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SEARCHING FOR A MOVIE IN DENNIS HOPPER'S 'THE LAST MOVIE'

Dennis Hooper resembling his youngest Rumble Fish son YEAR: 1971
Within Dennis Hopper's infamous post-EASY RIDER flop, THE LAST MOVIE, are several movies with great potential had they been more fleshed-out — or if at least one took center stage...

These include a cowboy picture being filmed in Peru where a stuntman dies, leading Hopper's character, Kansas, also a stuntman, and extra and caterer and acquirer of horses, to deal with the conscious-brooding aftermath...

A psychotic local that, after witnessing the Western being made, films his own makeshift movie with bamboo cameras, actual punches pulled and real gunshots fired without blanks... A melancholy priest dealing with how his small town is altered by the Ugly American production, having come and gone with all its bogus yet influential, shoot-em-up violence... A gold-seeking expedition-plan between Hooper and his scruffy (future OUT OF THE BLUE) sidekick Don Gordon... Or our moping American film-worker falling in love with a beautiful Peruvian prostitute, Maria, played by natural beauty Stella Garcia...

A perfectly unsuited Stella Garcia as Maria
The latter holds the most value since it's the only continuous subplot, and with actual layers...

Which includes a pretty, classy, uptight yet progressive wife and daughter of a broom factory owner: the first awkwardly seduced by Hooper's Kansas in THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON scream queen Julie Adams and TV actress Donna Baccala as this non-linear, documentary-style odyssey goes from the gorgeously green and/or canyon-backed Peru exterior to a grainy night on the town, as an unrefined love triangle ensues: Hopper's lady-friend, Maria, hired her workmate... future COLUMBO victim Poupée Bocar as a bisexual nightclub singer... to entertain the ragtag group. And the following daytime scene involves a seemingly important conversation about Don Gordon's supposed gold mine followed by a quick, unrealized trek to find it — lasting less than most scenes would need to begin...

Director credit Twelve-Minutes into THE LAST MOVIE
Which is the main problem with this extremely problematic LAST MOVIE, an anti-film that has the title appearing twenty-six minutes in as nothing really begins or ends but goes on a continuous forward motion — without the characters gaining insight or qualifying for the audience to take part in their eclectic quests. But during the intentionally distracted psychedelic era, is all this surrealistic piecemeal intentional?

What everything boils down to is Hopper's Kansas in love with a whore who's more real, capable, experienced and tough than he is. Meanwhile, the stunt man's supposedly pivotal death, mentioned in plot-summaries ranging from the back of VHS copies to the new Criterion Blu Ray, means close to nothing. In fact, we only catch one quick moment of his final plummet which, strangely enough, is shown after the movie-within-a-movie has already packed up and gone away...

Title credit Twenty-Six Minutes into THE LAST MOVIE
Before which is a collage of blink-or-miss cameos of Hopper's cinematic cohorts ranging from John Phillip Law to Henry Jaglom to EASY RIDER Captain America himself, Peter Fonda to the b-Western's director played by real life gritty auteur Samuel Fuller...

Meanwhile, Kris Kristofferson provides a disjointed Roman Chorus of sorts, crooning his most famous ballad made famous by Janis Joplin, ME AND BOBBY MCGEE, and the likes of character-actor Severn Darden and lovely hippie chicks Toni Basil and Michelle Phillips glide in and out like in some deranged oasis, especially during nighttime parties where we possibly learn what this deliberately confusing film's really about...

Natural beauty's beauty Donna Baccala
Since Hopper's Kansas is merely a caterer, having to provide alcohol to the cast and crew while brooding outside of both the real and fake films, it could be this LAST MOVIE is Hopper's way of not only being a dissociated artist but playing one in his own disassociated motion picture...

One telling moment has Kansas demonstrating to the insanely-inspired Peruvian "director" how a beaten-up actor should throw a punch instead of continuing to bloody each other up. After which this director/dictator informs Kansas that his picture isn't fake like the Western that Kansas worked on...

Perhaps the askew logic is: Since those bamboo camera's aren't actually filming anything, real life isn't being captured like the kind of trickery... or "game" as the priest calls it... that inspired this local violent mockery. In other words, anything being recorded for posterity is futile and worthless compared to the real thing: just as Maria is more of a real person than Kansas. The problem is that both the actual-fake and fake-fake movies are all being filmed, and have to seem real to the audience. So Hopper's attempt to make a distinction between the two are somewhat futile in the end...

Dennis Hopper in THE LAST MOVIE
Either way, the misplaced yet strangely intriguing bedlam leads to a rushed third act that ultimately implodes upon itself...

Especially in one scene as Hopper sits with the two leading Peruvian/Spanish characters... the priest and the loco-local director... and says, with finality, "To Hell with it!"

Which would occur a few years later when Hopper's frantic hippie photographer in Francis Ford Coppola's APOCALYPSE NOW says the world will end with a whimper, not a bang, followed by "I'm splitting, Jack" before vanishing from the scene, and movie, altogether. But it's one thing for a character to take off, and something else entirely when it's the film's own director...

Toni Basil dances in and out of THE LAST MOVIE Rates: ***
In actuality, this irritated exodus — after Kansas becomes a bloody martyr/captive of the Peruvians violent "passion play" (taking on the same expressive guilt he did concerning Jack Nicholson's EASY RIDER death during the acid trip) — is entirely redundant: Symbolically, Hopper crashes and departs from his own party while drowning with a life-preserver on...

If he had had more fun and action within the chaos instead of so much art-house distraction, we, the viewer, could have shared in that pandemonium as if it were ours as well as the director's. Experiencing a voyeuristic catastrophe that only a genius could make is more of an addictive and bizarre, awkwardly intriguing journey than an insightful or overall effective one. Thankfully, the timeless, legendary and groundbreaking road classic EASY RIDER had an actual destination, which was, within the story, tragically unfulfilled. So maybe, just maybe, THE LAST MOVIE was Hopper's next step after having nowhere left to go.
The gorgeous exterior of Peru under the 4k Restoration Blu Ray
The gorgeous exterior of Peru under the 4k Restoration Blu Ray
The gorgeous exterior of Peru under the 4k Restoration Blu Ray
Peter Fonda in THE LAST MOVIE
Peter Fonda in Dennis Hopper's THE LAST MOVIE
Dennis Hopper rides in THE LAST MOVIE
Samuel Fuller directs the movie movie in THE LAST MOVIE
Dennis Hopper vainly explaining movies to faux director Daniel Ades
Donna Baccula, Julie Adams, Don Gordon and Dennis Hopper in THE LAST MOVIE
Poupée Bocar (with her young female lover) w/ Roy Engel and Julie Adams in THE LAST MOVIE
Stella Garcia in Dennis Hopper's THE LAST MOVIE
Stella Garcia with Dennis Hopper in THE LAST MOVIE
Don Gordon, Poupée Bocar and Roy Engel and Dennis Hopper in THE LAST MOVIE
Well this is basically the treasure hunting scene captured in one shot in THE LAST MOVIE
The hands of the crazy local director and Hopper captured within another guy's film, which is also his film
Poupée Bocar (& Last Movie's Dean Stockwell) from Columbo: Troubled Waters circa Season Four
Donna Baccala on THE MONKEES episode The Monkees at the Circus
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