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Surprisingly Good,Cultish Hitchcockian Thriller
BJJManchester2 June 2006
A very decent effort from director Jonathan Demme before he went on to better things,LAST EMBRACE is inevitably compared to the works of Alfred Hitchcock,with many scenes derivative from many of the master's most famous works(VERTIGO,THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH,STRANGERS ON A TRAIN,etc.),but this is actually an effective suspenser in it's own right,with an intriguing plot,good performances and an exciting finale.Roy Scheider plays a Secret Agent just released from care after suffering a breakdown after his wife was killed in a shootout in a restaurant.After finding a woman(Janet Margolin)who has moved into his flat,he begins to suspect someone is trying to kill him after sinister messages in Amharic keep turning up.

The film would've been more superior with more humour and better pacing,but nevertheless this isn't at all a bad Hitch imitation,with the bird imagery(a motif Hitchcock used frequently in his films)and a fine musical score by Miklos Rozsa(who had himself worked with Hitchcock on SPELLBOUND)adding to the atmosphere.The performances are fine,especially Ms Margolin,an undervalued and lovely actress who never quite made it to the top,making her character quite pitiable despite her actions.Her early death at the age of 50 in 1993 was indeed a sad loss for a film performer who deserved better.

LAST EMBRACE was made shortly before Hitchcock's death in 1980;one wonders did he ever see this film? If so,I think he would have quite enjoyed the homage on view,not great,but fairly respectful and entertaining.
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rmax30482310 June 2002
I don't know exactly why I find this film interesting. The plot is pretty thick and often hard to follow and sometimes the story moves at a glacial pace. Still, it's rather neat. Roy Scheider always looks kewl when carefully groomed in up to date wardrobes. And the nose, that nose, pointing in half a dozen different directions at the same time. Janet Margolin was so beautiful. It's difficult to take your eyes from her when she in on screen. She projects a sort of pathos, a winsome helplessness, even after is is revealed that she can be a pretty cold-blooded babe underneath all that vulnerability, a primordial fatale monstrum. She has one or two sexy scenes that almost in themselves justify watching the movie. And I've always found John Glover a magnetic actor. He's never quite able to mask that Maryland accent. Here he plays a snobbish Princeton professor in seersucker, jealous of Margolin's attraction to Scheider. And when we first see Sam Levene's face, as a stranger on a train, there is the shock of recognition on our part. What a long absence, Sam! Nice shots of Princeton's campus. There's a shoot-out (the only one) in the empty quad and campanile producing enough ringing bells to drive you mad, which Miklos Roszas score does not to. It's unmistakably his own and evokes other earlier black and white noirs. The climactic scene was shot at Niagara Falls.
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Mystery thriller full of intrigue and suspense , in which an intelligence man finds someone's attempting to kill him
ma-cortes30 April 2013
Enjoyable mystery movie involves a guilt-ridden agent , and her new friend who attempt to locate a strange murderer who leaves Jewish signals ; as it begins with an ancient warning and it ends at the edge of Niagara Falls . A feverish thriller in the Hitch style containing several iconographic elements and dealing with an ex-secret serviceman called Harry Hannan (a tremendous Roy Scheider) and his wife being attacked by hoodlums (Joe Spinell) when they find on holiday . The government agent barely recovered from nervous breakdown after seeing his spouse shot by bullets and he then becomes involved into a criminal intrigue . As someone attempts to push him under a train , other people pursues to him . Later on , he receives a mysterious death threat in Aramean language . There happens five murders , Harry must solve the or die trying . Meanwhile , an anthropologist (a non box-office actress named Janet Margolin , here excellent , though sadly died a bit later on) unintentionally shares Scheider's flat . Scheider has his old colleagues (Christopher Walken) and his brother-in-law (Demme frequently casts Charles Napier) out to get him .

Entertaining mystery movie packs thrills , action , suspense , pounding soundtrack and breathtaking outdoors from Niagara . This agreeable picture has a number of elements and iconography from Alfred Hitchcock : vertiginous heights , innocent men wrongfully accused , gorgeous bombshells , voyeurism , long non-dialogue sequences , among others . Demme's tribute to Hitch includes various street scenes from ¨Marnie¨ , the bell-tower from ¨Vertigo¨ and the final climax straight from ¨Saboteur¨ transferred from the Statue of Liberty to Niagara Falls . Furthermore , ¨Niagara¨ by Henry Hathaway , in which there is also a Femme Fatale played by Marilyn Monroe who spells a deranged man performed by Joseph Cotten and of course the breathtaking Niagara Falls with people fighting next to viewpoint similarly to ¨The last embrace¨. However , the film achieved limited success and in some countries was shunned by its distributors . Good acting by Roy Scheider as a secret agent becomes involved in a deep nightmare and Janet Margolin as a strange woman who has taken possession of his flat . Ample support cast formed by notorious secondaries such as John Glover , Sam Levene , David Margulies , Jacqueline Brookes , and Charles Napier . And brief acting from Christopher Walken , Max Wright and Mandy Patinkin . Colorful and evocative cinematography by Tak Fujimoto ; director Demme frequently uses Tak Fujimoto as his director of photography . Thrilling and intriguing musical score by the classic Miklos Rozsa in Bernard Herrmann style . The motion picture was well directed by Jonathan Demme who was voted the 45th Greatest Director of all time . Here includes his ordinary touches such as characters looking directly into the camera and heavy use of steadicam interspersed with shots of hand-held shots .
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Even "poor mans' Hitchcock" is worth watching in this case.
Hey_Sweden2 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Last Embrace" is one of the better suspense-thrillers to be made in the mold established by The Master. The plot could be seen as a little convoluted, but Jonathan Demmes' direction is masterful, the use of locations is excellent, the cast is amazing, and the finale is quite gripping. Even if the viewer figures out where the story is headed, getting to the conclusion is an enjoyable journey.

