The Last Movie [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Arbelos Films
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (11th December 2018).
The Film

Dennis Hopper, he of the 50-yard stare, Hollywood’s authentic bad boy at the time, was heralded as the next big thing after the success of "Easy Rider" (1969) and Universal Studios gave Hopper a million dollars and final cut and set him loose in the Andes to film his next masterpiece. Hopper spent much of 1970 in Peru stewing in a drug and alcohol daze while shooting endless hours of footage and surrounded by well-wishers and celebrities creating a feverish Jean-Luc Godard influence film that is not so much a movie, but more of a time capsule of a specific moment in time. A sort of Meta movie within a movie.

The film begins with the scenes of an unnamed Western being filmed in the town of Chinchero. We are shown plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and we are introduced to Hopper’s character, a film wrangler named Kansas. The director of the Western is none other than subversive director Samuel Fuller; perhaps this is Hopper’s idea of a joke? Fuller being a stand in for the Hollywood director Henry Hathaway. As the film progresses we are witness to a tragic accident on the set of a stunt man that plunges to his death during the making of the pseudo-film. Is this intrusion of reality onto a fantasy Hoppers way of commenting on the Hollywood system? Possibly, but it is a slight jab because the viewer realizes that this too is a false reality and is still something that was staged for our consumption.

The film is populated by a bevy of stars of various levels, some are unrecognizable but their names are in the credits: Kris Kristofferson, Julie Adams, Stella Garcia, Peter Fonda, Dean Stockwell, Toni Basil, Russ Tamblyn, and Michelle Phillips. Are they actually co-stars or merely cameos? Most of them appear briefly in the earlier mentioned Western or at the large farewell party that was staged after the film is completed. Most of these people were there because of the easy accessibility of drugs and alcohol and to party with the infamous Hopper. All of this is part of the myth that was being assembled during Hopper’s production. What Hopper ended up with was 40 hours of footage and it took him a year to edit this rough footage into what is now entitled "The Last Movie".

Working rather loosely on a screenplay written by Stewart Stern who wrote the classic "Rebel without a Cause" (1955) Hopper created his vision of a film that repeatedly intrudes upon the audience’s false reality with a series of jump cuts, missing scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, and other disruptions in order to call attention to the fact that the viewer is indeed watching a film. While the film meanders around with a plot line concerning Hopper and his friend Neville Robey (Don Gordon) scheming about striking it rich with plans for a gold mining expedition (based upon Robey’s viewing of the John Huston film "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" (1948)), Hopper interweaves a plot regarding the Peruvian natives, armed with pretend camera equipment made from straw, who cannot understand the false violence that they witnessed as they reenact the film that the actors were making. Hopper gets caught up in the near religious frenzy of the natives and he is forced to play the role of the sacrificial lamb, dying repeatedly, over and over again. "The Last Movie" was awarded a special award at the Venice Film Festival in 1971, but Universal was extremely unhappy with the film and it had a limited engagement in New York and Los Angeles before it was seized and locked away in storage.

The end result of all this is filmmaking that is both personal and authentic, but also completely self-serving and egotistical on a large scale. "The Last Movie" would literally become the last film for Hopper for a long time because Hollywood essentially blacklisted him. He states in an interview included with the film that he did a lot of television work during those eight years of banishment and I recall seeing Hopper starring in several notable low budget and European films such as "Mad Dog Morgan" (1976) and "The American Friend" (1977). He directed the understated film "Out of the Blue" in 1980 and then made a full-fledged comeback after becoming sober and drug free when appearing as Frank Booth in David Lynch’s phenomenal "Blue Velvet" (1986). It was literally as if Hopper had returned from the grave with a new found gravitas and he returned to directing with "Colors" in 1988. Hopper went on to star in an entirely new career often portraying psychopathic villains in such films as "Speed" (1994) and the box office disaster that was "Waterworld" (1995). His last film was "Elegy" in 2008 and Hopper passed away on May 29th, 2010.

Dennis Hopper was a true individual that always stayed the course of his philosophy and his art reflects the many elements of tension in his personal life. "The Last Movie" should be regarded not as an unwatchable mess, but more of an interesting art piece that is interested in examining the roles of artifice in motion pictures. The presentation here is probably the best that the film has ever looked due to a fresh 4k restoration form the original camera negative. There are plenty of extras that are included that examine the film and cast in detail and make for an interesting souvenir from the early 70’s. This is not a film for the general audiences, but is tailored for more adventuresome film goers and fans of Hopper and his work.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen in HD 1080p 24/fps mastered using AVC MPEG-4 compression, the cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs is in near perfect condition, making this 1971 film look almost brand new.

Audio

The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is acceptable; the soundtrack features Kris Kristofferson singing "Me and Bobby Magee", and the sound field is clear with no muddled dialogue. English subtitles are encouraged due to the Spanish speaking parts.

Extras

The disc opens up with a Dennis Hopper introduction (1:14).

"Scene Missing" is a new documentary directed by Alex Cox (47:18). Cox weighs in on Hopper’s film career and interviews several cast and crew members.

"Some Kind of Genius" featurette (29:15) is a profile of Dennis Hopper, directed by Paul Joyce. A lengthy interview with Hopper as he speaks about his memories of making the film.

"Postcard from Peru" documentary (31:10) features new video interviews with Andean extra cast members recalling some of the experiences that they had while making the film.

"The Dick Cavett Show" excerpts from 1971 (6:37). Moustachioed and bandana wearing, Hopper speaks semi-coherently about film making.

"Restoration Demo" featurette (2:59) is a clip restoration demo featurette before and after clips demonstrating how the film was cleaned up from its original rough condition.

Original 1971 theatrical trailer (2:03), Original 1971 product reel (1:01), and the U.S. theatrical trailer (2:11) round out the supplements.

A 32-page booklet containing new essays by Julie Adams, Jessica Hundley, and Mike Plante, plus a 1971 Evergreen Review report from the set of the film by L.M. Kit Carson.

Packaging

Comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray case.

Overall

"The Last Movie" is an interesting presentation of a formerly lost film, lovingly presented by Arbelos Films, with a cleaned up digital scan and a 35mm print from 2007 was used to reference the restoration color grade.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


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