Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Lorber Studio Classics - LAST EMBRACE on Bluray ""

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kino Lorber Studio Classics - LAST EMBRACE on Bluray

LAST EMBRACE (1979; Jonathan Demme)
It saddens just a little that Jonathan Demme may be remembered in terms of Hitchcock homage for fumbling his remake of CHARADE with THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE. Of course CHARADE itself was not a Hitchcock film (it was directed by Stanley Donen), however the spirit of Hitch and NORTH BY NORTHWEST seem prominently on display there. So much was CHARADE sometimes associated with Hitch that I once almost got into an argument at a bar about it once (pre-imdb). But I digress. The point here is that anyone doubting Demme's ability to make a sharp thriller in the vein of Hitchcock need look no further than his 1979 film LAST EMBRACE. As with Tim Hunter's RIVER'S EDGE (also coming from Kino Lorber Studio Classics on Blu-ray btw), one's tendency is to want to add "The" to the films titles, but alas it is not needed. Anyway, this film is interesting for a number of reasons - first and foremost because it is just a good flick. Secondly it falls in interesting places in the careers of both Roy Scheider and Demme. Scheider was still coasting on the wave of popularity brought to him by the mind blowing success of JAWS in 1975 and Demme made the movie between the quirky HAM radio comedy HANDLE WITH CARE and his masterpiece dramedy MELVIN AND HOWARD. Demme was only a few years out from having kicked off his directing career with Roger Corman with such successes as CAGED HEAT in 1974 and CRAZY MAMA in 1975. By my count, LAST EMBRACE was his third foray into working on a film with a more professional studio environment (he'd done FIGHTING MAD for Fox in 1976 and HANDLE WITH CARE for Paramount in 1977). Outside of his Corman films, Demme's 1970s work has always been tough to see. HANDLE WITH CARE (aka CITIZEN'S BAND) is even a DVD holdout to this day (though it did crop up on Netflix for quite a while at one point).  
Demme apparently made a real effort to make LAST EMBRACE with several specific homages to Hitchcock in mind. From several set pieces that will be familiar to Hitch fans on down to the kind of score that Demme requested of composer Miklos Rosza, the affection for the master of suspense seems to be firmly there on display. I love it. In addition to Hitchcock, Demme also seems to be channeling a bit of the frenetic moving camera and editing flourishes of Scorsese during this period as well.
LAST EMBRACE also slots in nicely with other paranoid thrillers of the era such as THE PARALLAX VIEW, KLUTE, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, THE MARATHON MAN and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. That's another reason it bums me out that it's gotten lost in the shuffle. The seventies was such a fertile time for this kind of movie and all of them deserved to be remembered. LAST EMBRACE is unique though in that I combines the Hitchcockian elements and a more classic film-based approach with that sense of dread and paranoia that was unique to those thrillers and that period. It's a very winning combination for sure and the film is eminently watchable. It's one of those movies you may find yourself putting on late at night only to find to end up getting totally caught up in and staying up past the witching hour to finish. 
One of the highlights of the movie is the depth of the remarkable cast. The faces of actors like Christopher Walken, Joe Spinnell, Mandy Patankin, Max Wright, Charles Napier and David Margulies pepper the film and really make it pop.
Speaking of popping, the transfer here looks excellent and I am always pleased to see a film like this looking as good as nice as this.
Special Features:
-included on this disc is a neat new 11-minute interview with the film's producer Michael Taylor. This is an amazingly welcome supplement for me especially considering how little I've heard about this film over the years. It was very cool to hear the producer talk about many specific things that Demme did as more or less direct homages to Hitchcock. It's clearly a film that befuddles Taylor a bit in terms of why it didn't end up connecting with an audience at the time it came out. I am personally shocked by that as well. Just shows that even really good films can fall through the cracks and disappear if circumstances don't allow for them to find their way. In some alternate dimension, LAST EMBRACE is a much beloved 70s classic as it deserves to be.

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