Making a difference is the ever personable Roy Scheider, playing Harry Hannan, a CIA agent who has to watch while his wife is assassinated in a cantina. (One of the goons is played by Joe Spinell in a very brief cameo.) He becomes paranoid, and spends the balance of the film wondering if he will die next. Certainly it seems that somebody has marked him, as he is receiving cryptic death streets printed in Aramaic.

Scheider is extremely well supported by a lovely young actress, Janet Margolin, who plays the role of Ellie Fabian. Ellie is an anthropologist who through circumstance comes to stay in Harry's residence. Watching her, one will likely regret the fact that she didn't have a more visible film career, and mourn her untimely passing. John Glover as always is a real hoot as the uppity professor who is dating Ellie. The endearing Sam Levene makes the most of his screen time as private investigator Sam Urdell. Demme regular Charles Napier is good as Dave Quittle, the brother of Harry's late wife. Christopher Walken, like Glover, is typically fun in an amusing turn as Harry's weaselly young superior. Other familiar faces appear in the supporting cast: Jacqueline Brookes, David Margulies (the mayor from "Ghost Busters"), Andrew Duncan, and Marcia Rodd. Look for Mandy Patinkin and Max Wright in bits as commuters, and for Demme himself in an uncredited blink-and-you-might-miss-it part as a man on a train. Scheider has one particularly fine monologue scene.

The score by Miklos Rozsa is absolutely perfect, and the story (based on a novel by Murray Teigh Bloom) is well told and reasonably absorbing. Niagara Falls provides a stunning backdrop for the climactic action. While there's no epilogue, one feels a certain sadness at the outcome.

This is a good film to check out, so it's appreciated that Kino Lorber finally released it to Blu- ray.

Seven out of 10.
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Last Embrace: When Harry Met Ellie
dtb10 December 2010
Although Jonathan Demme's 1992 Oscar-winner THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS was his first major suspense thriller, it wasn't the first film he'd ever made in that genre. That honor goes to Demme's 1979 thriller LAST EMBRACE (LE), which I first saw and loved during its original theatrical run. At the time, LE was touted as a romantic Hitchcockian thriller. While LE definitely has strong elements of VERTIGO and other Hitchcock classics, I've always considered it to be more of a paranoia thriller with film noir touches, which I guess makes LE what might be called "film shachor." :-) Cool, craggy yet suave Roy Scheider had long been one of our family's favorite tough-guy actors; to many fans. At first glance, he might not seem vulnerable enough to be convincing as a beleaguered paranoia film hero. However, Scheider proved to be perfect casting as Harry Hannan, a government agent with more baggage than Louis Vuitton. Harry is still heartbroken and guilt-ridden about his beloved wife getting killed while she accompanied him as cover on one of his assignments. After he spends time in a Connecticut sanitarium recovering from his nervous breakdown, Harry has barely had a chance to lose his institutional pallor when he's almost shoved in front of an express train. When he returns to his spy agency in New York City, his slippery spymaster Eckart (Christopher Walken) keeps him at arm's length; maybe Eckart thinks Harry's sharp cream-colored suit makes him too conspicuous for undercover work. Worst of all, Harry discovers he's one of several Jewish men getting death threats written in Biblical Hebrew from an unknown "Avenger of Blood"…and so far, he's the only one still alive.

