Release Date(s)1982 (September 1, 2021)
Studio(s)Umbrella Entertainment (Ozploitation Classics #7)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A
[Editor’s Note: This is a REGION-FREE Blu-ray release.]
The madcap insanity that is Turkey Shoot (known for a time in the US as Escape 2000) is one of those films that most of the world outside of Australia embraced as a tongue-firmly-in-cheek piece of exploitation. As it turns out, it was not that celebrated in its home country, even by members of its own cast and crew. Critically derided and hated by many, its director Brian Trenchard-Smith believes that the reception was so negative that it nearly wrecked his career. Full of over-the-top action, gore, nudity, and even a pet werewolf on a leash, Turkey Shoot is a wildly entertaining mess that persevered dutifully as a cult film.
In a future where disobedience is intolerable, the undesirables are gathered up and sent to work camps to be punished and re-educated in order to become proper members of a working society. Among the new prisoners are Paul (Steve Railsback), a former prisoner who escaped only to be caught again, Chris (Olivia Hussey), a kind-hearted person who has been brought to the camp under false circumstances, and Rita (Lynda Stoner), a woman accused of prostitution. The camp’s tyrannical leader Charles Thatcher (Michael Craig), his chief guard Ritter (Roger Ward), and Ritter’s underling Red (Gus Mercurio) constantly monitor the prisoners, punishing them at will, mainly for their own sick pleasures. Thatcher and his friends in power, Mallory (Noel Ferrier), Jennifer (Carmen Duncan), and Tito (Michael Petrovitch), have decided to hunt the individual prisoners for sport, leading them on a chase through the jungle with their pet freak on a leash (Steve Rackman) by their side as the prisoners fight for survival and their eventual freedom.
As the story goes, Brian Trenchard-Smith was brought onto the project with the idea that it was to be a film with a strong message behind it, which is why many members of the main cast are serious actors from abroad. But when the budget was slashed and pages were torn out of the script, including an opening sequence to set everything up (eventually replaced with stock footage), the direction changed to be more of an overt romp. Unfortunately, it was not what the actors signed on for, and the majority of them have spoken a lengths about how disappointed they were when they finally saw it. Even when the film caught on and began making money in the UK and in the US, the critical opinion in Australia never changed. While the rest of the world sees Turkey Shoot as more than just a bad film (which it isn’t), it’s not far removed from the Roger Corman Filipino exploitation films of the era, such as The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage. Granted none of them are in the same league as say Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, but genre audiences continue to cheer them on to this day, Turkey Shoot among them.
Turkey Shoot was shot by director of photography John R. McLean on 35 mm film using Panavision cameras and anamorphic lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Umbrella Entertainment brings the film to Region-Free Blu-ray utilizing what appears to be the same master used for the Severin Films Blu-ray release, which was “restored in HD from the original vault negative.” Though it’s a 7-year-old high definition master, it’s still a healthy presentation with good saturation. Grain can be a little chunky, but detail is strong on clothing, facial textures, and foliage. The bright yellows of the prisoners’ jumpsuits stand out, as do the reds on the buggies driven by their captors. Contrast levels are adequate with decent blacks and shadow detail as well. Minor instability, frame splices visible along the bottom edge of the frame, speckling, and scratches are frequent throughout, but they’re not a huge distraction as the whole of the presentation is pleasant and film-like.
Audio is included in English 5.1 and 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. The 2.0 mono track is fairly narrow, but offers excellent support for Brian May’s score. The 5.1 widens the soundtrack out, giving dialogue and sound effects an extra boost. However, dialogue exchanges are mostly thin on both tracks, but marginally weightier on the 5.1. Alternatively, gunfire is thinner on the 5.1 track than it is on the mono. What it comes down to in the end is a matter of personal preference.
