The Exterminator is a 1980 action film starring Robert Ginty as John Eastland and Steve James, then a stuntman, on his first speaking role. It was directed by James Glickenhaus, the producer of Maniac Cop and the Basket Case sequels.
Some time after a traumatic tour of duty in Vietnam, John Eastland is working with his war buddy Michael Jefferson at a New York City meat packing plant, and life is good...until a group of thugs (the Ghetto Ghouls) cripple Jefferson. Eastland takes his revenge on the thugs, but doesn't stop there, taking on every lowlife possible. He gives the press his moniker of "The Exterminator" and draws public support, but is drawn into conflict with various law enforcement agencies, including the CIA who misunderstands his motives.
The Exterminator was followed by a 1984 sequel, Exterminator 2, starring Robert Ginty back on the titular role, Mario Van Peebles as X, and Deborah Geffner. It was directed by the producer of the first film, Mark Buntzman. Eastland returns to take on the gang leader X, who killed his girlfriend in retaliation for Eastland killing members of his gang and X's younger brother for robbing a store and killing its owners in cold blood.
The series contains examples of the following tropes:
- Covers Always Lie: Eastland never dons the attires shown in the posters.
- Dull Surprise: Par for the course with Robert Ginty.
- Fire-Breathing Weapon: More so in the second film than the first.
- Kill 'Em All: The only character to survive both films is Eastland himself.
- One-Man Army: Less so in the second movie where he's briefly helped by a friend, but he doesn't last very long.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: Basically a running theme.
- Pyrrhic Victory: Let's just say Eastland always finds a way to end up much worse than when he began, and completely alone.
- They Killed Kenny Again: Irwin Keyes appears and dies in both films. Up to his death in 2015, he insisted he played the same character.
- Title Drop: In both movies, it is the press that calls Eastland The Exterminator.
The Exterminator provides examples of:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Early in the movie, one of the interrogators decapitates a soldier with one. He barely even swings it.
- Poisoned Weapons: Eastland takes to using poisoned bullets.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Det. James Dalton, who tries to gain an understanding of Eastland and why he went on his revenge spree.
The sequel provides examples of:
- Bad Boss: X kills a gangmember for basically telling him about Eastland's plans.
- Big Bad: X
- The Cameo: Arye Gross in his debut role, and John Turturro in his second role.
- Demoted to Extra: Caroline's role was greatly reduced from the original script.
- Fake Shemp: All the scenes with John Eastland wearing a welding mask were done with an unknown stand-in.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: X's charred corpse lands on a big metal spike after a bomb goes off in his face.
- Lighter and Softer: While the first film was quite serious, this one adds a lot of '80s camp and goofiness.
- Made of Explodium: Damn near every car.
- Man on Fire: Several, in fact.
- Missing Trailer Scene: From what one can suppose was Buntzman's original cut. An explosion at the bar where Caroline dances; John, Caroline and Be Gee's reaction to this, and their tending to victims in the aftermath; people fleeing past the burning helicopter pilot with John looking on helplessly; and a street confrontation between John and X, where X seemingly recognizes and attempts to intimidate him.
- Re-Cut: The movie had to be cut heavily in order to be rated "R". The VHS version was released with most censored scenes back, but not all of them. The fully unrated version was never released.
- Sequel Escalation: In the original, Eastland only uses his flamethrower once. In the sequel, the order of the day seems to be "burn everything".
- Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: Eastland dupes X into opening a package that the latter thinks contains cocaine. It does not.
- This is literally how the edited version of the movie ends. X, while fleeing Eastland through a factory, comes across a bag and decides absolutely has to open it. It explodes in his face. Freeze frame. Roll credits.
- Throw It In!: Mario Van Peebles came up with X's character and attire shortly after being cast.