Everyone scoffs at poor Harry's jitters. Who can he trust? Certainly not his brother-in-law (Charles Napier), a fellow spook who blames Harry for his sister's violent death ("You're careless with people, Harry"). Our hero eventually joins forces with Ellie Fabian (Janet Margolin), a pretty New York graduate student who sublet his apartment while he was in the sanitarium. But the vulnerable Ellie seems to have her own issues and secrets. Will that spell doom for both Ellie and Harry? And how does a turn-of-the-20th-century Jewish brothel figure in the sinister fix Harry has found himself in? Scheider and Margolin had fine chemistry together; their characters' sensitivity and wariness made me feel for them, and they even had playful moments along the way. Ms. Margolin was at her loveliest, too. (Sadly, she died of ovarian cancer in 1993 at the age of 50. Janet, we hardly knew ye.) Scheider, Margolin, and Walken are aided and abetted by a rogues' gallery of stellar New York character actors, including John Glover as Ellie's insecure professor boyfriend; Marcia Rodd as Harry's nervous agency contact; David Margulies as a rabbi with connections; Joe Spinell and Jim McBride as thugs; Captain Arthur Haggerty as a bouncer waiting to use the phone; Mandy Patinkin and Max Wright in bit parts as commuters who may or may not have some 'splainin' to do; scene-stealer Sam Levene as the crotchety but likable head of a secret Jewish society; and director Demme himself cameo-ing as a stranger on a train.

Some critics complained that despite Demme's obvious affection for the Hitchcockian material, LE could have used more of The Master of Suspense's zest and verve. I won't deny that the pace slows down at times, but with Roy Scheider at his peak and Janet Margolin's touching, multifaceted performance, I was willing to be patient. Demme and screenwriter David Shaber (adapting Murray Teigh Bloom's novel The 13th Man) make up for the film's flaws with plenty of appealingly quirky Demme-style characterization. Judaism's key role in LE's plot was fresh and intriguing, as well as making excellent use of an elaborate, well-crafted red herring. The settings contribute to the film's Demme-ness; his ace Director of Photography Tak Fujimoto really makes the New York City and Princeton, NJ locations integral to the plot and its Hitchcockian motifs, especially the bell tower sequence and an exciting climax at Niagara Falls (I can hear you making lewd jokes :-)). The film brims with only-in-New-York characters and situations; for instance, the competition for living space in Manhattan provides amusing undertones to Harry's first awkward encounters with Ellie. Miklos Rozsa's swooningly romantic yet foreboding score pulls together the film's emotional undercurrents beautifully. Between LAST EMBRACE and STILL OF THE NIGHT, if I'd been Roy Scheider, I'd have stayed out of Central Park and environs for fear of elusive assailants! LAST EMBRACE is also available on DVD:
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Something you didn't know about Jewish immigrants
myschrec11 August 2003
This is an engrossing thriller -- clearly in the vein established by Hitchcock -- and very much like Brian De Palma's carefully structured style. This is the first Jonathan Demme film I saw and I expected him to work more in this genre. Fortunately, he directed a cornucopeia of film in various styles that vary between intriguing and amazing: including "Melvin and Howard," "Stop Making Sense," "Philadelphia," and one of the best films for repeat viewing, "The Silence of the Lambs." This film stands out from the standard murder mystery in that it presents a non-standard view of Jews who immigrated to the US. To divulge more would spoil the film. Roy Scheider is perfect and Janet Margolin is beautiful. In addition , now -- nearly 25 years later -- it is fun watching Chris Walken, John Glover and Mandy Patinkin early in their careers. It is funny to realize that Margolin, Walken and Glover were all in "Annie Hall" two years earlier.
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The Good & Bad Of 'The Last Embrace'
ccthemovieman-126 December 2007
This film certainly had a memorable scene with a man clinging for his life with Niagara Falls below! It's always stuck with me, even though it has been a long time since I've seen the movie. I've been waiting for this to be released on DVD so I can see it again, but as of now it's only available in Region 2.

It might be fun again just to see veteran actors Christopher Walken, Mandy Patinkin and John Glover in a film made 30 years ago. Director Jonathan Demme has done some interesting films since then, too.

Most of the story involves "mysterious" people chasing others and if I went into it in any detail it would ruin things for anyone who hasn't seen it. That's especially true because there are so many twists and turns in this story. However, to be frank, I think Hollywood has overdone "conspiracy theory" movies, of which this is one. I also think the profanity could have been lowered in here, especially by Roy Scheider's character "Harry," and the film would still have been just as intense.

What I really appreciated, more than the actors or story, frankly, was the photography and Demme's direction. There were a lot of really interesting camera angles, shots that zoomed in an out and other gimmicks that I usually fall for. There were enough of them to carry the first hour, at least. Living not too far from Niagara Falls, I was glad to see that in the climactic finale.
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Niagara Falls
jotix1004 September 2005
Having watched an interesting documentary recently, "Dial H for Hitchcock", it's clear to see how Jonathan Demme was influenced by the master himself. His admiration for the master is evident, yet, in spite of everything, Mr. Demme's "Last Embrace" was a surprise nonetheless. "Last Embrace" was one of his first films and it sort of showed the trajectory of Jonathan Demme as a film director would follow. If you haven't seen the film, please stop reading here.

When Harry Hannan's wife is tragically killed, his life begins to unravel. Harry spends some time in a sanatorium trying to get himself together. Unfortunately, whoever wanted him put away is still much in evidence as his presence is felt right at the station where Harry is trying to board the train back home to Manhattan.

