Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Turkey Shoot


Turkey Shoot Poster

(1982) Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith; Written by Jon George and Neill D. Hicks; Story by George Schenck, R. Wayland Williams and David Lawrence; Starring: Steve Railsback, Olivia Hussey, Michael Craig, Carmen Duncan, Noel Ferrier, Lynda Stoner, Roger Ward, Michael Petrovich and Gus Mercurio; Available on Blu-ray and DVD 

Rating: *** 

“We are all part of a great society. One which is the product of many generations of thought. While it is true that in the past, mistakes have been made, we now know that society depends on the wholehearted cooperation of every one of its members. There is no room for shirkers, malcontents or deviants. And we are here to help you gain your rightful places in that great society. Freedom is obedience. Obedience is work. Work is life.” – Thatcher (Michael Craig)

Prison Sign

Turkey Shoot (aka: Escape 2000 in the U.S.) rode the wave of Ozploitation films from the ‘70s and ‘80s, which promised excessive violence, flashes of gratuitous nudity, and death-defying stunts – a combination unpopular with critics but ideal for international audiences, hungry for movies that traipsed on the wild side. Director Brian-Trenchard Smith* described his movie as “a bit of a train wreck,” with a budget that was cut in half (to $1.6 million),**/*** just before shooting commenced. The lack of funds necessitated making concessions to the script: the filmmakers cut out the first 15 pages, which would have set up the dystopian society only hinted at by the rest of the film. Another four pages, depicting a climactic helicopter chase, were trimmed from the screenplay, and the shooting schedule (on location north of Queensland) was reduced to 28 days. 

* Fun Fact #1: Trenchard Smith commented: “I make a lot of films for pubescent males, being a perpetual pubescent male, perhaps.” 

** Fun Fact #2: According to Trenchard-Smith, the film was originally set in Depression-era America, circa 1933, but that changed to sometime in the near future, presumably someplace in Australia. 

*** Fun Fact #3: The prison camp set was designed for 500 extras, but only featured 20 to 70 at most, depending on the daily demands of the shoot.

Paul Anders

The opening credit sequence attempts to bridge the gap in the script’s missing prologue, through a montage of news clips depicting civil unrest. We can infer that the resulting future society of 1995 (!) has devolved into a police state, where individual rights have taken a backseat to control of the masses. In the following scene, we’re introduced to three of the key players, as they arrive to their assigned prison camp. Paul Anders (Steve Railsback), who has the most substantial backstory, is a repeat-offender – a political dissident who runs a covert radio show.* For Chris Walters (Olivia Hussey), it’s guilt by association as the formerly law-abiding shop owner is arrested for the misfortune of having the wrong friends. It’s not entirely clear why the third prisoner, Rita (Lynda Stoner), was sentenced to prison, although one can presume it has something to do with her freewheeling attitude, which seems counter to the ultraconservative sensibilities embodied by the sadistic warden, Thatcher (Michael Craig). Accompanying the warden is a small army of guards, who cater to his whims (and some of their own). Not long after they arrive, the new convicts are granted clemency, but there’s a catch. They must survive the hunt. 

* Fun Fact #4: The policeman who whacks Anders with his truncheon is none other than Trenchard-Smith.


In a movie not distinguished by its subtlety, Turkey Shoot features a surprisingly understated standout performance by veteran actor Michael Craig as the empathy-challenged warden Thatcher (guess who he’s named after?). He spews government-sanctioned rhetoric about rehabilitation, while exhibiting blatant disregard for the welfare of the prisoners. Craig (who wrote much of his own dialogue) hits the right notes as a career-minded mouthpiece for the ruling class and its calculating propaganda. Steve Railsback does an admirable job as Thatcher’s nemesis, Paul Anders, who refuses to succumb to the will of the fascist government. He represents the unbroken spirit that Thatcher detests, refusing to buckle under intimidation tactics. Even if it kills him, he’s determined to send the message that no jail can hold him for long.

