Movies & TV / Columns

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Exterminator

June 5, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Exterminator

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #557: The Exterminator

The Robert Ginty Movie Marathon: Week 1

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never wanted to own a flamethrower because, well, it sounds like a giant pain in the ass to maintain (and who has the time to worry about that kind of thing?), The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and fifty-seven, The Robert Ginty Movie Marathon begins with the vigilante revenge flick The Exterminator, which hit movie screens in mid-September, 1980.

The Exterminator


The Exterminator, written and directed by James Glickenhaus, is a weird vigilante action flick, mostly because it’s not quite the relentless bloodbath it’s been made out to be. It is a harsh movie, no question about it, but it’s not a non-stop blood and guts revenge tale. It’s actually a little more low key, a little more contemplative than that.

The Exterminator stars Robert Ginty as John Eastland, a Vietnam vet who decides to become a vigilante when members of a street gang attack and paralyze his best friend Michael Jefferson (Steve James). Jefferson saved Eastland back in Vietnam (we see this in the movie’s opening sequence, where Eastland is about to be killed by a Viet Cong soldier played by George Cheung) and Eastland’s need for revenge starts out as a way to pay back his old friend. After taking out the street gang members, Eastland next goes after a mob boss (Gino Pontivini, as played by Dick Boccelli) that has extorted money from the warehouse where both he and Jefferson work, holding the man hostage in order to get money for Jefferson’s family (Jefferson has a wife and two kids). Eastland manages to get the money, but he also decides to take out Pontivini for making him kill a dog at Pontivini’s house (Pontivini had Eastland go to his house to take the money out of his safe, not telling him about the attack dog he has in his house. Eastland fights off the dog, kills it, then goes back to where he’s stashed Pontivini and lowers him into a giant meat grinder).

After taking out Pontivini, Eastland sends a letter to the media announcing to New York City that he has had enough and will be hunting down and killing various criminals in the name of righteous justice, actually signing the letter “The Exterminator.” This letter annoys the police, and Detective James Dalton (Christopher George, who actually gets top billing over Ginty) is put on the case. At the same time, the CIA decides to get involved in the investigation, believing that The Exterminator may be a foreign agent sent to America to destabilize society and the upcoming election. Various government higher ups are also concerned about the presence of The Exterminator, presumably because they think he might come after them, too (well, maybe. No one actually comes out and says that but it seems to be implied. The Exterminator might rock the boat, and the people in charge don’t want anyone to rock the boat).

Now, you would think that when both the police and the CIA are looking to take down a vigilante that they would actually work together to do that and that there would be a real sense of urgency to take out The Exterminator. None of that happens, though. Even with The Executioner out there, walking the streets, looking to kill and whatnot, there’s no Executioner task force on the police side and there’s no team of CIA commandoes in hot pursuit. Dalton is on the case, yes, but he seems to be pretty blah about the whole thing (Dalton is more interested in banging Dr. Megan Stewart, played by Samantha Eggar. I think she’s like the medical examiner or something like that. She doesn’t leave much of an impression). And on top of that, it doesn’t seem like The Exterminator is creating much of a body count. The criminal element in the city doesn’t seem to know anything about The Exterminator and isn’t overly concerned with him at all. How the hell could that happen? So what the hell is going on here?

Basically, as far as I can tell, The Exterminator is meant to take mimic the Charles Bronson flick Death Wish as that movie was mega successful but it doesn’t necessarily want to be Death Wish. John Eastland isn’t a pacifist who has a change of heart because of a traumatic experience. Eastland is a war vet (Paul Kersey was a conscientious objector in the Korean War), likely with shell shock/PTSD, who decides to keep killing criminals after he takes out the street gang members that crippled Jefferson because, on some level, it makes him feel good. It’s how he knows how to deal with trauma. If you look at the opening sequence in Vietnam, Eastland shoots the Viet Cong soldier after Jefferson rescues him. Eastland probably could have left the enemy soldier in the water, but Eastland decided to shoot him because the “threat” needed to be neutralized. The same sort of thing happens right after Eastland finds out what happened to Jefferson. And after dealing the street gang members he has to keep going because the trauma continues (Eastland occasionally has momentary flashbacks, which makes me suspect that that’s what’s happening).