Harry is taken aback to find Ellie living in his apartment, something he had no idea was happening. It's only fitting with films of this genre that Harry will fall for the beautiful young woman who apparently seems to be trying to help him solve the puzzle about a cryptic death threat he has received at home.

Harry with the help of Sam Urdell, starts investigating about the meaning of the strange message he got. Urdell's connection within the Jewish community also unravels another conspiracy that Harry knew nothing about. The final episode involves going through the tunnels where visitors must enter in order to see real close the Falls at Niagara. Even before that there's also a great scene involving Harry's former brother-in-law in a tower at Princeton, which kept reminding us of "Vertigo".

Roy Scheider makes an intense Harry. In fact, Mr. Scheider at the time this film was made, was at the height of his career and he clearly shows why he was an excellent actor. The beautiful Janet Margolin plays Ellie, a woman who is too good to be true when we first meet her, but we have no clue as to what she is capable of doing. The great Sam Levene is seen as Sam Urdell, who befriends Harry and is instrumental in getting to the bottom of this mystery. In supporting roles some familiar faces who went to do much better work later. Christopher Walken, Mandy Patinkin, Jacqueline Brookes, Marcia Rodd, Charles Napier, among others are seen in the film.

Jonathan Demme proved he was a talent that would go to bigger and better things even then.
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Avenger of the Blood
sol-kay15 September 2004
****SPOILERS**** Hitchcock-type thriller that is in a lot of ways as good or even, shall I dare say it, better then most of the classic thrillers directed by that legendary film maker.

Gripping from start to finish "Last Embrace" is one of those forgotten films by the movie-going public that over the years, since it's release back in 1979, that when re-discovered it has the Hitchcock thrillers compared to it instead of the other way around.

Surviving an assassination attempt that took his wife's Dorothy, Sandy McLoad, life government agent Harry Hannan, Roy Scheider, suffered a nervous breakdown from holding himself responsible for his wife's death by taking her to the restaurant where she was killed. Harry ends up being hospitalized for over three months in a Connecticut sanitarium. Harry needs to get back to work to get his life together again and be normal but the head of the agency that Harry works for Mr. Eckert, Christopher Walken, has doubts about Harry's ability to do his job. Later Mr.Eckart comes to the conclusion to terminate Harrys services as well as Harry himself.

The movie "Last Embrace" is much deeper and more interesting then you at first would have thought. Harry is being shadowed by an unseen killer who already murdered five people, a sixth person is later murdered in a Niagara Falls hotel. The only connection that the victims have with each other is a chilling note that they, including Harry, received written in ancient Hebrew and Aramaic. With a quote from the book of Deuteronomy stating "Avenger of the Blood".

Based on the Murrary Teigh Bloom novel thriller "The 13th Man" the film "Last Embrace" is a well thought out story that keeps you guessing to just where it's taking you until the very end. It's then where all at once you begin to realize all the clues that you, and Harry, missed that were right in front of you. But are so well hidden it would have taken a Det.Columbo or Sherlock Holmes to spot them.

Roy Scheider gives one of his best performances as the troubled and guilt-ridden Harry Hannan. The beautiful Janet Margolin was never better as Ellie Fabian the young women with a past and secret that was the key to what was the real reason behind all those shocking and ritualistic-like murders in the movie.

The late Sam Levene, in what I think was his last film, was very effective as the private detective Sam Urdell working for a Jewish group who were concerned about the murders and the connection that they had to a deadly and mysterious Hebrew death threat. As well as all of the murder victims being Jewish.

The ending of the movie is a real shocker even though by that time you have an idea of just what it's going to be. "Last Embrace" is easily one of the best thrillers of the 1970's 80's 90's or of any other decade of great movie thrillers that you can think of and undoubtedly one of the ten best of all times.

The film has so many memorable scenes in it that it's hard to pick which one was the best. The two that I especially liked are first the one where Harry has a shoot-out with Dave Quittle,Charles Napler, his wife Dorothy's brother who was sent by Eckert to kill Harry at a Princeton NJ bell tower Where Dave ends up not only dead but stone deaf as well. And of course the final scene between Harry and Ellie at Niagara Falls that even the great Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud of making.
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Embracing Hitchcock
tomsview21 December 2012
Many directors have tried their hand at a "Hitchcock" - that unique blend of romance, glamour and suspense combined with great stars, and shaped by a distinctive directorial style. Of all the efforts, I have always liked Jonathan Demme's "Last Embrace" best. Did he get the mix right? Well not exactly, and critics at the time were quick to point out where he had missed the mark. However, instead of just being a flawed Hitchcock homage, I think "Last Embrace" stands up well as an enjoyable movie in its own right.

Harry Hannan, a secret service agent, has fallen foul of both the government agency he works for, and a mysterious killer who leaves notes for intended victims written in ancient Aramaic. He receives help from a woman, Ellie Fabian, who he initially finds annoying and intrusive, but later, his feelings for her change. The plot is complex and contains many layers. It features an ending at Niagara Falls that has strong echoes of Hitchcock's classic "North By Northwest".

