Director: Antonio Margheriti (Anthony Dawson)
Dark Sky Films/MPI

Antonio Margheriti (aka Anthony Dawson) never got the respect or admiration of fellow Italian genre directors such as Mario Bava and Riccardo Freda. But Margheriti was unmatched in terms of churning out exploitation and had a great run up until the early 1990s when the low budget film industry in his country began to peter out. No stranger to aping Hollywood blockbusters (Margheriti did so with JAWS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, etc.) his THE LAST HUNTER attempted to cash in on the then current crop of respected, edgy Vietnam War dramas, namely APOCALYPSE NOW and THE DEER HUNTER, the latter which it directly secures its title from.

During Saigon in 1973, rugged Captain Henry Morris (David Warbeck) witnesses his distraught pal shoot another soldier over a misunderstanding in a brothel, inflicting a fatal gunshot to himself soon afterwards. With this tragedy in mind, Captain Henry is unleashed in the jungles of Cambodia with an assignment to reach a Viet Cong radio tower and stop a disk jockey who's making radical statements over the airwaves. Commanding a modest platoon, he befriends a female photojournalist (Tisa Farrow) and encounters one dangerous peril after the other before reaching his destination.

If anything, THE LAST HUNTER proved that Margheriti had a flare for action films, could make creative use of widescreen photography and could make a picture look far more expensive than it actually is. Dardano Sacchetti’s threadbare screenplay follows the same format of APOCALYPSE NOW, but the film’s intent is not to be original, but rather sensational and well-paced. Shot ot location in the Philippines with some interiors in Rome, it boasts some decent battle scenes (lots of explosions!) and isn’t shy about gore and violence, especially when one poor trooper has his guts spilt after being impaled on a deathtrap, or a POW having his body eaten by hungry water rats while caged under a Vietnamese prison boat.

New Zealand born actor David Warbeck became a fixture in Italian exploitation films in the early 1980s, adding his talents to Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND and THE BLACK CAT. Warbeck was a fine actor and despite being re-dubbed here by another voiceover artist using a stereotypical American accent, is well cast in the leading role, giving him the opportunity to prove himself as an action star (Warbeck was rumored to be considered for the role of James Bond during the time when Roger Moore was handed the part). Sadly, Warbeck later became stricken with cancer and passed away in 1997 at the age of 55.

Mia Farrow’s younger and non-famous sister Tisa went to Italy briefly to become a minor cult item for Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE and Joe D'Amato’s ANTROPOPHAGUS (aka THE GRIM REAPER) before disappearing from films altogether to reportedly become a nurse. Cast as African American soldiers are 1970s blaxploitation star Tony King (HELL UP IN HARLEM, BUCKTOWN) and chrome-domed Italian-born Bobby Rhodes, who would later steal the show (and all the choice dialog) in Lamberto Bava’s DEMONS and DEMONS 2. Gaunt British character actor John Steiner (another fixture in Italian exploitation, having appeared in Mario Bava’s SHOCK and Dario Argento’s TENEBRE, among others) has a small part as the eccentric leader of a pot-headed military unit who hold fort in a secret cave (equipped with full bar, pinball machines and an array of nudie magazines). Longtime Margheriti cohort Alan Collins (Luciano Pigozzi) plays a bartender and Margit Evelyn Newton (remember her nude, body-painted strut in NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES/HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD?) has a small part that’s pivotal to the plot.

Dark Sky Films presents THE LAST HUNTER on DVD in a widescreen 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. The opening shots tend to be a little on the grainy side, but once the film get started, the image looks pleasing and stable, with decent colors and nice detail. The mono audio is presented in English only, and even though some of the voices on the dubbing track sound a bit hollow, the sound quality is acceptable. Optional English subtitles are included. The main titles on the print source are presented here in French.

Extras include “Margheriti and The Last Hunter” which is an excellent video interview with the late director’s son, Edoardo Margheriti. The younger Margheriti (who speaks perfect English) takes us in and around the Rome studio where some of THE LAST HUNTER was shot, talks about his relationship with his father and discusses the appearance he made in the film as “Stinker Smith,” an American soldier who suffers the film’s most violent demise. A theatrical trailer and a still gallery are also included. (George R. Reis)