The Last Horror Film DVD Review
Written by Robert Gold
DVD released by Troma Entertainment
Directed by David Winters
Written by David Winters, Judd Hamilton, Tom Klassen
1982, Region 0 (NTSC), 87 minutes, Unrated
DVD released on May 19th, 2009
Joe Spinell as Vinny Durand
Caroline Munroe as Jana Bates
Glen Jacobson as Bret Bates
Judd Hamilton as Alan Cunningham
Devin Goldenberg as Marty Bernstein
David Winters as Stanley Kline
Vinny Durand (Joe Spinell) is a New York cab driver who lives with his mother and dreams of becoming a famous film director. He is obsessed with horror icon Jana Bates (Caroline Munroe – The Spy Who Loved Me, Slaughter High) and follows her to France where he will convince her to star in his first movie. When members of her entourage begin turning up dead, suspicion falls on the neurotic Vinny. Is he responsible for the murders or is this all a giant publicity stunt?
The Last Horror Film (not to be confused with The Last Horror Movie, 2003) is an underground gem that retains its visceral punch nearly 30 years after its release. Set in the middle of the Cannes Film Festival, the picture tackles the issue of fan obsession and how far someone will go to gain attention. Spinell brings an uncomfortable authenticity to the role of outsider wanting fame and acceptance, making for a sympathetic antihero that audiences will root for, even as he occasionally makes their skin crawl.
The making of this picture is more interesting than the film itself. Production began a month after John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, in hopes of impressing actress Jodie Foster. The incident was inspired by Taxi Driver (a film featuring Spinell) and is the focus of several sequences including a press conference where Monroe is asked directly about Hinckley.
Although he did not pen the script, many aspects of Spinell’s personal life appear in the film. His character lives in a small apartment with his mother (played by Spinell’s mother), and drives a cab while trying to break into show business. The apartment featured was Spinell’s home, where he actually lived and ultimately died.
This release is billed as the uncut domestic debut of the feature. Running about 90 seconds longer than the previous Troma release (under the alternate title Fanatic), including additional angles to a chainsaw attack and a quick add to a bathroom decapitation. The majority of the footage is presented within a movie screening at the festival itself. A homeless woman stabs a man in the heart and he dies, and in this version she can now be seen eating his heart.
Observant geeks may notice that the film Jana is promoting at Cannes is called Scream, and a giant billboard promoting the movie Stab is seen in a few shots as well. Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson rejuvenated the genre with the Scream trilogy that featured a faux slasher film series called Stab.
The Last Horror Film is not the greatest horror film around, but it does offer some originality and sincerity in presentation. Spinell was an intense figure who could intimidate with a simple stare, but often took the extra time to present a vulnerability to his creepy characters. Monroe and Spinell appeared together in Maniac (and the lesser known Starcrash) where he delivered his signature performance as a killer haunted by his victims. Outside the genre he famously appeared in the first two Godfather movies, The Ninth Configuration, and often worked with his friend Sylvester Stallone in films like Rocky and Nighthawks. Spinell died from a fall in his apartment in 1989.
Video and Audio:
The DVD opens with a disclaimer that the uncensored material comes from a variety of sources. The transfer itself is quite strong, but a bit dark in a few scenes. The extended gore brings more grain and a softer image, but is still respectable. The film is given the usual 1:33 full screen presentation associated with Troma releases, but the picture is solid and does not appear overly cropped.
Nothing too impressive with the audio, but the 2-channel stereo mix is sufficient and free of any distortion.
Troma has really gone all out on the supplements for the Tromasterpiece lineup. A feature-length commentary with Luke Walter is filled with great stories about both the production and Joe Spinell. A nice video interview with Walter telling more Spinell tales is up next in the featurette "My Best Maniac", followed by an interview with Maniac director, William Lustig. The short film Mr. Robbie (Maniac 2) is presented alongside trailers for the main feature under both Fanatic and The Last Horror Film.
As is the case with all Troma DVDs, the feature is introduced by Lloyd Kaufman, who shares some relevant information, but this time Lloyd gets a little confused when it comes to the release date and the intro turns surreal.
One final detail that deserves special attention is the stunning artwork for this DVD edition. Presented in a style that echoes the Italian giallo films of the 1970s, the cover offers an elegant touch to a film that has suffered multiple titles and re-edits over the years. The care that has gone into crafting this special edition is a step up from earlier releases and is a most welcome addition to your horror library. Troma has delivered a first-class special edition that raises the bar for future releases.
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