It seems Demme had doubts about the finished film. He felt he had tried so hard to get the Hitchcock style that he had neglected content. But surely he is too hard on himself as he made up for any shortcomings by delivering a film of considerable style and mood. Based on a novel, "The 13th Man" by Murray Teigh Bloom, Demme and his team created a new story around the basic plot with the result that the film, in my opinion, emerged as the superior work.

Demme called on the services of Miklos Rozsa for the music. Rozsa scored only one movie for Hitchcock - "Spellbound" - but his style was distinctive and the score for "Last Embrace" brings to mind that famous romantic thriller.

Where "Last Embrace" lost out in comparison to the great Hitchcock films such as "Spellbound", "Notorious", "North by Northwest" and "Vertigo" was not only in the absence of a little more humour but also in the weight of its stars.

Hitchcock's best films featured stars that were already Hollywood icons - James Stewart, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly. Although Roy Scheider, was a fine actor he was never an icon. On the other hand, Janet Margolin is so little known that comparisons with Bergman, Kelly or even Kim Novak are superfluous, she also projected a more neurotic edge than Hitchcock's cool blondes. But she was beautiful and talented. I still remember in 1993 being shocked to see her name on Premiere's list of actors who had died that year - she was only 50. I think she brought a lot to this movie especially when it is seen simply as an intriguing and well-made thriller.

Demme has not repeated the Hitchcock homage, but has gone on to hone his own distinctive directorial style - "Silence of the Lambs" gained him an Academy Award - one prize Hitchcock never received. "Last Embrace" is not easy to find these days but let's hope that right now, somewhere in a studio warehouse, the masters are being dusted off ready for a belated, but well-deserved DVD release.
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A confusing mess ..........
merklekranz16 November 2010
"Last Embrace", directed by Jonathan Demme, takes itself way too seriously, for such a shallow film. The whole thing smacks of audience manipulation, and the exciting conclusion above Niagara Falls, in no way redeems what has preceded it. Someone is trying to kill Roy Scheider, and fine actors Christopher Walken, John Glover, and Charles Napier are essentially wasted as "red herrings". The story is far from tight, and leaves plenty of loose ends dangling uncomfortably. Once you witness the highly unlikely tub scene, you will better understand the lack of logic in this film. Everything about "Last Embrace" is disjointed, confusing, and really never comes together as entertainment. - MERK
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Reminds me how I miss Janet Margolin
dphelan-113 June 2005
This is one of Janet Margolin's best performances and I am reminded of how I miss seeing her in films. She certainly plays a complex character here. Her metamorphosis in one scene in particular is dramatic. Reuniting her with John Glover was great too. Even though they shared no real scenes in Annie Hall, I remember them both in that and was pleased to see each in Last Embrace. Glover is still going strong. The plot of this Hitchcockian thriller is multidimensional and fresh. I think Demme ( not one of my favorites) did a great job and the famous finale at Niagara Falls is reminiscent of NIAGARA without really aping it. This is the film that made want to ride the Maid of the Mist. And the one I always remember when I miss Janet Margolin.
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Thoroughly lackluster mystery-thriller...
moonspinner5512 March 2008
Roy Scheider stars as a retired secret agent mourning the murder of his wife, now busy dodging the bad guys who are out to kill him. Director Jonathan Demme is so character-oriented a storyteller that to see him attempting an Alfred Hitchcock-type suspense drama, with the accent on narrative and action, is almost predictably disastrous. Screenwriter David Shaber, adapting Murray Teigh Bloom's novel "The 13th Man", wants to stir up paranoia and intrigue, but either he or Demme dropped the ball after an OK start. For those who stick with it, there's a visually impressive climax at Niagara Falls, but Demme gets next-to-nothing out of his cast, and even less out of this tepid story. *1/2 from ****
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This time Demme, not De Palma, decides to rip-off Hitchcock.
fedor85 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I wish it were "Last Dumb Thriller". But thrillers are like that. They are like children: numerous, illogical, and often annoying. They want so desperately to be taken seriously but what is there to take seriously about a child's behaviour or a thriller's plot? Having seen this particular child - I mean... thriller - I understand why reviewers refer to it as "a hitchcockian thriller"; they might as well have called it "idiotic" for that's what "hitchcockian" means in the movie dictionary (look it up, if you don't believe me). Even the soundtrack is old-school Hollywood which is a mistake: it doesn't fit a late 70s film and makes it look phony. Besides, how dare they steal De Palma's idea of stealing from Hitchcock?! The story is absurd. Scheider's wife is killed, and her killers are never an issue. Instead, first his former employers follow him around, and later decide to kill him. Why do they decide to kill him? No explanation. Perhaps because the FBI is a dark, dark organization ("X-Files") which is very trigger-happy about knocking off its former employees for pension-funds reasons. Or perhaps because it's fashionable to want to kill Scheider in this movie; everyone seems to be after him. And while the poor unsuspecting viewer is trying to figure out the mystery by logically assuming that there is a major conspiracy, in reality the killer is... Janet Margolin! Yes, the woman occupying Scheider's living quarters; the one that briefly hinted she was "depraved". Why does she go after Scheider at precisely a time when his wife was murdered and he is feeling paranoid - and followed by his own ex-employers - and not a few years earlier or few years after the wife's murder? A pure hitchcockian (look it up again in the dictionary, in case you forgot what it means) coincidence. And how about that brilliant motive of hers...! Her grandmother was forced into prostitution when she was a fresh-off-the-boat 15 year-old virgin in NY, and then syphilisized by a bunch of horny Jewish men, one of whom - tah-dah! - is Scheider's grandfather. As a result, Margolin has been playing a hooker in her spare time (among other things) in order to kill off all the descendants of the men who so cruelly syphilisized her once-virginal grandmother. How hitchcockian (look it up) is that? The finale then shamelessly rips off the Mount Rushmore scene from "North By Northwest", except that the love-interest is a killer and she doesn't get saved.

