Archive for Last Road Reviews

Roger Corman-Vincent Price- William Castle Month Vol. 1

Posted in Roger Corman-Vincent Price- William Castle Month Vol. 1 with tags , , , on November 3, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

The entire month of November will be Roger Corman, Vincent Price and William Castle month here at LRR. Some of the Price films featured were directed by Roger Corman with the others having no involvement from Corman. When it comes to the Corman films I decided to mix it up. Some of the Corman films covered will be as producer.

And as a little bonus I’m gonna add at least 1 William Castle film. This is the first volume. At some point I’ll have another month dedicated to all three.

(The Corman produced films he may not actually have an onscreen credit)

Here’s the lineup for the Cormam and Price, Castle films I will review. (They’ll be posted in random order not the order listed here).

(Corman produced)

Women in Cages
The Big Bird Cage
The Big Doll House

(Corman directed with Price)

Haunted Palace
Takes of Terror
Masque of the Red Death

(Vincent Price only)

Abominable Dr. Phibes
Witchfinder General
The Last Man on Earth
House of Long Shadows
Comedy of Terrors

(Castle directed with Price)

House on Haunted Hill

An Editorial on Roger Corman and New World Pictures

Posted in New World Pictures: An Editorial with tags , , , on June 9, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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(New World Pictures logo used during Roger Corman’s time at the company, 1970-1983)

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New World Pictures logo more familiar to audiences used after Corman sold New World in 1983. (1983-1989) Logo continued to be used as New World Communications until 1997

By John Blythe, Guest Editorial for Last Road Reviews

Like most independent film producers out there in today’s world, one would have to be reminisced if they did not pay homage to a man who helped shape the direction of independent filmmaking into what it has become today. That man of course was Roger Corman and his indie film studio, New World Pictures which he had formed in 1970.

Just a few months ago, I had the pleasure of going to Mr. Corman’s old New World office on San Vicente Blvd. in Brentwood which is now his New Horizons Pictures Corp headquarters. To any typical passerby or even a B-Movie fan, you would never know that a small little two story office building belonged to Roger Corman. There was not even a sign on the building that said New Horizons. My colleague from England and I sat there talking about a particular project to his development executive when this tall old man came out of his office to look around. That was him. Roger Corman! The man who revolutionized low-budget filmmaking.

Roger Corman is a man who certainly knows how to produce a movie with very little resources. According to James Cameron, he once said that he could make a movie about the fall of the Roman Empire with “two extras and a sagebrush.”

So very prophetic of a statement that has become to legions of independent filmmakers who have learned from Corman’s craft and also a learn lesson to the handful of now-well established actors, writers and directors such as Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, Joe Dante and Martrin Scorsese who came out of the Roger Corman Film School.

Corman’s desire to work in the field of motion pictures regardless of all obstacles started in the 1950’s. After a brief stint working for 20th Century Fox, he went out and directed his own films “Swamp Women” in 1955 and “The Little Shop of Horrors” in 1960 which eventually became a cult classic.

Corman’s fast paced ability to write, produce and direct movies eventually received the attention of Samuel Z. Arkoff and American International Pictures (AIP) which had really been one of the first major distributors of low-budget B-movies.

Adapting a handful of Edgar Allan Poe stories, Corman directed “House of Usher”, “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Raven” all starring Vincent Price. The effort paid off. Corman became an established “jack of all trades” in the film industry.

By 1969 however Corman was disappointed with distributors handling his films. Leaving AIP, Corman set up New World Pictures, an independent film production company that doubled as a distribution company in 1970.

From here, New World rode the wave of exploitation releases throughout the 1970’s and became serious competition for his old boss at AIP. Among a handful of releases included “The Big Bird Cage” starring Pam Grier; “Boxcar Bertha” starring David Carradine; “I Escaped From Devil’s Island” starring Jim Brown and Christopher George; Ron Howard’s “Grand Theft Auto”; “Humanoids of the Deep” starring Vic Morrow and “Galaxy of Terror” starring Eddie Albert and the bio-pic “Capone” starring Ben Gazarra.

“Piranha” is probably the most remembered film that Corman was associated with during his time running New World. A “Jaws” clone in style with a dash of humorous tongue-in-cheek, Joe Dante’s tale of carnivorous fish featured an ensemble cast including Bradford Dillman, Kevin McCarthy, Barbara Steele and Keenan Wynn and managed to become New World’s most successful release of 1978.

By the early 1980’s the competition in the indie competition had begun to dry up. AIP had become a public company bought by Filmways; Allied Artists had been consolidated and Avco Embassy Pictures had also been merged into a larger conglomerate. New World Pictures remained the only real viable indie studio in the market arena. Corman began seriously considering selling New World Pictures and moving back into the world of producing and directing.

His fortune turned bright when in 1983, an investment group consisting of Hollywood attorneys Lawrence L. Kuppin, Harry Evans Sloan and Larry Thompson bought New World from Corman for $16.5 million. Corman retained the existing New World library and agreed to a contract for New World to distribute his films for two years and serve as consultant.

Eventually Thompson resigned from the company the following year and Kuppin and Sloan brought in Robert Rehme as CEO who ironically had been New World’s vice president in charge of sales from 1975-1978. Rehme had also just recently left his post as President of Universal Pictures Theatrical Motion Picture Group and wanted to return to independent film. Having also ran Avco Embassy Pictures from 1978-1981, Rehme wanted to apply the same strategy of independent film marketing and distribution at the ‘new’ New World by taking the company public.

Corman felt rather uneasy about the indie studio’s new management. Realizing that his films were not getting distributed first exclusively by New World, Corman sued his former company in 1984. New World in turn counter sued accusing Corman of trying to sabotage New World’s public offering. Eventually, they settled out of court. Corman was released from his contract with New World and allowed to exclusively produce his own movies and New World was allowed to move forward with its public offering.

Under the new regime of Kuppin, Sloan and Rehme, New World Pictures became a publicly held company and more diversified. In 1986, the company changed its name to New World Entertainment, reflecting its now many units including New World Pictures, New World International (handling film distribution outside of the U.S.), New World Video (which helped revolutionize ancillary distribution during the VHS boom) and New World Television (which produced several TV shows including the NBC series “Santa Barbara”). That same year the growing company also bought Marvel Comics and Learning Corporation of America.

New World substantially maintained the same level of B-movies but with slightly larger budgets: Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn” was the first film released by New World after Corman left the company. As CEO of New World, Robert Rehme declared that indie films could be successful with budgets of under $3 million. For the most part, he was correct. A handful of horror, comedy and sci-fi films were successful: “Black Moon Rising” starring Tommy Lee Jones; “House” starring William Katt; the enormously successful “Hellraiser” films which included its first sequel “Hellbound: Hellraiser II”; “Flowers in the Attic” starring Louise Fletcher; George Romero’s “Creepshow 2” and “Soul Man” starring C. Thomas Howell.

But from 1985-1988 while New World released nearly 100 films, most of them were unpopular at the box office, though some of these dismal failures including “Wanted: Dead or Alive” starring Rutger Hauer; “Dead End Drive-In”; “Return to Horror High” which was George Clooney’s debut and Robert Altman’s underrated “Beyond Therapy”, have since developed cult followings.

Sadly the ‘new’ New World could not sustain its aggressive ability to market and distribute films, let alone over-expanding far too quickly as a mini-major studio. By 1989, facing major financial setbacks, New World began selling its assets including Marvel Comics and dramatically cut back production and closing its home video division altogether. The same year, Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti which had taken control of New World’s primary competitor at the time Cannon Films, announced that he wanted to buy the company.

Instead, New World accepted a much better offer from investor Ronald Perelman for $82.5 million and steered the company into television operations until 1997 when it became a holding company of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp when the New World name disappeared for good.

After New World, Roger Corman started up Concorde/New Horizons Pictures (now simply referred to as New Horizons) which has done a handful of B-movies throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s including “Frankenstein Unbound”, “Carnosaur” and “Death Race” to name a few. His production operation has produced a handful of both film and television product for The Sci-Fi Channel as well… yes, I still refer to it as Sci-Fi, not SyFy!

As for Harry Sloan and Robert Rehme? Following New World’s demise, Sloan started a very successful broadcasting company in Europe before coming back to the film industry to run MGM studios from 2005-2009. Rehme went on to became a major Hollywood producer in the 1990’s on films such as the Harrison Ford blockbusters “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger”. He also served two terms as president of the Academy Awards.

It is a shame New World Pictures was not able to fully integrate itself into a major distributor of independent films. It certainly had the potential to continue to grow and prosper much like how New Line Cinema eventually evolved.

I often wonder why New World did not receive this opportunity. I think there were two issues. The first being that Roger Corman had formed a very successful distributor of B-movies but that when he left the company, he retained the library and New World already had trouble getting off its feet. Secondly, it seems that Sloan and Rehme may have jumped the gun too quickly when they made New World into a public company. While New World was certainly a busy mini-major with production, television, theatrical and VHS ancillary distribution, I think it is fair to say that they grew the company far too quickly and could not anticipate that New World’s expenses compared to revenues would be greater than projected.

And so goes the story of New World Pictures. While the company does not exist anymore, its many movies have formed a growing base of fans who appreciate the level of commitment and passion that Corman put into them, as did Sloan, Kuppin and Rehme.

I’ll go on record to say that I’m one of those fans too!

[John Blythe is an independent film producer and entrepreneur. He is president of the production company Film Regions International which has produced several feature films including the critically acclaimed, award winning groundbreaking documentary “My Amityville Horror” which was distributed by IFC Films. He has also worked in various capacities managing business/financial affairs on independent films in the United States, Canada, Britain and South East Asia.]

Funny Headlines Part V

Posted in Funny Headlines with tags , on May 11, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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Funny Headlines Part IV

Posted in Funny Headlines with tags , on April 23, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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This isn’t a headline, but I had to post it

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Funny Headlines Part III

Posted in Funny Headlines with tags , on April 22, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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Django Unchained (2012) Review

Posted in Django Unchained with tags , , , , , , on April 21, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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DJANGO UNCHAINED

***** Out of 5

Tagline- Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Vengeance

Release Date- December 25th, 2012

Running Time-165-Minutes

Rating- R

Writer/Director- Quentin Tarantino

Starring- Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson

When it comes to Quentin Tarantino I’ll be the first to admit I am a total fanboy. QT is one of my film idols actually I’d rate him in the top 2. Thus far I’ve loved every film he’s done and the only one I didn’t fully love was Death Proof and while I still enjoyed the film for me it was his weakest effort. He followed that up with Inglorious Basterds and I loved the film and my fears that perhaps QT was starting to lose it was put to rest, but with that said as much as I loved the film it was the first time I ever felt one of his over 2-hour films was a little overly long, but in the end it was a great film and after 3-years Tarantino returns with Django Unchained and the end result is nothing short of brilliant. Pulp Fiction will always be my favorite QT film, but Django can give it a run for its money. I simply cannot put into words how brilliant this film was and yes I admitted I am a QT fanboy, but no bias here when I say not only was the film epic, but my favorite film of 2012 just edging out The Dark Knight Rises.

Django (Foxx) is a freed slave who partners up with Dr. King Schultz (Waltz) who is a bounty hunter. After assisting Schultz with a few missions he helps Django free his wife from the ruthless Calvin Candie (DiCaprio).