Paul Anders and Chris Walters Watch in Horror

Olivia Hussey reportedly didn’t enjoy the shoot,* which comes across in her visibly uncomfortable performance (when Hussey objected to a nude scene, a body double was brought in). On the other hand, her unease works fairly well for the character, who’s very much a fish out of water. It takes very little time for the once-compliant model citizen to become disillusioned when she witnesses the abuses of the people in power. 

* Fun Fact #5: According to another cast member, Hussey was terrified by the prospect of being outdoors with Australia’s native wildlife.


Ex-pro wrestler Roger Ward creates an appropriately imposing presence as the vicious Chief Guard Ritter, who doles out punishment with a sneer. In one of the most difficult scenes to watch, Ritter beats and kicks a diminutive female prisoner to death, followed by a later sequence when he sets an escapee on fire. Similarly, Gus Mercurio chews the scenery as Red, a man who takes pleasure in ensuring the inmates’ lives are a perpetual living hell. Of course, both characters’ appalling behavior are designed to manipulate the audience, so their horrible comeuppance can supply some much-needed catharsis.

The Hunters Before the Hunt

What would a variation of The Most Dangerous Game be without a cast of cartoonishly villainous hunters? Tito (Michael Petrovich) drives a mini-bulldozer with his trusty sidekick from a sideshow, the beast-man Alph (played by wrestler Steve Rackman), who has a penchant for inflicting pain (and munching human toes). Secretary Mallory (Noel Ferrier) is the picture of excess, with his portly stature, cigar, and phallic firearm. While it certainly seemed several of the male actors were enjoying themselves with their over-the-top roles, the only actress who seemed to be having fun was Carmen Duncan as amoral Jennifer. She dresses as if she’s about to attend a posh soirée with the upper crust, instead of killing unarmed prisoners in cold blood. Her weapon of choice is a crossbow with an assortment of arrows. She enjoys inflicting pain and satisfying her insatiable libido with equal gusto. Both appetites are intertwined as she sets her eyes on Rita. 


Brian Trenchard-Smith described Turkey Shoot as “1984 meets The Camp on Blood Island,” blending trashy excess with social commentary (dubious crimes and disproportionate punishment, as befits a society hellbent on controlling its citizens). Predictably, Turkey Shoot wasn’t a hit with Australian critics expecting high-minded entertainment, but that didn’t stop it from connecting with audiences to become a modest hit. Trenchard-Smith acknowledged it for what it was, a low-brow crowd pleaser with some heavy-handed satire thrown in for good measure. While the delivery is clunky in parts, Turkey Shoot reminds us that dystopian films never go out of style (we love to see the oppressed fight the oppressors). Although you might not respect yourself in the morning, it’s not a bad way to spend 90 minutes or so.


Sources for this article: Severin Blu-ray commentary by Brian Trenchard-Smith; “Turkey Shoot: Blood and Thunder Memories” documentary 



  1. I've never heard of this, but will look out for it. I've only ever seen Michael Craig on the side of the angels!

    1. Oh, you're in for a treat. He's quite a nasty character in this one. Enjoy.

  2. Awesome start to exploitation month, Barry!!
    I've heard of turkey shoot but I have not seen turkey shoot! It sounds deranged enough, so I should put it on my list. Plus, even if she seems uncomfortable in the movie, Olivia hussey is always a good reason to watch something!

    1. Thanks, John! I think you'd enjoy it. I shouldn't like this as much as I do, but it scratches that exploitation itch. ;) Agreed about Hussey!

  3. There are more "Most Dangerous Game" exploiters out there than you can aim a crossbow at, but this one looks particularly fun. Steve Railsback is a steady action hero, and I'll always be grateful to Olivia Hussey for lending her presence to my all-time favorite slasher, Black Christmas. I thought to myself, this is surely on Tubi, and yes indeed it is. Ka-ching!

    1. Good old Tubi! It's an unabashedly trashy movie, but at least the director knew that. Good fun! Enjoy.