(US - 1971)
Directed by Dennis Hopper. Written by Stewart Stern. Cast: Dennis Hopper, Julie Adams, Daniel Ades, Stella Garcia, Don Gordon, Tomas Milian, John Alderman, Michael Anderson, Jr., Donna Baccala, Toni Basil, Rod Cameron, Severn Darden, Roy Engel, Warren Finnerty, Peter Fonda, Fritz Ford, Samuel Fuller, Henry Jaglom, Clint Kimbrough, Kris Kristofferson, John Phillip Law, Ted Markland, Sylvia Miles, Jim Mitchum, Michelle Phillips, Dean Stockwell, Russ Tamblyn, Chuck Bail, Tom Baker, Michael Greene, Toni Stern. (R, 108 mins)
The kind of film that can only result from everyone involved tripping balls, 1971's THE LAST MOVIE almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy for Dennis Hopper, completely quashing the momentum he had going from 1969's landmark EASY RIDER and effectively killing his career for the better part of the next decade and a half. Sure, there were high points during that time--Wim Wenders' THE AMERICAN FRIEND in 1977, Francis Ford Coppola's APOCALYPSE NOW in 1979, and OUT OF THE BLUE in 1980, a low-budget film Hopper was co-starring in and took over directing early in production--but THE LAST MOVIE began a downward personal and professional spiral for Hopper, who would continue to be mired in alcoholism and substance abuse and would soon be working almost exclusively in low-budget European productions after being deemed an unemployable pariah in Hollywood. Hopper would occasionally find work in a bonkers cult movie like the 1976 Australian adventure saga MAD DOG MORGAN, or he'd temporarily behave himself enough to get a respectable gig like Coppola's RUMBLE FISH or Sam Peckinpah's final film THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND (both 1983), but much of his work from these lost years (BLOODBATH, REBORN, LET IT ROCK) has fallen into obscurity or was never even released in the US. He hit bottom when he was fired from the trashy 1984 West German/Mexican-produced fashion models-in-prison potboiler JUNGLE WARRIORS when, coked out of his mind in Mexico, he wandered naked into a village 20 miles from the set, ranting about people trying to kill him, and was promptly put by the producers on a flight back to Los Angeles, where he had to be restrained after freaking out and trying to open the plane's emergency exit. It was his meltdown on JUNGLE WARRIORS that finally served as a wake-up call to Hopper to get his shit together and get clean and sober, and within a couple of years, he was the Comeback Kid with the likes of BLUE VELVET and HOOSIERS, finally exorcising his demons and shaking the career self-immolation that began 15 years earlier with THE LAST MOVIE.
critics, and it was soon yanked from distribution, never coming close to the zeitgeist-capturing success of EASY RIDER. Without Hopper's involvement, THE LAST MOVIE was re-released on the drive-in circuit a few years later in a shortened, recut version rechristened CHINCHERO (which was actually Hopper's original title), but beyond that, it was extremely difficult to see for many years, even with a 1989 VHS release from the exploitation outfit United American Video, likely to capitalize on Hopper's major career resurgence in the late '80s and into the 1990s.
|Dennis Hopper (1936-2010)|
"Me and Bobby McGee"). THE LAST MOVIE is an insufferable mess, though it does have historical value as a document of its era and perhaps as "New Hollywood" taking a wrong turn prior to the age of the blockbuster ushered in by JAWS in 1975. It's certainly required viewing for fans of Dennis Hopper, but mileage may vary. It's either a hellraising artist's ultimate masterpiece and a defiant "Fuck you!" to the industry or a textbook example of the dangers of being handed too much money and too much freedom when your ego's running amok and you're high AF. In the years after he was in rehab, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler often quipped that in their hedonistic heyday, the band "probably snorted up all of Peru." Well, yeah, perhaps...or at least whatever was left after Dennis Hopper and his cast and crew were finished with THE LAST MOVIE.