The Exterminator also doesn’t seem to be all that interested in telling the audience, overtly, that it needs to cheer on John Eastland. The movie just seems to accept that Eastland is doing what he’s doing, you’re watching it all, and you need to make up your mind on whether or not you think any of it is a good idea. Eastland obviously needs to kill the bad guys in order to deal with his ongoing mental trauma, but he doesn’t smile while shooting a bad guy. Whatever joy Eastland may derive from being a vigilante he keeps it bottled up. He doesn’t want you to see that he likes what he’s doing. Part of that is likely survival; he can’t keep being The Exterminator if the authorities find him. So if Eastland remains low key and “ordinary,” not flashy, the police will never suspect that it’s him. On top of that, it’s not like the streets of New York City, at least as seen in this movie, are teeming with criminals ready to strike. That’s weird considering the New York City we see is from the late 1970’s/very early 1980’s, when it was always depicted as a relentless hellhole because that’s what everyone assumed it was. Yes, there are prostitutes and drug dealers all over the place, but New York isn’t a war zone here. The nastiness is all under the surface.

Take, for instance, the “street gang mugs an old lady” scene. The robbery and assault is done off to the side, not in the middle of the city’s hustle and bustle, and it comes out of nowhere. And when Eastland steals a motorcycle to chase down the perpetrators, Eastland just appears out of the nothingness of the night in order to deal with the problem. There’s nothing particularly lively going on here. That just seems weird. Is that really New York City in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s?

Director James Glickenhaus also seems to be very content with being deliberate with his pacing. The movie starts with a gigantic explosion, and then everything seems to slow down to a crawl. There’s also an absolutely brutal decapitation scene at the beginning of the movie but it doesn’t really provide a visceral thrill like the explosion. The decapitation is horrifying. It’s something you see then wished you didn’t. It just takes forever to happen and the head doesn’t even fall off the body and hit the ground. The head sort of tilts over to the side and kind of hangs on by a thread for a second. That’s insane. How often do you see that kind of decapitation in a movie? How often do you have to look at a decapitation as opposed to just seeing it?

The explosion and the decapitation are really the only things we get to look at. Everything else is held back. Jefferson’s assault is pretty graphic, yes, especially when the a gang member jams a small rake into Jefferson’s back multiple times, damaging his spine, but you don’t really know what’s going on until you find out the aftermath of the assault (Jefferson is in the hospital and were told he’s paralyzed). The meat grinder? All we see is hamburger going through the machine. We have to assume that when Pontivini is lowered into it he will be turned into hamburger, too, but we don’t get to see that.

Now, the sequence where Eastland kills a perverted State Senator from New York (David Lipman, who you may recognize from his frequent bit judge roles on the various Law & Order shows) and the guy that runs the pervert brothel is another example of not really seeing what’s going on. Eastland shoots the Senator in the balls, and we see it happen in slow motion, but it isn’t so graphic that you turn away. Eastland also sets the brothel owner on fire but we don’t see the owner on fire. Why? Shouldn’t we? I think we should. But then by doing that the movie would be telling us, explicitly, that this is meant to be righteous. It wants you to make the decision.

The CIA aspect of the story is underdeveloped and bizarre. Why would the CIA assume that a vigilante in New York City would undermine the image the U.S. President want to project to the nation and the world? And wouldn’t the CIA just go after John Eastland on their own if The Exterminator was such a big deal? Why would the CIA want to involve the cops? Wouldn’t it make sense to have Eastland be an old CIA commando who retired from the agency after the end of Vietnam and that a CIA agent, recognizing The Exterminator’s viciousness/tactics in carrying out his vigilante duties, shows up in New York City to deal with his “old friend?”

There’s also a complete lack of any major flamethrower action in this movie, despite its iconic poster and reputation. There’s one scene where Eastland uses a flamethrower to intimidate a gang member into giving up the location of the gang’s HQ. Eastland doesn’t set the guy on fire or go to the gang HQ with that flamethrower, ready to use it. The actual Exterminator is more interested in using guns to take out the bad guys. So where the hell did the flamethrower thing come from?


Ginty does a good job as Eastland. He seems like the wrong actor for this kind of role because Ginty isn’t bigger than life and never tries to be. Ginty knows that Eastland is “just” a guy and he acts accordingly. Ginty handles the action stuff he’s called to do like a total pro, and despite his lack of big deal cinematic charisma Ginty is still an interesting presence.

Top billed Christopher George seems lost as Detective Dalton because, for whatever reason, Dalton doesn’t seem to be all that concerned about The Exterminator. I mean, he’s investigating the vigilante’s killings, but there’s just no sense of urgency from him. Again, Dalton seems to be more interested in banging Dr. Megan Stewart. George’s most interesting scene is the one where he cooks a hot dog at his desk in the police station. I’m not entirely sure how he does it; it seems like he’s using the heat from his desk lamp to cook the hot dog but I could be wrong about that. It sure does seem like he does it quite often, though. He has hot dog rolls stashed in his office.

Steve James, as always, is awesome as Eastland’s best friend Michael Jefferson. He gets to kick ass twice in the movie, once in Vietnam and once at the warehouse he works at. It’s too bad Jefferson couldn’t have recovered in the hospital and joined Eastland in his vigilante spree. That would have been so goddamn awesome. God, I miss Steve James.

