Blood Camp Thatcher (1982)

Blood Camp Thatcher (1982)

Hunting is the national sport…and people are the prey!

In the near future, ‘social deviants’ are held in a maximum security camp where the sadistic leader organise “turkey hunts” where wealthy individuals pay him money to hunt prisoners for sport. A bunch of new arrivals find conditions at the camp brutal and harsh but are offered a chance of freedom if they survive this year’s hunt.

 

It’s not often I can say that I’ve watched an Australian film, at least not a modern one, but this early export from the time of Mad Max certainly makes me wonder whether I should have been exploring the Aussie film business a little more. Blood Camp Thatcher is like an earlier version of The Running Man (both films of which were updated versions of 1932′s The Most Dangerous Game) featuring a various assortment of characters being savagely hunted for sport, only this time there’s more sleaze than you shake a stick at.

Unfortunately a financial backer pulled out of the film at the last minute and the first fifteen pages of the script had to be done away. So we don’t know how the future has become so degenerate and there’s nothing to explain what the hell is going on. Just accept the fact that this is the future and it isn’t pretty. The futuristic setting is of little relevance to the film’s overall narrative though (this isn’t meant to be 1984) as there is no social commentary to be had here. The film may have started out as a well-meaning Orwellian vision of the future with visions of grandeur but in the end in turns into an exploitation fest and a cult classic.

It’s pretty is slow to get it’s gears moving and the scenes in the prison camp early on could have been culled from any of those sleazy European semi-porn prison camp films where shower scenes are gratuitous. But once the hunt begins and the characters all go their own way, the film picks its pace up and never lets up until the end. Due to the prisoners all going their separate ways and each person being hunted individually, we get five separate pursuits all running alongside each other. So the film cuts nicely from one chase to the next until one of the characters is killed off. The film is extremely gory which is probably why it’s had patchy releases across the world, especially in the UK with our notorious BBFC butchers. It’s totally gratuitous and too over-the-top to be offensive. Toes are bitten off. Heads are blown up. Eyes are impaled. People have their hands cut off. There’s dismemberments. You name it, it’s here. It’s the focus on the “turkey shoot” that really changes the tone of this film from a dull, rather sinister little exploitation flick into a cheese-fest full of crazy situations and containing so much energy, enthusiasm and general sense of fun.

There are some memorable characters here, notably the sinister-looking chap on the front cover who isn’t actually ‘Thatcher’ just the head guard. Ritter, the bald-headed, moustached, balls-less (yes you heard that right, the explanation is given in the film) and sadistic brute is one of the best bits of the film. Played with equal menace, equal tongue-in-cheek by Roger Ward, he’s the prison guard that every prison movie tries to include. He’s not averse to a bit of whipping and setting alight unfortunate failed escapees. There’s also some weird half-man, half-beast character with a hairy face and long fangs that seems to have been lifted right out of the He-Man cartoon. He is one the main hunters and enjoys mutilating people in gruesome ways. Again maybe a bit of explanation could have been given as to why creatures like this now exist but maybe it’s best just to sit back and take it as it is.

It’s the villains who all seem to be having the fun here because the prisoners give some terribly wooden and lifeless performances. Steve Railsback is too dour and serious as the man locked up for running a pirate radio station. Olivia Hussey provides the obligatory eye candy but her performance is just as bad. When you’ve got bland ‘heroes’ like these, is it any wonder you want to see the bald guard smash the hell out of them when he has a chance?

 

Blood Camp Thatcher is a little one-dimensional and a little blunt with its intentions but it’s a trashy, highly entertaining ride – exploitation films don’t get much more straight-forward than this.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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