Umbrella Entertainment’s new Blu-ray release, #7 in their Ozploitation Classics line, also features a CD soundtrack of Brian May’s score for the film (which is limited to 3,000 units). The following extras and tracks are included on each disc, respectively:
DISC ONE: BD
- Audio Commentary with Antony I. Ginnane and Mark Hartley
- Audio Commentary with Brian Trenchard-Smith
- Turkey Shoot: Blood and Thunder Memories (HD – 24:45)
- Not Quite Hollywood Extended Interviews (HD – 77:02)
- The Ozploitation Renaissance (HD – 26:34)
- A Good Soldier (HD – 10:21)
- Escape 2000 US Version (SD – 78:37)
- Antony I. Ginnane Trailer Reel (HD – 28:23)
- Trailers from Hell Commentary with Brian Trenchard-Smith (HD – 3:49)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:46)
- TV Promo (HD – 1:04)
- Stills and Poster Gallery (HD – 98 in all – 3:24)
DISC TWO: CD
- Main Title/Radio Freedom (4:20)
- Turkey Shoot Theme (:35)
- Camp 47. Re-education and Behavior Modification (:37)
- All Deviants Report to Centre Compound (:21)
- Freedom Is Obedience, Obedience Is Work, Work Is Life (:41)
- Suitable Targets (1:45)
- Thatcher's Ball Games (2:57)
- Shower Scene (:58)
- Embrace (:12)
- Don't Worry My Dear, He Has Already Eaten (:59)
- A Little Sport, A Little Hunt (:45)
- Do We Really Have a Chance? (1:25)
- Nightfall (1:28)
- The Hunt Begins (2:33)
- Headstart (1:21)
- Jungle Ambush/Jungle Sorrow (1:00)
- Tractor Pursuit (3:06)
- Crossbow Standoff (2:13)
- Shrunken Heads (:56)
- You're a Sharp Man Ritter (:40)
- Cut Him Down to Size (1:54)
- Hot & Ready (3:12)
- The Cane Field Burn (1:12)
- Swamp Escape/Beach Fight (4:16)
- Open Season (2:31)
- Revolution Begins with the Misfits (1:46)
In the new audio commentary with producer Anthony I. Ginnane and filmmaker Mark Hartley, the two men watch the film together with Hartley asking Ginnane questions as they go along. Ginnane sounds as if he’s in poorer health than he was the last time he was interviewed for this film, but he’s up to the task of providing plenty of great information about it. The second audio commentary features director Brian Trenchard-Smith, which comes from the 2003 Anchor Bay DVD release. Though he flies solo, he’s fully capable of providing a great running commentary, offering a breathless amount of information about the film. As always, it’s great to hear him speak about his work.
Blood and Thunder Memories features vintage interviews with actors Michael Craig, Lynda Stoner, and Roger Ward, all of them brutally honest about their experiences making the film and their feelings on it afterwards. The Not Quite Hollywood Interviews feature Brian Trenchard-Smith, Anthony I. Ginnane, actors Steve Railsback, Lynda Stoner, Roger Ward, Gus Mercurio, and special effects make-up artist Bob McCarron. The Ozploitation Renaissance was shot for the Severin Films’ Blu-ray release and features interviews with Brian Trenchard-Smith, Anthony I. Ginnane, and cinematographer Vincent Monton about the Australian film industry. A Good Soldier features another interview with Brian Trenchard-Smith from 2002, which takes place in his backyard as research for the Not Quite Hollywood documentary. Escape 2000 is the shortened US version of the film, which has been taken from the 1992 Starmaker VHS release. The Antony I. Ginnane Trailer Reel features trailers for Patrick, Snapshot, Thirst, Harlequin, The Survivor, Race for the Yankee Zephyr, Dead Kids aka Strange Behavior, Dark Age, High Tide, The Lighthorsemen, The Time Guardian, The Dreaming, and Screamers. The rest of the extras include Trailers from Hell commentary by Brian Trenchard-Smith, the theatrical trailer, a TV promo, and a still gallery featuring 98 images of on-set and behind-the-scenes photos, posters, and home video artwork.
Both discs sit inside a clear amaray case featuring the Australian daybill artwork on the front, the US poster artwork with the title Escape 2000 on the back, and a CD track listing and a note from Brian Trenchard-Smith about Brian May. Everything is housed within a slipcover featuring a version of the US poster artwork on the front. Not carried over from the Anchor Bay Region 1 DVD release is the alternate UK credit sequence for the film under the title Blood Camp Thatcher, as well as DVD-ROM content featuring the film's screenplay and a set of liner notes.
Umbrella Entertainment offers quite an extensive upgrade of this exploitation classic. Turkey Shoot is a lot of things, but what it isn’t is boring. If you’re into explosions, gunfire, limbs being hacked off, werewolf toe-eating, arrow-shooting, machete-wielding, torso-upending, and heaping amounts of high cheese acting, then you need to see Turkey Shoot. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons