The Last Horror Film (1982) Review

Vinny Durand (Joe Spinell) is a delusional taxi driver who dreams of making a big screen horror movie with the ultra-famous Jana Bates (Caroline Munro). Disregarding some relentless teasing from the neighborhood losers and after his mother asks him to “quit talking the crazy talk” Vinny heads off the Cannes Film Festival to woo Jana at any cost.

The Last Horror Film, which is by no means a classic, still remains an interesting experiment for many reasons. For one, the locale, Cannes, France allows the filmmakers to get Marcello Mastroianni in an unusual cameo! Also, the way the film likens Vinny to John Hinkley who had just shot President Regan to get Jodie Foster’s attention was a unique angle. Relating Vinny to a real life attempted assassin creates a slightly uncomfortable feeling, but the movie itself borders enough in Ed Wood-land to lift the mean-spiritedness right off it!

The late, great Joe Spinell is a knockout as Vinny. He slithers his greased up nekkid torso along a projection screen and breaks into crazed tears whenever he deals with his mother (played by his real life mom). An actor who always gave his all, Spinell takes what is essentially the character from Maniac (deranged yet tortured) and puts a fresh spin on it. On the other hand, the beautiful Caroline Munro is good but her hair is so confusingly bad (as is her wardrobe) she becomes more of a distraction than anything else. But check out her beige husband (played by her then real life husband) as he attempts to act his way out of a paper bag. He failed.

This movie does have some nice moments. There’s clever dialog, mostly at the beginning, and the filmmakers captured enough of the festival to give the viewer a flavor for it. But the highlight of The Last Horror Film feature clips from fictitious horror movies that usually end with a woman being brutally slaughtered. A scene where a panel of judges watch Jana get her face burned off, only to have them vote her as best actress over Meryl Streep (!) is hilarious. In other words, it’s silly enough to hold your attention but like a lot of the topless women lying along the beach, it’s just an inflated attempt at perfection.

This was Joe and Caroline’s third and final film together. They both appeared in Maniac and the awesomely bad yet incredibly entertaining Starcrash. If you’re a fan of either actor, this is a must-see.

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