Between the 31 days of horror and Weekend Of The Dead countdowns this blog seems to have become a wee bit horror-centric at the moment so thought I'd revisit a decidedly non-spooky movie as way of a change.
L’Ultimo cacciatore (AKA The Last Hunter, Hunter of the Apocalypse. 1980).
Dir. Antonio Margheriti
Cast: David Warbeck, Tisa Farrow, Tony King, Sir Bobby of Rhodes, John Steiner, some Chinamen and Margit Evelyn Newton.
The time: 1973, the place: a wee drinking club somewhere in downtown Saigon where the suave and sweaty Colonel Morris Minor (horror god and almost Bond, the late great Dame David Warbeck) has decided to spend his day off.
Enjoying warm booze and watching a bored Vietnamese whore trying to dance in an erotic manner (and failing miserably, poor cow) our heroes lazy day is rudely interrupted by his young male 'friend' Steve's sudden emotional breakdown.
Don't you hate it when that happens?
Steve, it seems, is rapidly approaching the tearful wank based Pot Noodle stage due in part to his missis leaving him but mainly because the scarily skinny prostitute lying across his bare chest is obsessed with stroking his hairy man breasts.
We've all been there.
After resigning himself to the fact that it's gonna be his job to clean up all the sweat, egg, semen and blood stains later whilst poor Steve dribbles in a ditch, you can imagine Morris' surprise when his forlorn pal suddenly sobers up and shoots some random GI in the face before offing himself.
And if that wasn't enough to ruin our heroes Saturday night somebody then decides to firebomb the club.
War it seems, is indeed hell.
Luckily for us (and for the film in general) Morris quickly legs it before the whole place goes up in cheap gin and piss soaked flames, watching in horror (or with mild apathy, I couldn't really tell) as everyone else is burnt to death.
(tho' he'd probably not give you a choice).
There's no time for tears tho' because the top brass are sending Morris behind enemy lines.
As opposed to forcing him into the enemies mouth.
And his mission?
Jump out of- what looks like the BBC outside broadcast - helicopter into a small duck pond and meet up with the hard as nails 'Bastard Squad'.
This crack commando team, led by the badass Sgt. George Washington (king, from Cannibal Apocalypse and The Atlantis Interceptors) and his pal Carlos Santana (the legendary Rhodes) have orders to quietly traipse thru' the directors garden in order to 'silence' (they may mean blow up) a radio tower broadcasting evil propaganda messages telling the American soldiers to go home.
And it seems that they need Morris to join them as he once worked for Radio 2 as a continuity announcer or something.
So far so Apocalypse Now.
Throwing himself out of the plane and narrowly avoiding a rubber snake (or was that a real snake and a rubber Warbeck?) upon landing, Morris manages to find Washington and company without a hitch only to discover that they're dragging top lady reporter Jane Foster (Farrow, the slightly sleazier - not to say considerably more ginger sister of Mia) around with them for no other reason than that she must have been shooting another film nearby at the same time.
Which is fair enough I guess but does make you keep wondering when the zombies are going to attack.
Taking time to go the scenic route (and fill out the movie's length) our motley crew come across a small village populated by tiny, machine gun wielding Vietnamese woman with a nice line in exploding babies to shoot at.
Unfortunately Washington is wounded in the ensuing firefight meaning our heroes have to retreat into the jungle or face getting beaten by girls.
Cue twenty odd minutes of rotting corpses falling from trees, Tisa Farrow's sweaty nipples becoming more and more visible thru' her vest top and various members of the team getting pinned to trees by big spiky booby traps.
But alas still no zombies.
Or even cannibals for that matter.
But this lack of flesh eater action is the least of Warbeck's worries, seeing as the base camp (well base cave really) he has to report to on the final leg of his mission seems to be run by the scary bloke from Sparks (skinny legged Argento regular Steiner) and that all the soldiers under his command are off their tits on drugs.
To show how stoned they actually are - and how the horrors of war can warp a man - the entire camp start rubbing themselves up and wolf whistling when Tisa Farrow turns up.
I'd just like to point out that I'm in no way saying she's not attractive but she's standing next to a wet David Warbeck clad only in a vest and too tight combats.
And that's enough to turn anyones head.
Luckily for Tisa, Major Sparks - despite being camp as pants and having little thin rubber legs - is actually a rather nice man and at the first sign of any Donald Trump style behavior from his troops send those responsible pole vaulting behind enemy lines to fetch him a coconut or two.
But this jolly japery can't last forever and it's not too long before the oft-mentioned 'Charlie' (a character we never learn the true identity of) attack the cave system, kidnap Tisa and machine gun everyone inside.
Except for Morris and his buddies obviously.
Escaping to the local boating pond, Carlos is cruelly killed whilst stealing a junk (as opposed to firing it everywhere) whilst Washington clumsily trips over a corpse and snaps his leg in half, giving him and Morris a wee chance to discuss the futility of war and stuff.
After a series of meaningful glances Morris jumps overboard (either to continue his mission or because he can't stand anymore of the incredibly stilted and frighteningly clichéd dialogue), leaving Washington at the mercy of the Viet Cong machine gun nests serendipitously hidden around the next bend.
Which is a bit of a bastardy thing to do if you think about it.
With a look of grim determination (or constipation, it's hard to tell) Morris continues further into the jungle, alone and armed with only a kids spud gun and a sweat mottled pair of man breasts, determined to complete his mission before heading home for tea and crumpets.
Nice as this idea is it soon all goes tits up when he's captured by the ever present Charlie and dumped shoe-less in a rat infested water cage with only a man with a melted cheese face for company.
Can anyone help our hero?
Well Tisa's sitting sipping rice tea in a holiday chalet overlooking the prison (and the rent) so hopefully she'll get up off her fat arse and finally add something to the plot....
But will she be able to waddle down to rescue Morris before the rats begin to nibble on his man bits?
brother in law's been shagging your niece!"
Genre busting genius Antonio (Bed of a Thousand Pleasures, Cannibal Apocalypse, Yor, the Hunter from the Future and Code Name: Wild Geese amongst others) Margheriti's The Last Hunter has everything Apocalypse Now! should have had (including a considerably shorter running time) and much more.
Except zombies unfortunately but you can't have everything.
It's pedigree is second to none featuring as it does star turns from Fulci faves David Warbeck and Tisa Farrow aided and abetted by a top cast of Italian icons including Bobby (Demoni) Rhodes, John (Tenebrae) Steiner and Margit Evelyn (Zombie Creeping Flesh) Newton.
Behind the scenes it has cult composer Franco (everything from Black Demons to music featured on the Death Proof and Ren and Stimpy show soundtracks) Micalizzi's sexy synth sounds and craftily crude special effects from the Philipino Savini himself Apollonio Abadesa.
And although Margheriti's entire career seems to have consisted of making cheap knock offs of bigger, more famous movies the director didn't seem to mind, giving his all and making the most of the motley assortment of the clichéd characters and situations in evidence.
From the hard bitten soldiers to the snatches of inappropriate nudity via scenes of extreme violence, Margheriti also manages to fill the movie with just enough cod "war is hell" speeches to almost convince you that you're actually watching something worthwhile and meaningful as opposed to just sitting eagerly awaiting the next over the top death scene or the chance of a quick look at Tisa Farrow's (admittedly) rather shapely breasts.
And if that doesn't get you salivating then I don't know what will.
Quite possibly THE greatest Vietnam based war movie starring David Warbeck ever made.
And you can't get higher praise than that.