Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Last Horror Film (1982)

Caroline Munro was in some odd pictures in the 1980s, kicking off with MANIAC (1980) in which she came across as the proverbial gorgeous EuroHorror actress who had somehow been dropped into the bucket of sleaze that was the rest of the film. She also made FACELESS for Jess Franco, SLAUGHTER HIGH - a US-set slasher movie made in the UK, and a crazy version of THE BLACK CAT for Luigi Cozzi. However none of these projects even comes close in terms of a sense of ‘absolutely anything goes’ to the ramshackle endeavour that is THE LAST HORROR FILM. Thrown together with the chief aim of giving its married leads a bit of a jolly for free at the Cannes Film Festival, while simultaneously pandering to the whims of co-star Joe Spinell, it’s unsurprising that what resulted sat on the shelf for a couple of years before hobbling out on home video. Of course, that’s not to say there isn’t a lot to enjoy here, but just perhaps not in the way the film makers intended.
New York taxi driver and frustrated wannabe film maker Vinny Durand (Spinell) travels to Cannes with the intention of making a film with glamorous horror star Jana Bates (Munro) who is there with her director Alan Cunningham (Munro’s husband and co-writer and co-producer of this Judd Hamilton) in anticipation of her winning the best actress award. As soon as Vinny arrives, people associated with Jana start dying, but even though Vinny is subject to weird hallucinations, is he actually the killer? 
Utterly jaw-dropping for so many reasons, including more gratuitous breast shots in its first ten minutes than any other film I think I have ever seen; quite horrendous fashions (even for 1981); dream sequences that even Ken Russell would think were too silly; terrible songs that go on forever; and the sight of Joe Spinell dancing around in ladies’ underwear and sharing a joint with his mother Mary, whose other movie appearances include Old Lady Sitting Next to Eddie Outside Courtroom (uncredited) in William Lustig’s VIGILANTE, THE LAST HORROR FILM leaves the viewer scratching their heads with too many questions that need answering. Is Caroline dubbed? What the hell has Judd Hamilton done to his hair to make it that colour? How many times is Joe going to burst into tears in front of women of various ages? Why has John Scott’s score for INSEMINOID been plundered for bits of this and does he know? Did they really spend time setting up a shot where a large cream cake gets dropped accurately between a pair of absurdly surgically-enhanced breasts?
88 Films have done a top-notch job giving us the best print available of THE LAST HORROR FILM. When a disc begins with an apology you know there may be trouble ahead, but full marks to them for being upfront about the state of the transfer and explaining the reasons why. To be honest it looks great on the whole, with only a couple of instances where it’s obvious that something terrible has happened to the vault elements.
There are a number of extras, some of which are in keeping with the quality of the film they accompany. There’s an introduction by Lloyd Kaufman ported over from the region 1 DVD release in which he demonstrates that he has no idea when the film was made or who directed it. There’s an on stage Q&A at the Glasgow Film Theatre with Caroline Munro where she talks about SLAUGHTER HIGH and other things but not THE LAST HORROR FILM at all, and Luke Walker reminisces about his friend Joe Spinell while driving a car. Absolutely the best extra is a short talking head piece by William Lustig (director of MANIAC) who actually provides some information on how THE LAST HORROR FILM came about, and how he was asked to help finish the movie when it got into trouble. He gracefully declined and confirms the suspicions of all who have watched the film when he says “There was no adult running that show.” Finally, as well as the 88 trailer reel, there’s the short promo film that Spinell made for MANIAC II: MR ROBBIE which never happened because of his premature death. It’s been available stateside as an extra on versions of MANIAC for many years but it’s good to see it available in the UK.

88 Films are releasing the remarkable piece of work that is THE LAST HORROR FILM on Region B Blu-ray on 21st July 2014

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