The movie also offers some dubious/off-kilter dialog and some not-so great acting. Check out the silly and obvious way in which Napier follows Scheider at the cemetery. Let's also not forget the moronic plot-device of Napier reaching for his jacket and holding his hand very suspiciously - but it wasn't a gun! How brilliant! Napier in the tower: now, there's another string of illogical behavioural patterns. J. Demme was, is, and always will be a director without style, without flair, and the man who directed "Philadelphia". Let's give him another Oscar!
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Clever conspiracy thriller
analoguebubblebath18 April 2001
I watched "Last Embrace" for the first time late last night, having recorded it off BBC1 over three (!) years ago.

It was worth the wait. Roy Scheider's character is a simmering, paranoid wreck who is haunted by guilt over his wife's recent and violent death. He feels that he is surplus to requirements in his job (a hitman)and begins to see his wife's brother (Charles Napier) as a deadly enemy. He is half right. A belltower scene blatantly stolen from "Vertigo" helps solve this particular problem but now Scheider has to face up to dark threats posed by a Hebraic note sent to him. And to complicate matters he falls in love with a young woman (the sexy, late Janet Margolin) with whom he is temporarily sharing his apartment.

Two strong and gutsy performances from the two leading characters maintain the suspense levels right to the dramatic climax.

Demme's best '70s effort (slightly shading it over "Fighting Mad" and "Citizen's Band" but miles better than his overrated debut, "Caged Heat")

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mibailiff29 December 2001
This small pic was a preview of great things to come from Jonathan Demme, who went onto MELVIN & HOWARD, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, STOP MAKING SENSE, to name a few other notable works. This was a decent 100 minute time waster that you either got or you didn't, liked or hated. Roy Scheider turned in his always good performance and I didn't mind looking at Janet Margolin in the bathtub.
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Good Effort, but Still Just a Poor Man's Hitchcock
rwint30 November 2003
6 out of 10

A mysterious man, who works for a mysterious organization, is being chased by some mysterious killers, for some unknown and mysterious reason. Has all the trappings of a bubblegum thriller and when you scrape away all the flashiness that is really all you get.

Not that it isn't entertaining. The camera movements and angles are downright dazzling. I especially liked those frantic zoom shots that look like it's shot from a camera put on a roller coaster car. There is also some interesting use of lighting and framing. Not to mention some terrific on location shooting especially the Niagara Falls finale. The story is very fast paced with a new twist coming with literally every scene. There is also a wide assortment of other gimmicks used that on a non-think level can be fun, especially during the first hour. The haunting music score is good too although it gets played a bit too much.

The problem really comes with the fact that all these twists and turns really add up to a lot of nothing. Too much is left unexplained and the final revelation seems far-fetched. There is a wide segment of other loopholes and there is just the plain old fact that you have probably seen a lot of this before. It also becomes very cliched and even kind of annoying at the end. The film expects you to become close to characters that on the whole are very poorly fleshed out.

The movie does offer a great opportunity to see Janet Margolin who is a very uniquely and naturally beautiful woman. Even when she is made to look frumpy she is beautiful. She has a face that looks like it never got past 21. She closely resembles 80's porn stars Kelly Nichols or Jennifer Noxt.

Scheider does not fare as well. He looks alright, but his presence is very transparent. He just doesn't seem to have a strong enough personality or acting ability to really create a memorable or forceful impression. Also that white suit he wears all the time has really got to go.

