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Director Antonio Margheriti's Vietnam piece is bound to be loved by
some audiences and hated by others. This is simply not a film for all
tastes. On the surface, it looks like cruel exploitation of a
controversial war; exploiting Vietnam was certainly a risky move in
1980. Dig a little deeper, though, and "The Last Hunter" becomes a
brutal allegory on the futility of warfare.
Margheriti tells a straightforward tale: Captain Morris (David Warbeck) heads into Cambodia with a small band of soldiers on a mission to find and destroy an enemy radio station which is broadcasting disgusting anti-American propaganda. Along the way, he encounters many people and situations which point to the ultimate insanity of warfare.
Margheriti begins his tale with one of the best opening sequences ever put to film. Morris tries to relax in a Saigon bar, making conversation with another GI whom he's never met. Soft music plays in the background, providing a perfect tempo for the dialog. It's not long, however, before Morris realizes that he escape the realities of the war outside. The music stops abruptly as the tone changes from quiet to tense: Steve has been aggravated by the aforementioned GI. He shoots him in the head, and then turns the gun on himself. As if on key, enemy sappers attack the city, and the bar is destroyed; only Morris escapes. A first-time viewer may see this scene as unnecessary, but the characters and themes will become crucial to the plot as Morris moves closer and closer to his objective.
With the mood established and the audience glued to the screen, Margheriti shifts his focus to the Cambodian jungle. Morris is escorted to the drop-off point by helicopter in yet another excellently shot sequence: Franco Micalazzi's score comes out full force for just a few moments as the action builds, and then dies. Margheriti lets some great hand-held camera action and excellent, fast-paced editing do the work. This scene will be followed by a number of quick, brutal action sequences: the discovery a rotting corpse, an ambush by a band of Viet Cong in a burned-out village; and a great sequence in which Massimo Vanni's character is forced to run into the jungle under enemy fire to retrieve cocoanuts for the unhinged Major Cash (John Steiner). The high point of the action is definitely a Viet Cong raid on an underground American bunker complex, in which hordes of black-pajama-clad guerrillas emerge and a firefight ensues. For the most part, the American characters are drunk or stoned and don't seem to know what's going on. This long sequence is shot in the dark with hand-held cameras, features lots of cutting from action to reaction all while a radio plays happy tunes in the background.
All of this builds to a pulsating surprise ending. Morris does find his radio station the audience knows he will from the start; it's no surprise in a film like this but the voice of propaganda will come as a shock as all of the pieces laid out in the opening scenes and flashbacks come together. We've had some subtle hints and little suggestions as to who Morris is going to encounter, but nobody will come to the conclusion until the character steps into frame. The result is a jaw-dropping scene with an outcome that goes completely against the norm. The final shot of the piece is one of confusion, awe and surprise we never do get to find out what happens to an essential character. If the violence and pure insanity of most of the movie don't shock you, the last two few minutes surely will.
Admittedly, "The Last Hunter" is not a perfect film: basic plot aspects are lifted directly from "Apocalypse Now" Morris' character is a take on Martin Sheen, while Major Cash and his bunch seem to be loosely based on Marlon Brando's guerrilla force. Instead of a trek upriver in a small boat, we follow a mixed group of soldiers through the sweltering jungles. (Only here, they're too busy dodging booby traps to discuss heavy issues of morality). More blatantly, a sequence depicting Morris' imprisonment in an underwater bamboo cage reeks of "The Deer Hunter". Some of the special effects scenes come up a bit below par for a 1980s film: watch for a dummy which gets flamed during the village skirmish; superimposed rocket bursts around a helicopter; and there are a few cheesy miniatures.
These are only minor flaws. "The Last Hunter" is an anti-war gem which can be enjoyed by fans of Italian exploitation (Margheriti said that he wanted to shoot the film seriously; the producers forced him to throw in exploitative content to draw in fans of his successful horror works). Any serious war film fans that can make it through the opening without dismissing this as graphic trash will not be disappointed. It's not often that a director can make a great action picture that's still considered an anti-war piece.
Antonio Margheriti's L'Ultimo cacciatore aka The Last Hunter (1980) stars
the late, great David Warbeck and Tisa "Zombie Flesh Eaters" Farrow as a
group of soldiers who have a mission during Vietnam war to go and destroy
some radio station of the enemy. Farrow is a photographer and Warbeck is a
military captain and once they get on the way, they soon find themselves in
the middle of fire power, deadly traps and killing as there are blood
thirsty enemies everywhere. In other words, a typical violent exploitationer
from the golden days of Spaghetti gore.