I don’t really know if The Exterminator really deserves its reputation for being reprehensible. The movie just isn’t as bad as its reputation/legend would suggest. The movie isn’t quite the nasty spectacle it’s been made out to be. It’s way more contemplative than it lets on. It also seems odd, in retrospect, that this movie got a sequel. I understand why it got a sequel (the movie made money) but, in an artistic sense, it doesn’t seem like it should be a franchise.

But then I’m sure the people behind the first Death Wish said the same thing and look what happened there. It took eight years to make a Death Wish II but it did happen. Why not make a The Exterminator 2?

The Exterminator is a fascinating, weird, strange revenge movie. It’s definitely worth seeing, but be aware that it isn’t the bloodbath it’s been made out to be. It’s something else entirely.

See The Exterminator. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: At least 16

Explosions: Multiple.

Nudity?: Yes. It isn’t appealing and it isn’t meant to be.

Doobage: A guy flying through the air after a massive explosion, several smaller explosions, helicopter hooey, flare gun hooey, more explosions, one of the most brutal decapitations ever committed to film, strangulation, skin pulling, man on fire in slow motion, even more explosions, chopper rescue, a rather lackadaisical country song opening theme, delivery trucks everywhere, a “people loading boxes into trucks and shit” montage, money counting, multiple sets of thugs, beer stealing, knife attack, attempted strangulation, hot coffee to the face, a Steve James ass kicking, beer wall collapse, 24 pack of beer to the back, a ‘Nam flashback, street violence, small garden pitchfork to the spine, strangulation by chain, flamethrower hooey, M-16 hooey, rifle butt to the face, basement bondage with off screen face eating via rat, hunks of beef, mob shit, prostitution, purse searching, attack dog training, public bathroom checking, a neck injection, mob guy hung over a giant meat grinder, hamburger hooey, breaking and entering, dog attack, killing a dog with an electric knife, off screen death by giant meat grinder, an outdoor picnic at night for some reason, more prostitutes, a dildo, soldering iron attack, CIA hooey, New York City 1980 sleaze, bullet making, a footlocker filled with guns and knives and whatnot, a wicked knee to the face, bullet through the balls, setting a guy on fire off screen, hot dog cooking, a mugging, old woman beating, motorcycle stealing, a car and motorcycle chase, a full on motorcycle wipeout, slow motion car crashing through a road barricade, bullet through the windshield, wild flip with exploding car, assisted suicide, of screen hospital sex, a super shotgun, a police raid, sledgehammer hooey, a final confrontation, a shootout on a boat, exploding car, and an odd ending.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Massive explosion, Steve James, Robert Ginty, “Death Before Dishonor” written on the front of a helicopter, “And Robert Ginty,” Ned Eisenberg, “Disco Inferno” on the soundtrack, racism, “Daily News” comics, Christopher George, parking ticket fixing, a hooker price list, a mob guy withy mirrored sunglasses, Robert Ginty hiding out in a trashcan, Robert Ginty having to kill a dog, Robert Ginty killing a mob guy with a giant meat grinder off screen, David Lipman, David Lipman only wearing a towel, channel 7 Eyewitness News with Roger Grimsby, the CIA ,Christopher George cooking a hot dog at his desk, gross as fuck hotel rules, Robert Ginty setting a guy on fire off screen, a jazz concert, Robert Ginty stealing a motorcycle, assisted suicide, The Anarchist Cookbook, and an odd ending.

Best lines: “Hey! What the fuck are you guys doing in here, huh?,” “That’s right, be cool, motherfucker,” “How do you feel about going to shoot some pool?,” “You’re making a mistake, man! You’re making a mistake, motherfucker!,” “Shit, man, that guy was just a nigger! That nigger was my best friend you motherfucker!,” “What do you want? I want the person that killed the Ghouls,” “If you’re lying I’ll be back,” “What kind of food do you like? Anything!,” “You probably know the rules,” “You want the sheets,” “Nobody’s going to hurt you again,” “You really are a sick motherfucker, aren’t you?,” “Come on, Dalton, you’re here. That means only one thing. The Exterminator,” “You think he’s from Maine?,” “What was it like? It was bad,” “Shut up, you old bitch!,” “You trying to be some kind of hero, huh?,” “You must be thinking of someone else, friend,” “What do you think? I think you have to take a shit and it’s coming out of your mouth instead of your asshole,” “What’s the alarm? Respirator failure!,” “Hey, your fly is open,” Joe, what the fuck?,” “That’s what it’s like to be a victim,” and “Washington will be pleased.”

Rating: 7.5/10.0




The Gratuitous B-Movie Column The Facebook Page!

Please check out and “like” The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page, which is here.


