The Last Hunter / L'ultimo cacciatore
Directed by Anthony Dawson (Antonio Margheriti)
With David Warbeck, Tisa Farrow, Tony King, Bobby Rhodes, John Steiner and Margit Evelyn Newton
"You hate the VCs...""I don't have time to hate them... I kill 'em."
1980 Flora Film /
The Last Hunter is one of the very first films in the EuroAction explosion of the 80s and is also one of the best. Downbeat, violent and full of excellent direction by the maestro of miniature mayhem, Antonio Margheriti, this is essential for any fan of ballistic cinema.
1973-Saigon, not a good time to be an American G.I. by any stretch of the imagination, but Colonel Morris (David Warbeck) really has his hands full trying to keep his young charge, Steve, in line as the perturbed foot soldier has a complete meltdown while trying to enjoy the hands of the local ladies of the night. Not only is Steve exhausted, but he is haunted by his girlfriends voice... After mixing it up with some of the locals things get explosive as the whore house is blasted to the ground. Only Col. Morris survives, and the incident seems to spark him on to attempt a suicide mission deep in the heart of The 'Nam.
Dropping in, to the water no less, while under fire, Morris finds the entire jungle has gone mad around him. The enemy is almost the least of his worries, since the local soldiers have created a drug infused paradise/hell for themselves while hiding out in a series of caves. It certainly doesn't help that their leader, Major Cash (John Steiner) , has gone nuts and enjoys disciplining his men by having them forage for coconuts as the locals attempt to blow up the steeplechaser.
And then there is the tag-a-long lady reporter to keep him busy, and she is played by Tisa Farrow no less. Morris doesn't bother protecting her from attempted gang rapes, but he does eventually warm up to her a bit.
Everything goes wrong as the VC flood the caves with the blood of the Americans and the true mission is undertaken. Silencing a radio tower carrying the signal of an American woman telling the boys to go home to their girls...
As everyone around Morris dies, he grimly follows his mission plan-even surviving a horrific capture and rat infested water prison to go and finally locate his target. However...it may not be as easy as he hopes to finish up this foe.
Happily ever after? Not in this war soldier...not in this war.
The Last Hunter is a fantastic action film, but differs from many of the other EuroAction films made later as it does not feature crazed Rambo style heroics at all, instead Col. Morris is living through the depressed end of the Vietnam War. There is little hope and fewer heroes to be found, instead the Americans are more bizarre than those out to protect their homeland. Drugs are everywhere and Margheriti drags the viewer into this strange world with a brilliant use of tilting angles and exaggerated close ups of vacant faces. Violence is also everywhere, and while Antonio Margheriti is not exactly known for being subtle, The Last Hunter brings the gore and brutality right to the surface. Each death is ugly, and nobody is spared from total mutilation regardless of the side of the fight they are on.
Being 1980, there was not a wave of Rambo fuelled production money floating around, and Margheriti and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti draw inspiration from The Deer Hunter (which the Italian title, L'ultimo cacciatore, is a play on) and Apocalypse Now. Instead of a rousing action picture that has the viewer cheering on a rebellious hero, The Last Hunter pounds the viewer with the intense action choreography and berserker explosions while it creates an atmosphere of danger that is truly unique and exhilarating.
This film would begin a relationship between Margheriti and and producer Gianfranco Couyoumdjian that would keep both men busy blowing up buildings and bodies for the rest of the 1980s. Couyoumdjian is an important producer in 80s EuroAction cinema, because not only did he produce this film, but he neatly bookends the cycle with the shoestring budgetted Last Flight To Hell (1990).The cast helps things along, led by David Warbeck who really does a lot with Col. Morris-giving the character a very intriguing drive. He comes across as both burnt out and completely focused at the same time. Obsessive, yet utterly uncaring of anything around him, Morris is a one of a kind action hero. Surrounded by men with big guns and grenades, he sticks with his pistols, only using a flame thrower when totally necessary. Because frankly, when is a flame thrower not necessary as your enemies swarm all over you? Also great are the tag team of Tony King and (the great) Bobby Rhodes. The pair actually do the bulk of the heavy lifting by action film standards with machine gun slinging and tons of obscene screaming while gunning down every hut that stands in their way. The ladies are perfect as Tisa Farrow looks confused (she seems good at that) and Margit Evelyn Newton makes a few brief appearances as both the idealized Girl At Home and The Voice of Anti-War Propaganda.
Besides, John Steiner demanding coconuts is always good, and he doesn't disappoint in The Last Hunter.
Overall, one of the best action films to come from Italy, and a true classic that belongs on every European genre film fans shelf.
4 Exploding Huts (with a bonus hut for Margheriti Magnificence in Helicopter HiJinx!)