This was definitely worth watching and getting the newly released UK release which is gorgeous widescreen and uncut, unlike many previous releases. The film concentrates on strong violence as there are horrible traps, bloody shootings, stabbings, limb snappings and over all gory mayhem, which is also pretty brutal and nihilistic, most notably the "boat scene" near the end in which the terror gets even more forms. This was the style of those days since producers wanted to make gory and violent films in all genres in order to cash in by the success of such box office classics as Romero's Dawn of the Dead and more importantly for the Italian themselves, Fulci's Zombie 2 aka Zombie Flesh Eaters. Director Margheriti has said that he wanted to do these two war related films of his (the other being Apocalypse Domani aka Cannibal Apocalypse, a horrific cannibal terror film set in a big city) more anti war themed and pacifistic, but the producers wanted to add large doses of violence and gore so that's why most of the time's films are so brutally violent.
The Last Hunter was written by Dardano Sachetti, who worked with Fulci a lot. Director Margheriti is known for his imaginative camera style and often weird camera angles, which are perhaps too plenty in The Last Hunter as they become little irritating and underlining and don't mean anything when used this often. The first 30 minutes of the film is incredibly intense and the viewer definitely won't watch the clock during that, since the film is so exciting and fast moving at the beginning. The film slows down a little towards the end, but for most of the time it is pure action. The effects are very great, most notably the huge explosions which are plenty and fierce is this film, so the budget was definitely at least moderate. The gore effects have always been The thing for these Italian exploitation makers, and The Last Hunter isn't an exception. The gore effects are convincing and full of the usual "eye gouging close up" details which are also very usual in Fulci's zombie films like The Beyond and Zombie Flesh Eaters.
The Last Hunter is totally pointless in any other level than delivering mayhem and violence so this is pretty classic exploitation film which still has great amount of cinematic skill and that's a great thing. I think I appreciate Apocalyse Domani little higher, but The Last Hunter is definitely noteworthy film for lovers of ultra violent and prolific Italian cinema of the 70's and 80's. 6/10
I had the privelige to see this awesome movie on a huge screen in 1997, it
was shown at a festival as a tribute to the late David
The opening sequence is truly stunning, a slow-burning scene in a brothel ends in huge explosions and sees Warbeck as an action hero in a white singlet years before Bruce Willis.
John Steiner once again shows his prowess as his squad is picked-off, leaving only Warbeck and the larger-breasted of the Farrow species (Tisa), to escape tiger-cages and discover the identity of a traitorous broadcaster.
Don't miss the final shot of Warbeck against the war-torn sunset, left to his fate in the jungle. It's a real kick in the guts, with the same power of seeing Martin Sheen rising from a swamp.
The one problem the movie really has is that the identity of the mysterious traitor is quite ridiculous, but not enough to grind things to a halt.
All in all, one to put at the top of your "must-get" list, right above beer, pizza and peanuts.
This film is one of the most entertaining Vietnam flicks ever produced. Truly excellent opening 10 minute scene, followed by a 40 minute lull. Picks up toward the middle though and keeps on chuggin along. Great cast, excellent gore effects, awesome explosions, cool claustrophobic camerawork, and a lot of funny dialogue make this well worth the 90 minutes. The poor Pan+Scanning is easy to forgive with a couple viewings. Owes more than a lot to APOCALYPSE NOW and THE DEER HUNTER, but honestly, who cares? Grade A entertainment.
Whilst on the surface, Antonio Margheriti's, The Last Hunter, might be
categorised as a simple exploitation flick, in reality it comprises a
great deal more depth and actually serves as a vehement condemnation of
the horrors and futility of war.
The very sadly missed David Warbeck here puts in one of his most memorable performances as the war weary Captain Morris, who accepts a seemingly suicidal mission deep behind Vietnamese enemy lines. Also along for the ride are B-movie favourites Tony King, Bobby Rhodes, and in a typically memorable performance, the wonderful John Steiner. Regular fans of Italian B movies will also delight to spot the likes of Massimo Vanni and Luciano Piggozi (sans his beard!)
Whilst it will likely be best remembered to most fans for it's gore drenched and superbly rendered action sequences, the film actually works on multiple levels to entertain, including some highly amusing dialogue and interaction between the protagonists.
Finally, special mention must go to the surprisingly poignant and ambiguous ending in this as a heartfelt anti-war song plays over the end credits.
Superb stuff and undoubtedly one of, if not Margheriti's best work.
Mr. Antonio Margheriti, the uncrowned KING of Italian rip-offs, and his dynamic duo of charismatic actors David Steiner and John Steiner (though the latter only in a small role this time) strike again with this raw and excessively violent war-exploitation flick. Clearly inspired by the success of "The Deer Hunter" and a variety of other Hollywood films about the Vietnam War, but "The Last Hunter" goes straight for shocks, fast-paced and explosive action sequences and macho behavior instead of focusing on story-building, character drawings or God forbid - underlying messages about the insanity of warfare. This film just loves the war in 'Nam and all dialogs like "Damn this country" or "I hate this awful war" are obviously insincere. Margheriti also couldn't resist providing his film with genuine horror aspect! The make-up effects are extremely gore (gorier than the ones in my horror movies for sure), with images of a soldier missing an eyeball, disembowelment after bombings and the severely decomposing bodies from dead parachutists falling from treetops. The battle sequences are long and exhilarating whilst the actual plot is thin and clichéd. In other words, just the way we like our Italian exploitation dish served! Captain Henry Morris (Warbeck) is assigned with the important mission of blowing up a Vietcong radio transmitter, located far behind enemy lines, which broadcasts demoralizing reports and encourages the American soldiers to throw away their guns and go back home. Morris' squad, which also includes a female report, gets killed and he's taken to a prisoner's camp for some inhumanly cruel torture. And yet, even whilst enduring the most excruciating pains, Morris intends to complete his mission, if it were only as a last tribute to all the friends and loyal soldiers he lost. Admittedly the script features every single Vietnam feature in the book, but hey, at least "The Last Hunter" is never boring and actually one of the most thrilling war movies ever made. You don't look for deep dialogs or complex characterizations here, just a lot of blood and delightful stereotypes. The "twist" at the end is extremely implausible and suddenly gives a somewhat stupid feeling to the whole movie. Truly ironic how the only remotely original twist in the entire script is also the most ludicrous one. Personally, I still like Margheriti's Indiana Jones rip offs better ("Hunters of the Golden Cobra", "Ark of the Sun God") and his ultimate masterpiece remains "Cannibal Apocalypse", but "The Last Hunter" is undoubtedly great low-brain entertainment and comes highly recommended!
The Last Hunter is Italian director Antonio Margheriti's take on the
Vietnam flick - and as you would expect, it goes straight for the
jugular and removes all the soul searching stuff found in films like
Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter and the result is...entertaining,
but underwhelming. Any depth is replaced by an array of violence and
bloodshed, and that means that the film entertains on the surface but
doesn't do much more than that...although I can't condemn it too much
since I'm not the biggest fan of the 'great' Vietnam movies anyway. The
plot is just as flimsy as you would expect and we focus on an American
soldier. He's been given a mission to go deep behind enemy lines and
destroy a radio transmitter that is sending out demoralising messages
to the American soldiers, telling them words to the effect of 'go home
and give up fighting someone else's war'. He picks up some allies along
the way and of course gets involved in more than his fair share of
The film stars David Warbeck who does well as the grizzled American soldier at the centre of the film. It's clear that he wasn't the most important thing as far as Antonio Margheriti was concerned, however, as he's far more interested in packing as much violence as possible into the film, and he does a good job with that; as shown by the many fight scenes. Every fight scene in the film is full on and very bloody; and the special effects are fairly realistic also, which adds to the credibility of the film. However, it all comes down to the fact that the film doesn't have much of a point. Of course sitting through the action is entertaining but there's no reason to really care for it and the film drags on numerous occasions as a result. It all boils down to an ill-advised and really rather silly twist at the end...but hey, I can't say I was expecting anything clever. Overall, The Last Hunter might be of interest to anyone who enjoys low Italian rip offs and/or war movies, but anyone hoping for a great Vietnam flick is in for a disappointment.
THE LAST HUNTER, is basically italy's answer to THE DEER HUNTER/APOCOLYPSE
NOW, and if i'm being honest, is far better than either movie. I've read
that alot of real-life virtnam veterans, hated the forementioned
bigger-budgeted movies, because they try to symbolize war with beauty and
art. There is nothing beautiful about war..... and THIS movie proves it,
also it's non-stop action, and confusion, this is how i (thankfully only
have to) imagine what 'war' is like.
