Turkey Shoot (1982)

(aka Escape 2000, Blood Camp Thatcher)

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man is a copy of this film.

Now we all know it didn’t have too much to do with the novel by “Richard Bachman” (aka Stephen King) as the plot, characters and settings are so different. Nor is it really all that close to Robert Sheckley’s classic short story, The Prize of Peril,” despite the similarities (most of which came from Bachman’s novel anyway) and, despite some claims that it was actually a remake of the satiric French film version of Sheckley’s story, it is a very different movie, and far more interested in what’s going on behind the scenes.

But a large part of The Running Man — its plot and many of its details — appears to have come from this Australian cult favorite.

The government has a series of secret re-education camps to deal with dissidents. The worst of them is the one run by Charles Thatcher. The prisoners there are routinely abused and degraded, while a few get used in Thatcher’s sadistic little games.

He gives four of them a chance at freedom if they can survive his “Turkey Shoot,” one day of being hunted for sport by a gang of Thatcher’s elitist friends.

Despite its low budget, Ozploitation origins, it’s a lot like the classic action films of the Eighties Arnie would soon be starring in. As in The Running Man, each one of the hunters has his own unique equipment and transportation. The most extravagant weapon by far is the circus freak beast man one of them drags along, although I quite like Thatcher’s red 1981 Silvan Austrax mobile sprayer, which looks a lot like a Matchbox toy tank transporter I owned as a kid.

Each of the hunters also has his own perverse appetites and sadistic desires and wants far more “fun” from his victim than mere sport, something that, if it shows up in those American action films, is hinted at, at best.

The gore is pretty extreme — and fairly silly at times because it is so extreme. There is a bit of nudity, mostly in a group shower scene, although nowhere near as much as the films suggests it is going to show.

Ultimately, the plot and characters are deliberately simple — the innocent girl, the courageous rebel, the devious warden — but in a a classic exploitation film, that’s all that is really needed.

However, there is one thing that amuses me quite a bit: the phrase “re-education camp” is one which is familiar to those of us who’ve studied the history of the Soviet Union. As Solzhenitsyn noted, Soviet political prisoners were often declared insane or accused of being deviants and sent to lunatic asylums.

In fact, many of the details, from the state “vanishing” their enemies, to forcing extreme self-accusations on their victims, or even the privileged, exclusive lifestyles of the elites (something even more true in Red China today) are very like the realities of the oppressive Soviet system and its Gulags. And while I’ve never heard that anyone carried out anything like the Turkey Shoot, some of the known abuses are almost as bad, and Red China has even been credibly accused of murdering prisoners who have the misfortune of having tissue matches with high-ranking officials who are in desperate need of new organs.

However, the problem is that the film wants us to believe that this Soviet-style oppression is where Margaret Thatcher’s England (note the massive and obvious hint) was going!

I suppose one could argue that all oppressive governments end up the same way. But you’ve got to admit that they were lucky they had such a convenient model for their oppressive future.

Brian Trenchard-Smith, who directed this one, would go on to make a few more interesting culty films, like Dead End Drive-In, before vanishing into television work (which seemed to be the fate of most of the Ozsploitation directors of the Seventies and Eighties, even Richard Franklin!).

But Turkey Shoot is the one Brian’s remembered for.

And no wonder.

So by all means watch it. Just remember, though, this one is a pretty extreme sort of film (particularly for the Eighties).

After all, it is from Australia.

Watch or Buy from Amazon (paid link):



And check out our new Feature (Updated April 21, 2020):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!

4 thoughts on “Turkey Shoot (1982)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.