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May 19, 2011

Midnight Movie of the Week #72 - Escape 2000 (aka Turkey Shoot)

It's been a while since a movie's come into my life and been as entirely cool as Brian Trenchard-Smith's Escape 2000.  Originally titled Turkey Shoot, the 1982 film is an Australian concentration camp film with a The Most Dangerous Game style hook; as a bunch of rich folks who run the camp and what appears to be a real life wolfman (named Alph, which is pronounced like Alf!) stalk inmates that they've released into a secluded bit of forest. 
Utilizing Trenchard-Smith's unique vision of dystopia - and no doubt playing off the success of Mad Max a little bit - Escape 2000 is a brutal, gritty film that seems to be all about sticking it to your oppressors.  Steve Railsback and Olivia Hussey star as inmates in the prison camp who become potential victims in their captors' game, and the opening scenes - which follow a brief montage of chaos and rioting - establish how these two peaceful protesters ended up in yellow jump suits.  There are plenty of parallels being made to World War II and the death camps we've all heard about - which is a bold statement to be made by a pulpy b-movie.  that's not to say Trenchard-Smith is exploiting Nazi death camps entirely, you can rest assured that the shower scenes in this movie feature far more nudity than they do genocide.
Then again, the camps aren't a nice place to be.  There are beatings, rapings, attempted rapings, and even a bit of genital-stuck-in-zipper action. Women and children are certainly not exempt from the violent guards, and the rich warden (Michael Craig) and his friends aren't doing the inmates any favors either.  In fact, it's the rich folk who decide to loose some of the more difficult inmates into the jungle for a bit of sport - the "turkey shoot" that the original title warns us of.
Though Railsback and Hussey's characters get top billing and early introductions, the rest of the hunted crew are given a bit of time to shine as well.  Most prominent is Rita, played by Lynda Stoner, who a suspected sex worker who - like Hussey - has a bit too much make up on for the camp to be too called too sadistic.  Joining the chaos are Griff, a defiant and tall fellow who factors into one of the film's bigger overkills, and Dodge, a mousy redheaded fellow with Coke bottle glasses who provides a smidgen of comic relief.  I think it's only a smidgen, because the rest of the movie is seriously about different ways people can die.
I'm a little surprised to find that Escape 2000 is listed among the most brutal of Ozploitation films (read as: Australian Exploitation films).  I mean, there's some brutal stuff in here, but I found a lot of the kills to be tame in comparison to other things I've seen from the era.  This certainly isn't something like a Fulci film, which preaches gore for the sake of gore, and most of the kills are a little bit comical, like bloody versions of a Looney Tunes cartoon.  Maybe I'm just desensitized - in fact, I know I am - but I rarely found myself being exploited by what Trenchard-Smith put on screen.  (Then again, I was one when the film came out and am American, so what the hey do I know?)
What I did find was that I was having a ton of fun watching this story play out.  Railsback - who's long been a favorite over-the-top actor of mine - and Hussey are likeable as the leads, the supporting cast does a great job of diving into their roles (especially Roger Ward as the well-mustached head guard), and the musical score by Brian May (who I JUST NOW learned was NOT the guy from Queen!) is on par with his excellent work on the Mad Max films and Roadgames.  Trenchard-Smith has a ton of fun with the simple story, and Escape 2000 succeeds in a way few Dangerous Game inspired films have.  I'm pumped to watch this one again, and that's more than enough for me to quickly add it to a list of flicks I want on my side when midnight comes around.  With BMX Bandits and Stunt Rock showing up before it, 2011 is quickly becoming the year Brian Trenchard-Smith and I became good cinematic friends.


matango said...

Wow, this one's going to the top of my queue. I approve of any movie where the filmmakers can convince the RAAF to have an F-111 do a flyby at like 50 feet.

Liam Underwood said...

Man, this film is on so many levels of awesome. It's a fairly enjoyable Ozploitation flick until the introduction of the wolfman, and then it just kicks up several gears and becomes truly excellent.