The screenplay by Quentin Tarantino is simply brilliant. QT won the Oscar for best screenplay with good reason. Django Unchained comes 20-years after his debut film Reservoir Dogs and Tarantino is still the best writer in Hollywood. The film is well plotted with truly memorable characters. The comedic elements are great as are the more serious moments. Characters are full of life with some great depth and with Django, Tarantino delivers one of his best written films with some of his best characters. I really cannot give QT enough praise for his script except to say its brilliant.

As popular as QT is a lot of people tend to forget his great of a director he is due to his writing, a lot say he’s a better writer than director and its his writing skills that make his films so great, but Tarantino is as good a director as he is a writer. Another thing about QT is he always manages to get brilliant performances from his actors and sure when you have such great dialogue it helps, but QT seems to really understand acting since his cast always raises their game to the next level. Despite running at about 165-minutes, Django Unchained is amazingly paced. The first hour in particular feels like 10-minutes. Every scene QT gets the most out of the movie in story, action, plot and character. With Django you’re in the hands of a master filmmaker and Q shows how brilliant he is. The highlight comes in an epic shootout at Candie Land, which features some of the best action scenes caught on camera. It actually in set up reminded me of Kill Bill at times, but this scene was just epic and put a huge smile on my face with its over the top gore scenes. It’s amazing how 20-years after his debut, Tarantino is still on the top of his game and not many filmmakers 20-years in can make a film as brilliant as their early work.

The cast for Django was one of Tarantino’s best and fans of cult cinema should have fun spotting the cameos. As for the main cast they were great. I was unsure what to make of Jamie Foxx as Django and originally Will Smith was up for the part and I preferred him. While Foxx was great in Ray I still only know him from his comedic work, but all I can say is I’m more than happy Foxx got the role instead of Smith. Jamie Foxx was outstanding. Kerry Washington as Broomhilda, Django’s wife was also excellent; I haven’t seen a lot of her work, but she’s beautiful and charismatic.

Christoph Waltz made a name for himself including an Oscar win in Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds and Waltz once again is just flat out brilliant with another Oscar win. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite actors and despite the title of the film I’d say Waltz was the star. He’s hysterical and he and Foxx worked great together. Besides being a QT fanboy I’ll also admit to being a Leonardo DiCaprio fanboy. He’s by far the greatest actor of his generation and once again Leo shows why and its a shame he’s yet to win an Oscar. As Calvin Candie, Leo is cold and cruel and this is one of his best performances. And of course I have to mention Samuel L. Jackson who was a riot as a traitor to his own people. Like always, Jackson never fails to entertain.

Django Unchained is a masterpiece of modern filmmaking and easily one of Tarantino’s best films. It has everything you could want in a film; great writing, directing, acting as well as being funny, dramatic and action packed. Tarantino again shows us why he’s seen as one of the greats and for my money he is the greatest. Django Unchained is the very best film of 2012. Quentin Tarantino is one of the filmmakers who defined the 90s and while many others have faded, QT is still defining a whole new generation.

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Contamination . 7 (1993) Review

Posted in Contamination .7 with tags , , , on April 15, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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CONTAMINATION .7

** Out of 5

Tagline- They Hunt, They Feed, They Kill, You’re Next

Release Date- October 18th, 1993

Running Time- 91-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Daniel Steel & Albert Lawrence

Director- Martin Newlin (Fabrizio Laurenti)

