Vinny Durand (Joe Spinell) is a taxi driver with an unhealthy obsession (is there any other kind?) for actress Jana Bates (Caroline Munro). He wants her for a movie he’s making. Of course, like a pre-cursor to 70% of horror fans you meet on the internet, he has no actual plan in place to make his film a reality – he is just more interested in receiving validation from people in the industry, even if he doesn’t realize that himself. Where is his funding? His crew? His call sheet for Bates? In Durand’s fantasy world, all he needs to make his film a reality is a vaseline-smeared camera to aim at his actress. It’d be easy to blame (like in real life) his family for propping him up with that B.S. “all you need is passion to make things happen” mentality, but then you see his mother is the realist of the two, constantly worrying/berating him for his crystal clear nuttiness.
Spinell is either the greatest method actor ever, or the most emotive person ever. Like in MANIAC, his constant whimperings relay a sort of audience see-saw of pity/disgust for the fellow. The character, I mean. I hope. The late Spinell was an interesting guy, an actor with as much textures to his personality as in his pockmarked cheeks.
The other larger-than-life character in the film is… The Cannes Film Festival. Shooting footage of the festival boosts its production value greatly. It’s a blast to slo-mo the DVD during these scenes to catch glimpses of early pre-release artwork for various films.
Intended to cash-in on the success of the Spinell/Munro teaming on MANIAC, THE LAST HORROR FILM is more hardlinked to that earlier film then most realize. Spinell plays a similar mama’s-boy character. The New Yawkness of both flicks. And the fact this was retitled MANIAC 2: LOVE TO KILL in foreign markets. But whereas MANIAC is the slicker, more impacting of the two, THE LAST HORROR FILM has the more interesting conclusion, offering up a slasher-centric twist I didn’t see coming because I had the framework of MANIAC stuck in my mind.
This DVD is billed as THE UNCUT SPECIAL EDITION. “Uncut” is a general term that could take into account, or not, several factors. These include how different countries get different censorings, how the ratings board makes cuts, how sometimes the distributor makes their own cuts at home video format level on purpose or by accident, and then there are times when the term is applied purely for marketing purposes. So, subjective term that “Uncut” is, I was happy to see it ring true in my case. I had no idea how butchered the Australian VHS of THE LAST HORROR FILM was until I saw Troma’s DVD. There’s some pretty heavy gore present, primarily in an aftermath shot, but for this fellah it was a revelation.
Onto the Special Features: There’s the usual assortment of not-directly-relevant Tromatic offerings, which retro slasher fans tend to skip ever since being burned on that GRADUATION DAY DVD. But Troma have come a long way since then in the way they put their DVDs together, and THE LAST HORROR FILM is truly befitting of the Tromapiece Collection banner this and other titles are being released under.
The centerpiece of the fun is My Best Maniac: An afternoon with Spinell’s best friend, Luke Walter. It’s a sobering account of Spinell’s association with THE LAST HORROR FILM and life in general. It breaks the fourth wall at one point, an instance I wasn’t a fan of but realize it was needed to accurately portray the man and the myth. There’s also an Audio Commentary by Walter, moderated by Evan Husney which I must admit, I’ve only combed 1/3rd of so far – my preference is to rip feature length ACs to CD and listen to them on my long and frequent road rides. An Interview with Maniac director William Lustig – now we’re cooking with gas (or whatever you cook with, I’m a microwave guy). Additional information from the MANIAC director further solidifies the linkage between the two films and illuminates more Spinell and BTS background detail. The Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman perhaps is strangely apt, unintentionally drawing parallels between the manic veneers of Lloyd and Spinell. Rounding out the package are the Original theatrical trailer and TV spots which are boilerplate extras, but essential archival materials.
It’s hard to call this a Special Feature as I’d gladly have paid for it on its own disc – Buddy Giovinazzo’s short rarely-seen short, MR. ROBBIE, a.k.a. MANIAC 2, starring Spinell is a holy grail to slasher fans which was once easily accessed until the MANIAC Laserdisc and later DVD it was on went out of print for the longest time. Now it’s back in mass production and also on Troma’s COMBAT SHOCK disc for good measure (due to that film being directed by Buddy G), so this footage isn’t going to vanish anytime soon. I only have the Elite Laserdisc for reference, but the copy included here seems longer and more raw, head/tail scratch reels included. This promotional effort reimagines Spinell as a TV Clown who wreaks vengeance upon the parents of abused children. The only seeming link with the original MANIAC is that, well, Spinell is his usual huffing, sweaty, intense self in the footage. And that is all the sequel would have needed to work – Spinell himself. A pivotal point the inevitable remake of MANIAC will lose on before it even begins.