Saturday, January 2, 2016

THE LAST HORROR FILM (1982) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Troma
Region Code: Region Free
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 87 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: David Winters
Cast:Caroline Munro, Joe Spinell, Judd Hamilton

Maniac's Joe Spinell and Caroline Munro reunite just a year after that slasher classic for a strange guerrilla-style slasher shot partially without permits at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival. Spinell plays Vinny, a somewhat disturbed NYC cab driver who lives at home with his dear mother, who is played by Spinell's actual mother Filomena Spagnuolo, their shared apartment is Spinell's actual apartment, too. Spinell who was fantastic as the nut job in Maniac does some similiar work here, maybe not as insane as Frank Zito from Maniac, but prone to oddball daydreams about making it big in Hollywood as a director. The cabbie has saved up enough to by a ticket to Cannes and a pass to the festival, when he tells him mom about his plans to travel to Cannes and cast b-movie queen Jenna Bates (Bond-girl Caroline Munro) in his movie "The Loves of Dracula"  she thinks he crazy, and she might be right, but before you know it the cabbie is in Cannes trying to rub elbows with the stars. 

Jenne Bates in is Cannes promoting her latest movie "Scream" along with her manager and ex-husband Bret Bates (Glenn Jacobson), and the film's producer Alan Cunningham (Judd Hamilton), who is also her current boyfriend, and Vinny just can't seem to get close enough to make his pitch, which drives him a little crazy, so he walks around the festival with his 16,, movie filming the starlet as best he can from afar until he can find a way to make his move and offer her the role. 

Jenna and those close to her receive notes reading "You've made your last horror film.", later that night she goes to her manager Brett's room only to find him beheaded in the tub, when she reports the crime the police arrive and there's no body, the local cops chalk it up to Jenna and her manager drumming up some press through an ill-advised publicity stunt. 

After which more people begin to disappear without a trace, we as viewers see them die one by one, but the bodies continue to disappear, and the killer is filming the murders on 16mm. We're left to ask the question, is Vinny so disturbed by the brush-off from Caroline that he would kill? Clearly Vinny is a whack job, prone to strange visions, it may well be, he's so off his rocker he thinks it would be appropriate to break into Jenna's room through a bathroom window while she's showering, offering her champagne, which as you can imagine does not go over so well. 

The movie was shot on a shoestring budget from the looks of it, with a script that must have  been just a few pages long with plenty of opportunity to ad lib I would assume, shot largely guerrilla style at the Cannes Films Festival I must say that was inspired idea, it offers the film-within-a-film some decent production value, you can spot some forced cameos from Karen Black and Kris Kristofferson, which is fun, as well as banners for the movie Possession and Pink Flamingos which were being promoted at the festival that year. 

Scenes of Munro running through the crowds in a only towel as she escapes Vinny after he crashed her shower are fun, Spinell has no trouble playing crazy, and this might be one of Munro's more substantial roles in a movie when I think about it, and as an aside she has some of the greatest '80s hair of all time in this movie, a two-tone coif for the ages. It helps that there's just something about Spinell that is magnetic, truly a schlub of a man, but his eyes are so expressive, there's a mix of frailness and insanity about his face that the camera loves, and even if the script is threadbare the actor manages to pull you into the insanity. 

Spinell and Munro both turn in some great performances, everyone else is pretty blah, but they save it time and time again, I sort of love this movie, maybe more than it deserves, but the Spinell/Munro combo is a winner, and at east believable this time around. Watching Maniac, as much as I love it, you struggle to see what Munro's character could possibly see in Frank Zito, truly a beauty and the beast scenario, here she is rightfully repulsed by the creepy guy. The movie has some decent gore, too. Some real and some of it not so real within the context of the move-within-a-movie, but all of it is pretty satisfying. We have some decent variety, from burning to stabbing, beheading, a shooting and even a chainsaw attack ...what more do you need? 

The Last Horror Film is an odd and uneven movie all the way around, it has some truly inspired moments and a few that just don't work, but I enjoyed it. I liked the obsessed cabbie character, his surreal nightmares, the way they shot it at Cannes without permission, and the Spinell/Munro team-up is magic yet again. 

Audio/Video: The Last Horror Films arrives on region-free Blu-ray Troma in 1080p HD framed in the original widescreen (1.85:1) aspect ratio, from what I can surmise this appears to be the same HD transfer as used by 88 Films for their UK release, sourced from the original negative as well as other undefined sources, which might help explain the varying image quality which ranges from watchable to not-so-watchable, but I would assume is a vast improvement over the fullframe DVD from Troma. It's cleaned-up but still grimy and not quite up to HD standards. The print used for the transfer has the alternate 'Fantatic' title card. For whatever reason Troma has opted to g0 with a lossy Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 track, it is serviceable. 

Onto the extras we have an assortment of non feature movie related Tromatic extras which I did not care to watch this time around. we do get a rambling audio commentary from Joe Spinell's close friend Luke Walter moderated by Evan Husney, which should be a treat for fans of Spinell. Tromas have also included the eight-minute short film 'Mr. Robbie' (aka Maniac 2) wherein Spinell plays a deranged clown who exacts revenge on a young girl's parents who mistreat her, this is a gem of a short, shot by director Buddy Giovinazzo who directed Combat Shock (1984), it was shot as a short to help finance a full-length feature, but Spinell passed away before it happened. 

Why Troma chose not to include 'My Best Maniac' and the 'Interview With Maniac Director William Lustig' from the previous special edition DVD is beyond me, 88 Films have it on their Blu-ray but it's conspicuously absent here, which is unfortunate. When it comes down to which version to purchase I would have to go with the 88 Films Blu-ray, which features the same transfer plus a lossless LPCM 2.0 Stereo audio, "My Best Maniac" Conversation with Luke Walter and the Interview with "Maniac" director William Lustig that appeared on the Troma Special Edition DVD and a Caroline Munro Q/A filmed at Glasgow Film Theatre, which is also region-free.

Special Features: 
- Intro by lloyd Kaufman
- Audio Commentary by Associate Producer Luke Walter Moderated by Evan Husney
- A Short Film by Buddy Giovinazzo - Mr. Robbie, starring Joe Spinell (8 Mins) 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (1 Mins) 
- Highlights from the 2015 Tromadance Film Festival (5 Mins) HD 
- A Full episode of Troma's Latest Web series Kabukiman's Cocktail Corner: starring Paul Booth (10 Mins) HD 
- The Return of one of Troma's Beloved Characters, Dolphin Man (5 Mins) 
- Troma Trailers 

I recommend The Last Horror Film (1982) for the performances from Spinell and Munro, and for the inspired notions behind it. The execution is a bit shoddy, as are the source elements used for the HD transfer, the movie and the Blu-ray are both mixed bags, which version you buy depends on how important the extras are for you. 2.5/5