Starring- Mary Sellers, Jason Saucier, Bubba Reeves, Chelsi Stahr, Vince O’Neil

Released in 1993 Contamination .7, which also goes under the titles, Creepers, the Crawlers, Troll III and Troll III: Contamination Point 7, is a rather poor flick and the multiple titles is probably a way to trick people into seeing this junk. The credits list Martin Newlin as director, which is Fabrizio Laurenti under an alias (can’t say I blame him for using one), but other sites also list David Hills as one of the directors, which is none other than the infamous Joe D’Amato. Regardless of if both directed the film or not its just terrible and at this point the Italian horror film, which gained some popularity on the international market in the 60s and remained popular through most of the 80s was dying by the end of the 80s and was dead by 90s, as the top filmmakers were either dead or lost their touch and in some cases the hack filmmakers were still putting out their junk with even worse results and really the only exception was Dario Argento and outside of the underrated Trauma the rest of his work from the 90s on was hit or miss. With Joe D’Amato throuh his career he bordered decent filmmaker to hack and while I personally dislike the good majority of his work he did make a truly excellent film with Beyond the Darkness and while I don’t like Grim Reaper I did like what he was aiming to do with the film, which was very mixed in execution.

The plot revolves around the dumping of nuclear waste is a forest, which results in the trees in the forest coming alive and killing people. Basically there is your plot with little else except the subplot of a former couple working on their relationship.

The screenplay was written by Daniele Stoppa under the name Daniel Steel and Albert Lawrence. According to other sites Rosella Drudi & Fabrizio Laurenti also took part in the writing and its amazing that this film needed this many writers for such a poorly plotted film. The script while has a decent idea never fully works and characters are lifeless and dull with others being complete morons that are better off dead. Dialogue is often silly and while at times its meant to be funny, but a lot of the times the comedic aspect isn’t intentional. The screenplay is simply a bore and while Italian horror may not always mentioned for their writing (though the 70s had some well written films) the script for Contamination .7 is complete garbage and its no surprise Italian horror died a painful death when trash like this was made.

Since only Martin Newlin is listed as director I’ll only mention him. The pace of the film is quite sluggish and the overall production sloppy. There is zero suspense and tension and as the film goes on it can be quite a task to get through. As I mentioned earlier at this point Italian cinema was dead and buried and when seeing films like this it really isn’t difficult to understand why. The film is poorly made the direction flat, pacing is slow and boring and with the exception of 1 scene the lack of gore further sinks this film.

Contamination .7 is a very poor film that for the good portion of the running time is a total bore and even the most die hard fans of Italian cinema probably won’t feel much different than I do. This was one of the last films by Joe D’Amato as after this the good bulk of his work would be porn films and based off what I read he didn’t fair much better.

Horror by Year: 1982

Posted in Horror by Year with tags , , , , on April 14, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

Here’s my top 10 of 1982, which was a solid year, but as a list its not the strongest year. But I enjoyed all the films in my top 10. I know some people will disagree with my rating for the Thing. I like the film, but just never loved it as much as most Carpenter fans. Many cite that as one of if not his best. I’m a massive Carpenter fan, but it doesn’t crack my top 5. But again I do like the film just not as much as other people. Maybe one day that will change.

These lists are a work in progress as there will always be films left out since I either haven’t seen them (its not easy to track down certain titles and can be a bit expensive). Also there are films i haven’t seen in years and cannot fairly rate them. So at anytime the list can be altered.

10. Living Dead Girl- *** ½

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9. Madman- *** ½

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8. Pieces- *** ½

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7. The Thing- – *** ½

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6. Halloween 3- *** ½

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5. The Dorm That Dripped Blood- *** ½

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4. Friday the 13th Part 3- ****

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3. The Slumber Party Massacre- ****

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2. Tenebre- ****

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1. The New York Ripper- ****

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Funny Headlines Part II

Posted in Funny Headlines with tags , on April 11, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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Exterminator 2 (1984) Review

Posted in Exterminator 2 with tags , , , , on April 9, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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THE EXTERMINATOR 2

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- In the Exterminator He Made the Streets of New York Safe. All Has Been Quiet Until Now.