The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page! Yeah!


Things to Watch Out For


Debt Collectors: This is the amazing sequel to the supremely awesome The Debt Collector, and the reason I say amazing is because, with the way The Debt Collector ended, I was surprised that there even is a sequel. Scott Adkins and Louis Mandylor are back as French and Sue, and apparently they’re kicking ass and taking names in Las Vegas. The great Vladimir Kulich is back, too, apparently. You just know that, with Adkins and Mandylor back along with director Jesse V. Johnson this movie is going to kick so much ass and be awesome. I just don’t see how it can fail/be terrible. It just can’t happen. This is an absolute must see movie, and I can’t wait to check it out.


The Blackout: Invasion Earth: The fine folks at Shout! Factory are releasing this Russian sci-fi action flick, so you know that, even if the movie stinks, the home video presentation is going to be awesome. I don’t think it’s going to stink, though. It actually looks pretty cool. Apparently it involves some sort of weird invasion of Earth by something that has killed everything on Earth except an area in Eastern Europe, and the movie is about finding out what the hell is happening while blowing shit up and whatnot. There are apparently two versions of this movie, a Russian version and an international version, but I’m not sure which version this release is. Definitely worth a rental, just to see if it’s as cool as it looks. Anyone out there see this?


Clickbait: I saw this brilliant horror satire flick two years ago at the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival and loved it. It’s about a young woman who wants to obtain internets fame and, well, it doesn’t exactly work out quite the way she expects it to. The whole movie is the same way. You think it’s one kind of movie, or it’s going one way, and then you realize it’s actually something else entirely. And then there’s all of the Toot Strudel stuff, which is just hilarious. This movie is an absolute must own/must have, and I can’t wait to watch it again.


Rogue Warfare: The Hunt: This is the second movie in the Rogue Warfare trilogy, which is apparently a thing. I haven’t watched the first movie yet, so obviously I’m going to have to watch that before this one and the eventual third one. The story involves some sort of badass international commando unit that fights terrorists or something, and in this one the team has to rescue a captured team member before he’s killed or whatever. Anyone out there see the first Rogue Warfare? Is it as cool as it seems to be? Is this concept worth being a trilogy?


Creepshow Season 1: This is the big hooha Shudder original anthology series based on the George A. Romero/Stephen King 1982 movie that was so successful for the streaming service that there’s going to be a second season at some point and Shudder’s corporate parent, AMC, is set to air this show on cable. I haven’t watched a full episode yet, but I plan on doing so and reviewing the whole season (there are six episodes, with each episode featuring two stories). The great Greg Nicotero was the mastermind of the series, and he managed to get some pretty big names to appear in the show, including Adrienne Barbeau, Bruce Davison, Chad Michael Collins, Giancarlo Esposito, Dana Gould, Tobin Bell, Jeffrey Combs, DJ Qualls, and David Arquette. Any fans of this show? Does it really deserve a second season? I liked what I saw in the previews and whatnot but, you know, those are just previews.


Next Issue: The Robert Ginty June Marathon continues with Exterminator 2!


Check out my Widow’s Point set visit!

Read it here!



Most Recent Interviews

Steve Latshaw
Rick Hurst
Douglas Burke
Jeff Farley
Fred “The Hammer” Williamson
Nico Sentner
Everett Ray Aponte
Max Martini
Tom Huckabee
Jason Kellerman
David Tarleton
Roxy Shih
Jesse V. Johnson
Tamas Nadas (2)
Jesse Thomas Cook
Adam Seybold
Liv Collins
Bryan C. Winn
Jeffrey Combs
Ezra Tsegaye
Alexander Nevsky(4)
Sebastian Wolf
Dana Gould
Janet Varney
Richard Brake
Steven Lambert
Rolfe Kanefsky
Robert Donavan
Lukas Hassel
Jessica Morris
Daniel Roebuck (2)
Clint Carney
Marco Siedelmann (2)
Sam Firstenberg (2)
Tamas Nadas (3)
Rene Perez
Lou Ferrigno
Lorenzo Pisoni
Sam Farmer
Craig Fairbrass


Follow me on Twitter!


Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

The Exterminator

Robert Ginty– John Eastland
Christopher George– Detective James Dalton
Samantha Eggar– Dr. Morgan Stewart
Steve James– Michael Jefferson
Dick Boccelli– Gino Pontivini
David Lipman– The State Senator from New Jersey
George Cheung– Vietcong Leader
Ned Eisenberg– Marty
Irwin Keyes– Bobby

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by James Glickenhaus
Screenplay by James Glickenhaus

Distributed byAVCO Embassy Pictures, Warner Bros., Home Box Office, Embassy Home Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment, and Synapse Films

Runtime– 102 minutes

Buy it here or here