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Vietnam 1973: The morale of the American troops is incredibly low by
now as it is, and it's not made any better by a propaganda radiostation
telling the American soldiers to lay down their weapons and go home to
their wives, since "we are all brothers". The American
headquarters in Saigon don't like this one bit, blaming the radio
broadcasts (instead of the strains of the jungle war) on the bad morale of
the troops. So they send Captain Morris (David Warbeck) into the jungle to
pick up a small platoon - which surprisingly also includes Jane Foster
(Tisa Farrow), a female reporter - and destroy the radio transmitter.
But on their way, the platoon stumbles over traps and ambushes laid by
the Vietcong every step along the way, and consequently they die like
flies. Finally they make it to an American army camp, inside a large3 cave
system, where they see the madness of the war in full swing: All the
soldiers can't sleep anymore when they hear no gunshots, most of them
smoke marihuana, most of them want/try to rape Jane Foster, and Major Cash
(John Steiner), the commander of the camp seems to be tired of war and
quite mad at the same time (in one scene he sends a soldier out into the
jungle to pick him a coconut as punishment).
Finally, the Vietcong overrun the camp and blow it to Kingdom Come, and
only Cap Morris and two of his soldiers, Wash (Tony King) and Carlos
(Bobby Rhodes) manage to escape, while Jane is captured by the Vietcong.
their way to fulfill their mission, our trio stumbles over a boat of
American deserters - enticed by the aforementioned radio broadcasts of
course -, and get into a shoot-out with them, which kills all the
deserters, but also Wash and Carlso.
Morris is now on his own, but soon
enough he is taken prisoner by the Vietcong, who lock him into a gcage in
the water, where he sees another prisoner eaten up by rats ... then the
rats turn on him. But still, Morris seems to be in luck: Firstly, he is
imprisoned quite close to the transmitter of those bloody radio
broadcasts, and secondly, Jane is kept at the same camp, and she soon can
free herself, then free him.
'Finally, Foster finds the boat from where
the broadcasts are transmitted ... and he finds Carol (MArgit Evelyn
Newton), the woman responsible for the broadcasts and his very own
sister-in-law (her husband, his brother, turned into a nervous wreck by
the horrors of the war, has been seen killing himself at the beginning of
the film). Foster shoots her without hesitation, and he manages to direct
helicopters to the camp for a pick-up and to bomb the camp, but
ultimately, after Jane is tucked away safely in a helicopter, he prefers
to stay behindand die in the camp being blown up, just to escape the
horrors of the war ...
With the success of then pretty recent
films like Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now, war films were
suddenly the thing to do for every producer out for a quick buck, and the
Italian filmindustry - never one not to jump any bandwagon - was quick to
put out a sheer endless string of war and mercenary movies. Most of these
movies, mind you, were pretty bad, underbudgeted and sloppily directed
attempts to milk the (then current) cashcow.
direcor Antonio Margheriti's first war movie, was a cut or two above the
rest, for quzite obvious reasons: Margheriti was probably the best
craftsman the Italian cinema ever had, and he always knew to make his
movies look good, he always knew how to comptetently (if hardly
imaginatively) stage action sequences, and he was very skilled with
special effects and model work, things that come in pretty handy when you
are about to blow up trains, barracks or jungle villages.
Of course, L'Ultimo
Cacciatore lacks the impact and the message of Deer Hunter and Apocalypse
Now and invariably favours explicit gore and sensationalist effects
over thoughtprovoking concepts (though with the scenes in the cavernous
army camp, at least an attempt is made), but at least the film is
diligently made, features many fine setpieces and is not quite as much
insulting to the audience's intelligence as later war and mercenary films
(the second and third part of the Rambo series included).