Release Date- September 14th, 1984

Running Time- 89-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Mark Buntzman & William Sachs

Director- Mark Buntzman

Starring- Robert Ginty, Frankie Faison, Deborah Geffner and Mario Van Peebles as X

Released in 1984, Exterminator 2 for the most part a sequel by name only as it has very little to do with the original and outside of a passing mention on a news report, there is no connection between the two films with the exception of Robert Ginty as John Eastland. At the end of the Exterminator, the police knew Eastland’s identity and the political corruption plot the Government also knew his identity so the fact Eastland is walking the streets of NY makes this in general a sequel by name only. Writer/director Mark Buntzman was a producer of the original film so I’m a little surprised there wasn’t more of a connection. The 80s were a great time for cinema as Hollywood put out quality films and not mindless junk and the B-Movie was thriving perhaps more than ever thanks to cable TV and home video. Exterminator 2 is very much a product of its time and while its not the best B-action movie it is however entertaining enough that should please fans of cult cinema. Despite the cult following of the original film it isn’t as well known as it should be and despite a couple of pacing issues it was an excellent film and while the sequel doesn’t quite measure up as I stated Exterminator 2 does provide a fun viewing.

The original film was an excellent gritty low budget exploitation flick that has held up very well over the years. Obviously certain aspects of the filmmaking techniques might be a little dated as with each generation comes a new style. But the story remains relevant and if made today there wouldn’t be any real changes made and as long as their is crime and injustice the Exterminator will always be relevant. Instead of making a gritty exploitation film, Exterminator 2 opts for the standard 80s action flick and while I suppose one can label this an exploitation film its very different in tone from the original. This was made by Cannon films and if you’re a fan like I am you should know what to expect here.

The screenplay by Mark Buntzman is kind of the standard 80s action film of the time. I don’t think anyone goes into this expecting great writing, but gone is the strong social message of the original. Even in the original film Eastland is kind of a mystery; while we understand why he seeks revenge on the gang who attacked his friend it wasn’t explained why now he had enough of the crime in NY and while I suppose its fairly obvious I still think there was a missed chance at getting deeper into Eastland’s psyche. Here Buntzman with Exterminator 2 never really develops Eastland much and if anything he’s just sort of there. However in the original film we see he hasn’t fully gotten over his time in Vietnam and outside of his one friend he’s very much a loner with a tragic sadness. Here he’s still sort of a loner despite having a close friend and a girlfriend, but at times he also seems happier and it was a nice touch showing that other side of John Eastland. Unlike the first film where Eastland sets his sights on a few different targets, in Exterminator 2 throughout the film he’s only after the gang led by X only in the 2nd half it gets more personal. I liked the fact in the original he had different targets and it even to this day makes the Exterminator standout from other vigilante films, but here Eastland has one target and the film is a little more standard due to that.

As director Mark Buntzman delivers a fun film, but not without some pacing issues. The writing wasn’t strong enough to carry the film during the lulls in action and unlike the original, Buntzman never really establishes much of a tone. The action sequences are entertaining though they do repeat themselves at times. But there are some really fun action scenes and while the pacing is an issue at times, Buntzman also delivers a really fun film. While this film might be a little more graphic than the original the violence doesn’t have that gritty feel to them, but I suppose they weren’t meant to. Overall despite some pacing issues and some scenes being a little a like, Mark Buntzman does deliver the goods and fans of the original should be entertained. The only real letdown is the final act is a bit anti-climatic, but while this is by no means a great film Mark Buntzman crafts a highly entertaining flick.

Robert Ginty as John Eastland is excellent. He’s not the greatest actor though he isn’t bad either, but he’s not the most charismatic actor, which I think works in his favor since it makes him feel more real if that makes any sense. Rest of the cast is solid and Mario Van Peebles is a blast to watch as X.

Overall Exterminator 2 is a highly entertaining film and while it doesn’t match the original film its still a fun action packed exploitation film. Co-writer William Sachs also shot some additional footage though I have no idea what he shot, but the film does flow well and doesn’t seem like 2 filmmakers were involved. Little bit of extra trivia the news report in the beginning says the media dubbed Eastland as the Exterminator, but that’s incorrect as Eastland named himself that.

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