“Turkey Shoot” (1982) is a nightmare of depravity, dismemberment & hunted humans

By on June 14, 2019

In British-born director Brian Trenchard-Smith’s notorious near-future blood & thunder shocker Turkey Shoot (1982), inmates are labeled “deviants” and sent to Camp 47, a brutal “behavior modification” prison before they’re “chosen as human prey for rich people to hunt.”

Now fully-restored in HD from the original vault negative by our friends at Severin Films — and rated “NSFW” for gratuitous nudity during a shower scene and obvious attempts at sexual titillation and innuendo — on Night Flight Plus.

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Taking place in the year 1995 (or maybe it’s supposed to be the year 2000, although in 1982 both years were still the not-too-distant future), Turkey Shoot is fast-paced action-packed cult movie mayhem.

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We follow the fates of three new inmates sent to B.F. Skinner Re-Education and Behavior Modification Camp #47, which is run by the brutal “Charles Thatcher” (Michael Ward, his character likely named after unpopular British PM Margaret Thatcher) and a bunch of sadistic prison guards, led by the gargantuan “Ritter” (Roger Ward).

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“Chris Walters” — the lovely Olivia Hussey, who stole our hearts as the prepubescent Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet – is a shopkeeper falsely accused of helping aid rebels.

“Paul Anders” — Steve Railsback, who for our money was the best “Charles Manson” ever, the star of the 1976 TV movie Helter Skelter not to mention 1980’s The Stunt Man – is a political dissident who has previously escaped from other prisons.

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Our third hero/heroine is blonde & big-boobed “Rita Daniels” (Lynda Stoner), accused of prostitution, which is apparently a major no-no in this repressive dystopian shit-world.

All three are selected to participate in the twelve-hour “Turkey Shoot,” in which defenseless prisoners in yellow jumpsuits are released into the nearby wilderness to be stalked and killed by armed hunters.

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The “Turkey Shoot” is something Thatcher regularly stages for his superiors — the head of the government’s re-education program “Secretary Mallory” (Noel Ferrier), and government officials “Jennifer” (Carmen Duncan) and “Tito” (Michael Petrovitch) and then there’s also Tito’s beastly accomplice “Alph” (Steve “Crusher” Rackman) — all for their sicko amusement.

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Severin Films tells us the three prisoners “… will be thrust into a nightmare of depravity, dismemberment, cleaved skulls, exploding heads, lesbians with crossbows, the insane hungers of a deformed cannibal circus freak, and more.”

Brutal! No wonder the original film poster was emblazoned with the tagline warning: “No Film For Chickens.”

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Read more about Turkey Shoot below.

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Brian Trenchard-Smith & friend

British-born Brian Trenchard-Smith moved to Australia in 1970, where he was the founding editor of Movie magazine prior to directing his first of his forty-plus exploitation films.

Turkey Shoot‘s screenplay — by Jon George and Neil D. Hicks — was reportedly inspired by George Orwell‘s real-seeming fictional 1949 novel 1984 and by a couple of mostly-forgotten films — The Most Dangerous Game (1932) and The Naked Prey (1966) — but the influence of George Miller‘s Mad Max films can’t be overlooked either.

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In an essay on the making of Turkey Shoot for the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, published on June 23, 2008, Trenchard-Smith says Turkey Shoot — known outside Australia as Escape 2000 (the film’s U.S. title) and as Blood Camp Thatcher (the UK title) — was always meant to be a satire.

The director says he ran into trouble when the production schedule was trimmed own from forty-four days to just twenty-eight ten-hour days, which meant a lot of he’d planned to shoot had to be scuttled at the last minute due to time constraints (the film was lensed in northern Queensland near Cairns).

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“The prison camp had been built for five hundred extras,” Trenchard-Smith writes, “but now we could only afford seventy-five on our biggest day. A range of challenges. How could I ensure an audience? I decided to increase the level of blood and black-hearted laughs into a sort of Lucio Fulci high camp splatter movie. Blood is cheap.”

Executive producer David Hemmings shot some second unit, which he says caused some tension.

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Trenchard-Smith writes that the Re-Education Camp’s mantra — “Freedom is Obedience. Obedience is Work. Work is Life.” — is the future that awaits America, “… if they don’t come to their senses in November and put ‘A Brain’ into the White House.”

(In 2008, American voters did elect “A Brain” for president, but we apparently decided to go brain-less in our 2016 presidential election).

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Critics balked at Turkey Shoot‘s violence.

“Needless to say, critics did not share my sense of humour,” writes Trenchard-Smith, “And to be honest, the film is far from perfect. The score is not my favourite, but a generation later sees it as part of the fun.”

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“But Turkey Shoot allowed me to push some genre clichés to their outrageous extreme. All filmmakers find themselves in situations where the playing field tips and the goal posts shift. You just have to develop some elasticity and go with the flow, while still trying to preserve the core of your original vision. But ultimately, a good movie in these circumstances is a saleable movie.”

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Trenchard-Smith writes that Turkey Shoot broke box office records in some Australian drive-ins, scored a U.S. theatrical release — albeit with censor cuts — and “ultimately video audiences across the globe discovered it as a guilty pleasure,” building a loyal cult following.

Most of Trenchard-Smith’s directorial work has been in television, and most of his films have been direct-to-video releases. Along with Turkey Shoot, a few of his best known films include StuntRock (1978) and Dead End Drive-In (1986).

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Watch Turkey Shoot and other Ozploitation cult classics from Severin Films on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.