Overall despite it's best efforts it is still just a poor man's Hitchcock. The real thing is still better.
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Who wouldn't want to kill Harry Hannan?
Coventry2 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Like so many other great directors, Jonathan Demme (world famous for his superior thriller "Silence of the Lambs" but originally started as an exploitation filmmaker) is a huge fan of the almighty master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock and made the ultimate homage in the shape of a full-length tribute thriller. "Last Embrace" is chock-full of references, obvious ones as well as subtle ones, towards Hitchock's repertoire but also stands on itself as a convoluted and intensely paranoid conspiracy thriller. The screenplay is often quite flawed and none of the main characters are identifiable and/or likable, but the basic plot is definitely compelling and the film contains a few impressively staged moments of suspense. CIA agent Harry Hannan spent a few months in a mental institution because he tragically lost his wife in a work related incident. When he returns to New York with the intention to carry on with his life, he immediately suspects that he's targeted for assassination. Harry's former employers seemingly want to get rid of him, but there's also a mysterious Hebraic organization after him for some unknown reason. Ellie, a cute laboratory assistant who occupied Harry apartment while he was away, offers her help. The primary plot involving the Jewish murders is terrific, but sadly unfolds slow and often tediously. Just when the all the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit into their place, Demme sadly too soon reveals an essential aspect of the denouement. The sub plot with Harry's agency stalking him is rather inferior, with a meaningless cameo appearance by Christopher Walken and a couple of over-the-top ludicrous sequences with an incompetent Charles Napier clumsily following Harry around in the cemetery and a bell tower. Roy Scheider's performance as Harry Hannan is admirably bitter and integer, but his character is repellent and I'm pretty sure I would also want to kill him. Spotting the Hitchcock references is the most fun part of "Last Embrace", whether it's in the plot elements, the genius camera-work of Demme's regular cinematographer Tak Fujimoto or the impeccable soundtrack by Miklós Rózsa. The grand finale at Niagara Falls is excellent as well.
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Jonathan Demme does Hitchcock!
preppy-324 August 2004
Thriller involves a government agent (Roy Scheider) who has a nervous breakdown when his wife is killed in front of him and he is, partly, responsible. After 3 months he's recovered and tries to go back to work--but the agency doesn't want him. And it seems they're trying to kill him. With the help of a very odd woman (Janet Margolin) he tries to find out.

Very good attempt at a Hitchcock-like thriller. It's well directed by Demme (especially a great tracking shot at a train station), has an overstated (if good) music score, has an innocent man involved in murder, and has direct references to other Hitchcock thrillers (especially "Vertigo" and "Psycho").

It has an excellent performance by Scheider and early small role for Christopher Walken!

But it doesn't entirely succeed. The plot gets too convoluted for it's own good, the Hitchcock references get tiresome and Margolin is pretty bad in a key role (though she improves towards the end). And there's also a VERY explicit and sick sex/murder scene which is totally out of step with the rest of the picture.

Still, with those reservations, I recommend it. I give it an 8.
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Last Embrace
jboothmillard5 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I can see what the critics say about the Hitchcock aspects, and it it similar to the Marilyn Monroe film, Niagara (towards the end), but this is quite a good film from director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs). When his wife and a cop are killed, Harry Hannan (Roy Scheider) has a breakdown, and the department he works for don't want him back. He knows someone is trying to kill him, but other suspicious deaths suggest there is more to it. His only help seems to be from the mousy Ellie Fabian (Janet Margolin) living in New York. She turns out to be a key suspect though (somehow), and there are great chase sequences that lead to Niagara Falls, where she dies. Also starring John Glover as Richard Peabody, Sam Levene as Sam Urdell, Charles Napier as Dave Quittle and Christopher Walken as Eckart. To be honest, all I was interested in was the good music by Miklós Rózsa, the big stars, the violence, and the great chases, but besides that, there is not much in my opinion. Good!
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Intense thriller with overtones of Hitchcock throughout...
Doylenf30 August 2006
There are so many similarities between this relatively obscure thriller directed by Jonathan Demme and the works of either Alfred Hitchcock or Brian dePalma, that it's hard to know where to begin. Even the plot outline suggests a Hitchcock film with someone like James Stewart carrying the lead.

But here it's ROY SCHEIDER, a very intense Scheider (even more so than in JAWS), because he never recovered from a nervous breakdown after his wife's sudden demise. And little does he know that he's a part of a plan of vengeance when he starts receiving threatening notes--nor does he know who to trust, and when. Naturally, in a story of this sort, we have to have a femme fatale and in this case it's JANET MARGOLIN as someone who tells him she wants to help solve his dilemma.

There are some tricky camera shots, odd angled and always interesting, and Scheider really does carry the film with an extra intense portrayal of a hunted man who doesn't know who his enemies are.

Add to this the somber score fashioned by none other than Miklos Rozsa (who did that wonderful SPELLBOUND score for Hitch), and you have all the elements of a first-rate crime story.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of drawbacks. The tale is a bit too leisurely in building up to the suspenseful moments--and only Scheider and Margolin are seen to advantage. CHRISTOPHER WALKEN has what amounts to a cameo role and most of the other members of the cast are unfamiliar faces.

