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    Ian Jane
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  • Last Horror Film, The

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    Released by: Troma
    Released on: 5/19/2009
    Director: David Winters
    Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munroe
    Year: 1982
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    The Movie:

    Just as well known as Fanatic (the title Troma originally released it on DVD under) and released in some markets as Maniac 2 in an attempt to cash in on William Lustig's far superior Joe Spinell and Caroline Munroe vehicle, David Winters' The Last Horror Film is a pretty interesting movie in its own right.

    Vinny Durand, a New York City cab driver, has an unhealthy obsession with a scream queen named Jana Bates (Caroline Munro). Vinny returns home from work today to the apartment he shares with his mother (played by Spinell's actual mother in Spinell's own apartment) and he tells her he's going head out to France to attend the Cannes Film Festival so that he can meet up with Jana and convince her to star in a movie he hopes to make. Mom doesn't pay her son much mind, chocking his scheme up to nothing more than a strange idea, but Vinny really does make it to France where he tracks down the object of his affection only to meet with a seriously cold shoulder. Jana's in town to promote her new film, not to deal with strange men like Vinny, who is none too impressed by the fact that she's spending most of her time with her ex-husband/manager Bret Bates (Glenn Jacobson) film producer/current love interest Alan Cunningham (Judd Hamilton).

    Things take a strange turn when later on Jana gets a bouquet of flowers with a note inside that reads 'You've made your last horror film.' When she returns to her room to find Bret brutally murdered, she immediately goes to the cops who head to the scene of the crime only to find that the body has gone missing. As Vinny goes about following Jana with his camera, trying to make connections to get his film made and always meeting with rejection, the bodies keep piling up but Vinny keeps making his movie, and it seems that Jana is playing the star role whether she likes it or not.

    Nowhere near as fantastically bloody as Maniac, The Last Horror Film never the less features a few decent kill scenes and some nice atmosphere, much of which is derived from shooting, guerilla style, in Cannes (keep your eyes open for some interesting marquees in the background) during the festival in 1981.Of course, since the footage was shot at the festival, you will see some interesting people pop up in the background now and again. It's unlikely that Karen Black or Kris Kristofferson knew they would wind up in this movie, but there they are regardless. This 'instant atmosphere' helps compensate for the film's obvious low budget, though the fact that quite a few of the performers, including Ms. Munroe, were dubbed by voice actors in post is definitely a strike against things.

    That complaint levied, this is really Spinell's show all the way. Munro is great to look at and she fits the part well but the heavy lifting is handled by Joe who flat out oozes with sleaze appeal. He brings a true eccentricity to the role and really makes it his own without ever going so far over the top that he breaks character. The scenes with his mother and the scenes in which he's rejected by pretty much every person he approaches at Cannes are the ones that stand out and show off his acting ability. That's not to say that he doesn't shine in the more manic moments, as he does, but we expect that from him whereas the more somber bits are a little more uncharacteristic of the types of parts he traditionally played.

    When the end credits role and the picture is finished, you won't have been frightened or shocked very much. As a horror movie in and of itself, The Last Horror Film is pretty forgettable. The location footage and fine performance from Spinell, however, make this more than just another low budget stalk and slash picture and elevate to something wholly worthy of your time.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Last Horror Film is presented in a 1.33.1 fullframe transfer, interlaced, that has been culled together from at least two different sources in order to present the movie in its uncut form. You won't have trouble noticing the jumps, as they're pretty noticeable, but it's certainly better to have this footage here in inferior quality than to not have it at all. As far as the overall quality of the image goes, well, the movie looks like the older low budget film that it is. There are times where the colors bleed a bit and some of the darker scenes are excessively murky but even at its worse the picture stays watchable - you just have to go into this one with your expectations in check. The test disc sent for review does show some compression artifacts, possibly because it crams a lot of material onto a DVD-5. At the time of this writing, its unknown if the final retail product will be on a DVD-5 or a DVD-9, which could eliminate some of the compression artifacts seen on the test disc.

    The only audio track on this DVD is an English language Dolby Digital Mono track - no alternate language dubs or subtitle options have been provided. There's a little bit of hiss present in a few scenes and the high end borders on shrill in a few spots but these problems aren't a constant. Generally the dialogue is easy enough to follow and while the movie doesn't sound great, the mix is serviceable enough.


    The biggest and best of the supplements on this disc is an audio commentary track from Spinell's closest friend and one of the associate producers of the film, Luke Walter, who is joined by moderator Evan Husney. This is a pretty solid track and Walter's memories are interesting stuff. He was on the set almost the entire time, working with Spinell and the crew and he shares some great stories about what it was like shooting this movie without any permits, collecting footage from both the Cannes Film Festival and the New York City locations. Husney asks some good questions about the movie, its star, and its cast and keep Walters talking at a brisk pace. Walters talks about the material that he and Spinell were responsible for shooting, what locations were used and why, and about various bits involving the actor's penchant for improvisation in front of the camera.

    Walter shows up again for a featurette entitled My Best Maniac in which the man takes us around New York to a diner that Spinell used to frequent in the neighborhood where he lived and to the cemetery in Queens where he is buried and which is, interestingly enough, famous for serving as the location for Don Corleone's funeral in The Godfather, a film which helped to launch Spinell's career. While this featurette covers some of the same ground as the commentary track, Walter's obvious affection for his friend makes this well worth watching and some of the location footage seen here is pretty interesting in its own right.

    Up next is an interview with Maniac director Bill Lustig in which he talks about how the box office success of Maniac opened the doors for The Last Horror Film. Lustig covers his relationship with Spinell and what it was like working with him and he also shares his thoughts on The Last Horror Film.

    Also included on this DVD is the rather infamous Mr. Robbie/Maniac 2 footage that Buddy Giovinazzo shot with Spinell before he passed away. This ten minute short was originally shot in 1989 as a promo to help secure financing for the proposed film, but obviously Spinell's death from a heart attack later that year wound up making completing the picture impossible. The footage doesn't really have much to do with the story of the original film, but it's definitely worth a watch as it has that great, seedy feel and it features Spinell going all out.

    Rounding out the extras is an impressive still gallery, a few trailers and TV spots for the film, promos for a few other Troma releases, an optional introduction to the feature from Lloyd Kaufman, animated menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Spinell fans need this, a.s.a.p. Troma's transfer isn't perfect by a long shot but it's the best version out there and having the film uncut is a nice bonus, as are all of the interesting extra features.
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