During the Viet Nam War, a cynical army captian is given a top secret mission that takes him up river into the jungle. He is accompanied on this grim journey by a group of disillusioned soldiers who are picked off one by one by a seemingly unstoppable enemy. As the captain nears his target, it becomes more and more obvious that his mission has turned into a battle for his very soul.
If the above sounds like the plot of Apocalypse Now, that's because it is. However, it's also the plot of Antonio Margherti's the Last Hunter and, while Apocalypse Now is definitely the better film of the two, the Last Hunter is a lot shorter and a lot more fun. Antonio Margherti was skilled director who just happened to specialize in ripping off other films. Here, he rips off both the Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now and he does so with enough style and chutzpah that the Last Hunter becomes a rare rip-off that can actually stand on its own as an entertaining movie.
Jettisoning the mythological underpinnings of Apocalypse Now, The Last Hunter instead supplies wall-to-wall action (all of which is very imaginatively staged by Margherti) and enough quirky moments to make this film far more memorable than anyone could have possibly expected. The film's surprisingly dark finale actually carries a bit of a sting with it.
This is, of course, an Italian production from the Golden Age of Italian B-movies and there's a lot here that the dedicated fans of these uniquely warped films will appreciate. The Last Hunter features David Warbeck (of Lucio Fulci's The Beyond and the Black Cat) in the lead and, as always, he gives a strong and likable performance. Tisa Farrow brings the same oddly endearing blankness to her role as a photojournalist that she previously brought to Fulci's Zombi. The great (and unjustly forgotten) Tony King plays a more heroic version of his character from Margherti's earlier Cannibal Apocalypse. (As well, all of Cannibal Apocalypse's Viet Nam War stock footage shows up again in the Last Hunter.) As well, both Bobby Rhodes (from Demons 1 and 2) and John Stiener (from too many films to list) get to chew the scenery in strong supporting roles.
When all is said and done, the Last Hunter is trash. But it's entertaining and enjoyable trash. It's a must see for anyone who truly appreciates Italian exploitation or for anyone who just wants to catch an enjoyable action flick.