The Video Nasties #94 – The Last Hunter (1980, Antonio Margheriti)

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‘Fucking mosquitoes. Goddamn jungle. Fucking war!’

The Last Hunter – despite its hopelessly generic title – is one of the most exciting movies you’ll find amongst the Nasties. Of course, it has the advantage of being an action/war movie, but it’s still more of a horror film than a lot of Nasties, and I don’t just mean in terms of ‘the horrors of war.’ The blood flows freely, limbs are routinely lost, eyes eaten by rats and a dangling corpse dangles its guts right in front of the camera – it’s like Lucio Fulci’s Apocalypse Now, except it’s actually Antonio Margheriti’s.

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It begins with a bar scene that seems to perfectly capture the existential ennui of the American soldiers in Vietnam, as they lay around smoking, drinking and losing their minds. Strippers strip, hookers hook and the whole thing feels convincingly seedy. We meet our hero, played by Mr Almost-James Bond himself, David Warbeck, who’s as handsome and debonair as ever, even when using his own vest to fight a pack of rats.

vlcsnap-2017-08-17-11h16m01s525.pngThere’s a stunning suicide (achieved with a mouthful of smoke and a fake gun with a torch attached to it) and then it all kicks off, Margheriti letting loose with a volley of explosions that would make Rambo green with envy. Somehow, the film maintains this pace for the next half hour, a parade of non-stop action and excitement. Margheriti succeeds in making the jungle seem a truly frightening, formidable place,  something so many directors have failed to do throughout those interminable cannibal movies.

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Warbeck tags along with a ragtag group of GIs, plus a comely reporter played by the Queen of the Nasties herself, Tisa Farrow, here looking authentically sweaty. Together they reach a military base hidden in a cave and things get a bit tiresome, with the usual crazy commander and rapey soldiers. It’s not long though before the VC invade the base and we get a frankly mental action scene set to a thumping disco track, with Warbeck stomping around with a flamethrower setting everyone on fire.

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By the time they reach the end of the mission, there’s a maddeningly pointless plot twist that will make you smile and some heavy-handed allegory about the futility of war. Did I say heavy-handed? Sorry, I meant HEAVY-HANDED – while a soldier dies screaming on a boat, a stray bullet hits the radio and somehow turns it on(!) to a station in which a presenter urges the men to put down their guns and come home. Then the radio catches fire and the boat and the soldier blow up. I dunno, I just can’t penetrate such obscure symbolism? WHAT CAN IT ALL MEAN?

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The Last Hunter is the sort of non-horror film that can easily be enjoyed by horror fans. A thrilling, blood-soaked romp, headlined by horror royalty like Warbeck, Farrow and the inimitable Bobby (Demons 1 & 2) Rhodes, it’s impossible not to have a good time with this one. Margheriti shows some serious action chops here, which Cannibal Apocalypse only really hinted at. I’d love to have seen a proper jungle-set cannibal movie by him – he really uses the jungle in a fun, claustrophobic way here. He also ends the film with one of the greatest final shots I have ever seen. Seriously! Spoilers ahead obviously, but Warbeck and Farrow escape to the helicopter. Warbeck decides to stay behind and die, and we get a shot from the helicopter flying away of him kneeling in the grass and throwing away his dog tags. Then, without any edits, there are four massive explosions right in front of him! It’s a wonder Warbeck lived, to be honest. I guess they must have cheated the angle or something, but I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when it happened.

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That is how you end a film. I wish there was a way for me to end this review by blowing the blog up in your hands – safely of course – but I’ll just have to settle for these words instead. But feel free to use your imagination!

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