The late, great DAVID WARBECK, plays the army captain, who is obviously fed up of 'the war', and is quite cutting and sardonic throughout the movie. Playing like a latter-day BOGART, he comes across, as world-weary and arrogant at times, but his gesture at the finale, makes up for that. It's director has used various footage (mostly explosions) in most of his movies (before and after,most notably, in the irresistable KILLER FISH) But the rest of the special effects in this movie are first rate. Sometimes the movie comes across like a cannibal/zombie flick (and there's nothing wrong with that!) but other moments have a genuine power about them, most notably, the movies opening, and later on, in the scene with TONY KING in the boat, when the vietcong attack.
A very good message movie, that thinks it's an exploitation movie (oh, and p.s TISA FARROW, has the best breasts in recent memory, or should that be mammory?)
A epic 10 out of 10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Once again, Antonio Margherreti manages to take Italian exploitation to
another level, just like he did with Cannibal Apocalypse. The Last
Hunter has it all: great cast, plenty of gore, funky soundtrack. It
might be derivative of the Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now but you don't
have to sit through an hour and a half of a wedding in order to see
David Warbreck torching folks with a flamethrower! First off, the cast
is packed with Italian B-Movies stars: David Warbreck (The Beyond),
Tisa Farrow (Zombie Flesh Eaters), Tony King (Cannibal Apocalypse),
John Steiner (Tenebrae), Bobby Rhodes (Demons), Margit Newton (Zombie
Creeping Flesh) and Massimo Vanni (Street Law). Each actor is given
their own space within the movie to do their bit and they all come
through - King's last stand against the Vietcong, Steiner's insane
captain, Massimo Vanni's usual stunt fuelled antics, and through it
all, David Warbreck laying wasted to half of South East Asia.
Still, Margherreti's no fool. There's a grim air to the film, as each exploitative element is nicely contrasted by a blast of grimness, especially the radio broadcasts telling the GIs to go home to their spouses. Plus, the ending is either really poignant or completely daft, depending on your mood at the time.
Don't be put off by the non-horror story line - The Last Hunter is another essential film for the collection.
You can't say this is a bad movie, cause it isn't. I've probably viewed it more times than I've had breakfasts's. It has cool, New Zealander, David Warbeck, a Jack Nicholson type of looking guy, a favourite of these type of cheesy overviolent exploitation flicks. And like many other of these type films, and this, the violence is over the top, just one of the assets to this Vietnam yarn, as well as great priceless tongue and cheek dialogue that always stays with me. It's timeless. It's start is curiously impressive, taking place in a bar/bordello, where one cocky vet pays the price for being too much of an arsehole, and rattling off his mouth, too much, which results in his shocking murder, where the steamed up shooter/vet, then blows his brains out. The bar soon becomes a fireball by attacking rockets. This sequence I must say, is beautifully filmed. This early section of story I found was the best. Some of the violence in this, as like many other of these exploitative flicks, I warn you, is not for the faint of heart. One example has a guy riding in a helicopter, when under attack. He cops it in the eye, where we're horribly subjected to an extreme close up, where the eyeball has totally gone, blood just filtering out of it's niche. The plot has Warbeck, as Captain Harry E Morris, who earns the movie's title by the end of the film. He's sent on a mission to blow up a radio transmitter, where he rendezvous with a collection of wild vets, and too, the last thing he needs, but gets, is a foreign correspondent reporter (Tisa Farrow from Fingers and the sister of the more widely known Mia Farrow). They encounter a lot of combat, where the number of the squad steadily decreases. Poor Farrow also encounter a group of horny vets from another squad. We're not expecting a Vietnam masterpiece, here, but this is the next best thing, if you want to throw realism out the window. There's also a scene familiar to The Deer Hunter in this, this one much more intense, where Harry literally has to keep to swatting off the rats with his shirt, where the other victim kept in the underground cage has surrendered. And here's a film you should surrender to. Cheesy exploitative cinema at it's best, a one man war in the lush jungles of Vietnams, with an added surprise near the end, you won't see in a million years, coming. I liked too the songs, themed or sung. The great Steiner has a guest role as the foul mouthed head of that other group of horny vets, a great performance I liked, and who Warbeck accidentally kill while operating a flame thrower in this madness of war.
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