The Last Hunter (1980)
There are many films about war. There are many films about the Vietnam war. A few have transcended mere historical depiction and managed to capture the utter horror and political insanity of the situation, along with the tragic human cost. And then there are those which simply seek to use the setting as a vehicle for an exploitation movie, in the hope of making a fast buck. The Last Hunter (L'ultimo cacciatore) falls firmly into the second camp. This Italian "macaroni combat" movie (yes, I didn’t know that’s a thing either) offers a straight forward tale of an incursion behind enemy lines by an officer charged with destroying a radio transmitter, broadcasting anti-US propaganda. It is violent, action packed and surprisingly honest about what sort of film it is. You’ll find no pretentious philosophical musings here. Just explosions, rotting corpses and Viet Cong booby traps.
Directed by veteran Italian film maker Antonio Margheriti (and billed as Anthony Dawson on English language prints), The Last Hunter is a well-made (by Italian cash-in genre standards) exploitation war movie, with a solid international cast and good action set pieces. Margheriti had a background in miniature effects and the film features several scenes of this kind, such as the rail yard bombing at the start and the jungle cave demolition in the films second act. The dialogue is functional (and all dubbed in post-production like so many Italian movies of this kind) and the story efficiently moves the actors from set piece to set piece. There’s even the bonus of a minor twist in the movies climax. David Warbeck is suitably grizzled and burnt out as Captain Morris and Tisa Farrow fills the roll of the “plucky news reporter” embedded with the unit. There’s also wise cracking banter between Tony King and Bobby Rhodes as the units African-American representation. Connoisseurs of eighties Italian genre movies will delight at the cast and the additional inclusion of John Steiner as a suitably deranged Major.
Being an Italian movie of the times, there are copious acts of violence including a graphic gunshot to the eye, a partial decapitation and a leg amputation. There’s also a lot of crude barrack room humour and an attempted rape, but hey that’s how these movies roll. It almost as if there’s a check list being followed. The location cinematography in the Philippines gives the proceedings an authentic feel and like so many Italian movies from this decade, the soundtrack by Franco Micalizzi is contemporary, funky and far more interesting than some traditional orchestral scores. As this movie is not designed to be a cerebral undertaking it has to be judged on what it has to offer. And on that basis, then The Last Hunter is a better than average ninety plus minutes of Italian exploitation cinema. It is also a good steeping stone into the wider works of director Antonio Margheriti. If you enjoy this movie you may wish to try, Codename: Wild Geese (three guesses which movie this rips off), Command Leopard and Killer Fish. All have an interesting international cast, miniatures effects work along with either gore or action.
The Last Hunter Bonus Track: Music from the opening night club scene.