Set in Australia in the totalitarian near future, objectors to the authoritarian rule are labelled ‘social deviants’ and sent to prison camps for re-education and behaviour modification.
The new arrivals at Re-Ed Camp 47 are Chris Walters (Olivia Hussey), a shy and law-abiding shopkeeper accused of helping a rebel (who had randomly stumbled into her store); suspected sex worker Rita Daniels (Lynda Stoner); and Paul Anders (Steve Railsback), a radical dissident who has escaped from several other camps.
After suffering brutal treatment at the hands of tyrannical chess-playing Camp Master Charles Thatcher (Michael Craig) and his chief enforcer Ritter (Roger Ward) – who has a bald head, a luxurious moustache and a penchant for beating people to death for no reason – the prisoners accept a deadly deal.
They will be human prey in a ‘turkey shoot’ Thatcher has organised for Secretary Mallory (Noel Ferrier), and VIPs Jennifer (Carmen Duncan) – an upper-class lesbian with a crossbow and a collection of explosive arrows – and Tito (Michael Petrovich) – who is assisted by a top-hat-wearing werewolf-like freak called Alph (Steve Rackman).
If they can evade the heavily armed guests in the surrounding jungle until sundown, Chris, Rita and Paul will be set free. They are joined as prey in the hunt by bespectacled, hapless loser Dodge (John Ley) and Griff (Bill Young), a tall desperate chap who wants to kill Thatcher and escape.
As the shoot progresses, the prisoners turn the tables on the hunters.
Tito and Alph make short work of Dodge, and though Griff manages to disarm evil camp guard Red (Gus Mercurio) and take his gun, he too succumbs – though he leaves Red in a fiendish Viet Cong style jungle trap that will leave its mark on Ritter.
Meanwhile, lesbian Jennifer is in pursuit of sweet Rita, and after much splashing about in the tropical rivers, soon enough her sharp arrows are penetrating Rita’s soft skin.
Chris and Paul at least have some success, taking out the bloated Mallory with a fire in a field of sugar cane, and severing the hands of the nasty Ritter.
The pair decide to head back to the camp and liberate all the prisoners. Thatcher is now in deep trouble, as Paul and Chris send their mini-‘dozer crashing through the electrified prison fences. The camp goes on red alert, and jet fighters take to the air to bomb the camp and its deviant prisoners back to the stone age.
The camp becomes the site of a war between guards and prisoners, with much shooting and many explosions. Chris uses an arrow to give Jennifer an explosive farewell and Thatcher loses his head – and soon enough the deviants will surge out into the world, as an end title sagely notes H. G. Wells’ remark, “Revolution begins with the misfits …”
Without a doubt one of the most notorious Australian films ever made, Turkey Shoot attracted both wildly positive and negative reactions over the years. It was singled out for extraordinary praise by Quentin Tarantino when he visited Sydney in 2003 to launch Kill Bill.
With its unapologetically excessive display of gore and general mayhem (hands are cut off, bodies are split in two at the waist, and in one memorable scene a machine gun manages to make a head explode into thousands of pieces) it’s little wonder Turkey Shoot has an international reputation as one of the Ozploitation greats among ‘B’ movie buffs like Tarantino. It was a big hit at drive-ins and later on video in Australia.
The film was known in the USA as Escape 2000 and released on video in the UK as Blood Camp Thatcher.
A disappointing po-faced remake, stripping the material of its colour and off-the-wall vitality, was released in 2014. Carmen Duncan and Roger Ward had cameo roles.