that’s followed by a shot of his burnt corpse impaled on a metal spike below. Now that’s some excessive 80’s style revenge!
Exterminator 2 is one of those totally whacked-out-of-its-skull sequels that takes the first film’s plot and remakes it into a totally gonzo version of its predecessor. Mario Van Peebles’ wardrobe alone is worth watching this film for. He wears football pads, leather overalls, body paint, glitter and sports an outrageous Cameo-style afro, while leading a gang that looks like a bunch of extras from The Bronx Warriors. It’s awesome. Also, I just love a movie about a guy who uses a flamethrower to deal with his problems. We need more people who think out of the box like that.
Seriously, this is pure vintage exploitation gold and is one of a handful of rare Cannon titles that have never been released on DVD that includes: Avenging Force, Ninja III: The Domination and the sublime Young Warriors. It was released on VHS in a big box from MGM/UA Home Video and unlike the original The Exterminator, it totally lives up to its glorious box art in the flamethrower department. If you like your dirty punks extra crispy, I suggest you dig up a copy and check it out.