The End Justifies The Means: The Exterminator

The End Justifies The Means: The Exterminator

Static Mass Rating: 2/5
Arrow Video

Release date: November 7th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 94 minutes

Year of production: 1980

Writer and director: James Glickenhaus
Producers: Lester Berman, Mark Buntzman
Composer: Joe Renzetti

Cast: Robert Ginty, Christopher George, Samantha Eggar, Steve James, Tony di Benedetto, Dick Bocelli, Patrick Farrelly, David Lipman, Dennis Boutsikaris, Judy Licht, Stan Getz, George Cheung, Freddie Ambolo

There’s a lot of injustice out there. Drug lords, thugs, thieves and rapists. Start with the sewers, work your way upwards and you can get really far and all too often guys like these are either given a free pass by the justice system or law enforcement turns a blind eye altogether.

Vigilante heroes come along every so often and in James Glickenhaus’ cult classic The Exterminator, it’s New York City’s lucky day. Help is at hand.

The Exterminator

After his best friend, fellow Vietnam veteran Michael (Steve James), gets his neck broken by a gang of thugs, John (Robert Ginty) starts to take revenge on the city’s scum. He first goes after the members of the Ghetto Ghouls who are responsible for the attack. He continues to visit Michael in hospital and tells him he’s taking care of things.

Next on his list are the mobsters who have been squeezing money out of the pockets of workers to fund organised crime. After stuffing one of them into a meat grinder he then goes after the men who kidnap and force youngsters into prostitution; selling them on to senators.

The Exterminator

His efforts to clean up the city don’t go unnoticed and soon the masked vigilante is hailed as New York’s hero by its people but it also brings him to the attention of Detective Dalton (Christopher George) who starts investigating him and the CIA.

Having fought in Vietnam and seen the brutality of war I guess that John just grew fed up of seeing the streets of New York like a war zone each time he stepped outside. The stench of crime and poverty juxtaposed with wealth of wealth and prosperity of those who feed off of it must have been overwhelming and he just snapped.

The Exterminator

After its Vietnam prologue we’re treated to some spectacular night time aerial views of 1980’s Manhattan. Slowly flying past the Statue of Liberty, then right up close to the World Trade Center towers and the Empire State Building, they’re some of the best shots I’ve seen of the area for that time.


  • Introduction by James Glickenhaus
  • Fire And Slice: Making The Exterminator
  • 42nd Street Then And
  • Audio Commentary

Aside from its occasionally poor acting there are some continuity errors that keep the Exterminator from running smoothly. Things just seem to happen for no reason and there are huge jumps from one scene to the next and at times it does feel like it’s trying very hard to be Dirty Harry (1971) with its no-nonsense approach but what it lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in action.

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