What a weird movie! IMDb's website describes 'The Last Moment' as a horror film, but I would classify it as an adventure film that gradually creeps into melodrama. I found several sequences to be unnerving, but I never once got that shivery frisson that a good horror movie provides.
In the first reel of 'The Last Moment', a scientist journeys to Patagonia to capture a creature which is apparently some sort of missing link between humans and apes. Sure enough, he nabs the specimen and puts it into a cage. Throughout the film, this unfortunate creature is identified in the intertitles as -- by turns -- either "the Beast" or "the Thing". With his beastie in tow, the scientist books passage aboard a freighter bound for the United States, captained by a tough sea-dog known only as the Finn (Louis Wolheim, giving a performance that deserves a better script).
The Finn turns out to be totally evil. He chucks the scientist overboard in mid-ocean, planning to keep the Beast for himself and sell it. (Where would he sell it? Beasts-R-Us? Monsters-U-Like?) Whilst his ship is in port, the Finn encounters debutante Alice Winthrop (Doris Kenyon) and a nervous bookworm who rejoices in the name Hercules Napoleon Cameron (Henry Hull, streets away from 'Werewolf of London'). Straight off, the Finn shanghais them. I found this utterly ridiculous; Alice and Hercules (despite his name) are a couple of weaklings who are obviously useless as deckhands, and Alice (as played by Doris Kenyon) is only mildly pretty, hardly likely to ignite a sea-dog's lust when surely there are sexier women available.
Anyway, they're all at sea (so is the script) and the Thing is still snug in its cage. The Finn threatens Alice when she fails to fall for his charms. Hercules valiantly rushes to her aid, and the Finn promptly beats the tar out of Hercules. (This is the most believable scene in the whole movie.) SPOILERS COMING. Eventually there's a storm at sea. The Thing finally breaks out of its cage. Hercules confronts the creature in the gunwales, and actually stares the Beast down! As the storm rages, Hercules and the creature go overboard together, and fight in the water. Credibility goes down for the third time, and never comes up for air.
The most interesting character in this movie is that half-human creature in the cage. Unfortunately, we never do get a good look at it. In the early sequences, when the creature is kept in shadow or the camera's sightlines only just bypass it, I assumed that the director was holding back for a climactic sequence in which we finally get a good look at this humanoid. Some hope! I did manage to get just enough of a squizz at the Thing to realise that the actor in the cage is a negro. I'm not sure if this casting is racist or not; it seems to indicate that a black man is the best choice to play a creature who's less fully evolved than a human being.
I'll rate 'The Last Moment' 6 out of 10 just for being such an unusual film, but the climax is a letdown and most of what comes before it is implausible.
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