Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 31 - The Last Hunter

The cover of my VHS copy of The Last Hunter

The Last Hunter (1980)

Director: Antonio Margheriti
Format: VHS (Roadshow Home Video)

From the prolific sub-genre of Vietnam War flicks shot in the Philippines in the 70s and 80s comes Italian-produced The Last Hunter (aka L'ultimo cacciatore).

Directed by Antonio Margheriti (CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE), billed here as Anthony M. Dawson, it stars David Warbeck (THE BEYOND), who I was surprised to find out while researching this movie is a fellow countryman of mine (he was born in my home country of New Zealand, but lived in England for most of his career). Not that you'd know by watching this, as his voice is over-dubbed with an American accent.

We open to a group of GIs in a Saigon brothel during the Vietnam War. It becomes a tense scene as one of the soldiers, Steve, snaps and shoots another GI (while screaming "Where's Carol, why isn't she here?"). His buddy Captain Morris (Warbeck) tries to reason with Steve but the place is destroyed by a rocket attack in a huge explosion (a great way to start any action flick!).

Next we get a credits sequence with music that makes it feel like it should have Stephen J. Cannell's name attached to it, it's so reminiscent of 80s TV shows like The A Team.

After the credits, we see Morris in a helicopter being flown into Cambodia. After the helicopter is attacked, Morris leaps from it into the jungle, behind enemy lines. He meets Sgt George "Wash" Washington, played by Tony King (who played the similiarly-named Washington three years later in ATLANTIS INTERCEPTORS). They join up with the rest of the platoon, including the burly Carlos (Bobby Rhodes, DEMONS) and photographer Jane Foster (Tisa Farrow, ZOMBIE).

After a shootout with the enemy and some nasty VC booby-traps take care of a couple of their group, Morris and company arrive at an outpost led by the slightly crazy Major Cash (John Steiner, Mario Bava's SHOCK). Cash and his men are pinned down and losing morale thanks to a radio station spewing out VC propaganda.

Along the way Morris has a flashback to a scene with Steve and Carol (Margit Evelyn Newton, HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD), showing the trio together in happier times. We also learn Morris' secret mission is to knock out the radio transmitter and cut off the propaganda.

There's a zany scene (complete with wacky music) where one of the trapped soldiers runs through enemy fire to get a coconut from a nearby tree, while his comrades time him. Then the VC attack the GIs' underground bunker, resulting in a big shootout in which Morris busts out a flamethrower(!) but the VC make off with the girl.

Now running solo, Morris heads off to rescue her but ends up being captured and taken to the same village where she's being kept. Together they escape and head for a finale which wraps up both the main plot and the Steve-Carol subplot.

The Last Hunter is highly enjoyable. Its storyline is never boring and the action moves at a steady pace - Margheriti makes sure to have plenty of the gunfire and explosions (and there's some mighty big ones) you'd expect from this kind of movie.

My experience of watching these Philippines-shot war flicks (of which I understand there's hundreds) is sadly limited, so I don't know if they're all as gory as The Last Hunter. The blood and gore here is impressive - there's rotting flesh, wounds squirting blood, people on fire, a leg shot off leaving a bloody stump, a POW with half his face eaten off by rats, and more to keep the gore fans happy.

My VHS lists a running time of 96 minutes, which runs a minute longer than the two DVD releases available. But there's a Swedish VHS release listed at 97 minutes (called the 1980 banned version, according to IMDB), and I noticed one definite cut in my video. It is the attempted rape of Jane Foster by the GIs at the underground base, which is cut completely, leaving her referring to it after the fact, following a harsh jump from one scene to the next.

For me The Last Hunter ticks all the boxes of a good action movie.

Previews on my VHS: Caligula, Breathless, Survive!, Lone Wolf McQuade, Jaguar Lives, Zulu Dawn, Triumphs of a Man Called Horse, Full Moon High

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