But it is suspenseful in a calculated, contrived sort of way and does build to a terrific climax at Niagara Falls.
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Last Embrace
Prismark1028 June 2022
Warning: Spoilers
Last Embrace is an interesting film from Jonathan Demme as he works towards being a mainstream movie maker.

He has a starrier cast with Roy Scheider as a bereaved government agent Harry Hannan who lost his wife in a job that went wrong.

Christopher Walken fresh from an Oscar win plays his boss who has no further use for Hannan as an agent.

Hannan finds a young woman Ellie Fabian (Janet Margolin) has moved into his apartment as she was told that the Hannans have moved out indefinitely.

She also gives Hannan a mysterious note in Hebrew that she found left for him. The note Hannan discovers from a rabbi is something to do with an avenger of the Blood, a private revenge.

It all boils down to Hannan's ancestors being involved in women trafficking from Europe who were used as prostitutes once they arrived in the USA.

It is clear from the music by Miklós Rózsa and the direction style of Demme that this is a movie influenced by Hitchcock. The surprise is that this was not a movie made by Brian De Palma.

In fact Last Embrace needed the visual flair of De Palma. Demme tries too hard to reference past movies from Hitchcock and forgets to do his own thing.

The story was choppy and a pivotal scene in a hotel room in Niagara Falls gives the game away. Then again I remember the original poster of this movie when it was released in the cinemas. There was no way out for one of those characters in the climax.
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Not Hitchcock....
MarieGabrielle16 May 2006
But Jonathan Demme deserves some credit. After having read many of the earlier reviews, however, I tend to agree that a lot of the theme is convoluted, and even the untrained eye will see familiar, much too familiar cinematography.

If one thinks of "Niagara", "Vertigo" and "The Man Who Knew Too Much", you will have a pastiche of ideas similar to this film.

Roy Scheider is very good, and underplays his role as a CIA/secret agent. Janet Margolin is attractive, but there is way too much melodrama when they first meet; too scripted. John Glover portrays an elitist professor, there are some interesting scenes at Princeton University. The shooting at the bell tower is similar to "Vertigo", right down to the winding staircase.

There is an interesting back story about the Jewish immigrants in New York, and David Margulies portrays a Rabbi who deciphers Aramaic messages. Perhaps this part of the story could have been more central, so we would not have wound up with a Hitchcock copycat film.

That aside, there are some unique camera shots, the backdrop of Niagara Falls is an interesting choice, and if you are at all interested in Demme's work, this film is worth viewing.
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A homage to Hitchcock
paul2001sw-12 June 2006
Many films are called "Hitchcockian", usually because they merely have a twisty, psychologically-motivated plot. But Jonathon Demme's 'Last Embrace' is far more than that, as much a piece of homage as Peter Jackson's recent 'King Kong' remake was to its predecessor. The natures of the characters, and the style of acting, dialogue and music all resemble Hitchcock's own work. A number of elements even pay more direct tribute: there's a shower scene (a la 'Psycho', albeit less bloody), while the scene in the tower, and the ambiguous heroine who isn't what she seems, bring 'Vertigo' to mind. The ending, in fact, resembles aspects of both the start and end of that latter film, while the use of an American landmark (the Niagra Falls) also recalls the use of Mount Rushmore to similar effect in the conclusion of 'North by Northwest'. But for those of us who don't in fact adore Hitchcock, and who find his movies stiff, badly acted and contrived, is a carbon copy such a welcome thought? In fact, Demme, a director I often think of as clunky, proves himself well up to the art of sympathetic pastiche, and I actually found this movie a little more engrossing than many of Hitchcock's own, although the plot is still holey and the overall feeling is that of an early 1960s movie, unusually well done, rather than a real late 1970s film. You'll probably enjoy it if you're more partial to Hitchcock than I am.
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Esoteric thriller cum Niagara falls
dbdumonteil23 April 2003
A lot of people have mentioned Alfred Hitchcock,but the movie which crosses my mind is undeniably Henry Hathaway's much underrated "Niagara".Not only the scenes in the cave by the fall ,but also the one in the steeple with the bells which will remind you of Marilyn Monroe's murder by Joseph Cotten .I urge people who enjoy the Niagara falls location to see this gem.

As for Demme movie,it oddly begins as a spy thriller and continues as an esoteric one,with connections with Jewish culture and the Bible .The hero receives bizarre notes ,which,if we trust the eminent professor of Princeton ,mean death.This fondness for riddles will later emerge again in his towering achievement "silence of the lambs".This screenplay also predates ,relatively speaking , "seven" and its horrible rehashes ,the likes of "Resurrection" .What's definitely lacking is tempo,humor and madness;the final scenes in Niagara falls drag on :just compare them with Jean Peters' odyssey at the end of Hathaway's film;and as many users have already pointed out,what the point of casting a first-class actor like Walken for such a useless part??
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