• Last Embrace



    Released by: N/A
    Released in: 2003
    Director: Jonathan Demme
    Cast: Roy Scheider, Janet Margolin, Christopher Walken, John Glover, Charles Napier, Sam Levene
    Year: 1979
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    The Movie:

    Harry Hannan (Roy Scheider of Jaws) has a mental breakdown when his wife is accidentally shot in a restaurant when a man that he was supposed to be bringing in to the witness protection program and his goons open fire.

    Three months later, when he’s released from the mental hospital, he returns home to find that his apartment has been sublet in his absence to a pretty but eccentric student named Ellie Fabian (Janet Margolin of Annie Hall). Initially he wants her out as soon as possible but when he finds out that the department that he once worked for no longer wants him back (courtesy of a great minor role from Christopher Walken who plays Hannon’s boss) and that someone has targeted him with a cryptic death note written in ancient Hebrew, he finds that he needs Ellie and the two begin to fall in love.

    Ellie introduces him to her ‘friend’, a an eccentric an mentally abusive man named Professor Peabody (John Glover from John Carpenter’s In The Mouth Of Madness), who confirms to him what the local Rabbi already told him – that the note means bad news for Harry. Peabody also lets on that five people before him have received the same note, and that all five have ended up dead under some rather bizarre circumstances.

    Together, Hannon and Ellie set out to solve the mystery and find out who wants Harry dead, and why. But things are so very much not what they seem and Hannon finds out some rather disturbing news about not only his new girlfriend and her involvement in these crimes, but also about his own past.

    Demme proves his ability as a solid director of well-paced thrillers. On par with some of the lesser works from Chabrol and Hitchcock, Last Embrace has some great scenes of tension and suspense that will keep you paying close attention and trying to figure out ‘whodunnit.’ The problem is, if you pay close attention, it’s not too hard to figure that out. It’s still a fun ride getting there though, and the movie is quite entertaining throughout.

    The biggest flaw in the film comes from the way that the love affair between Hannon and Ellie is handled. There are scenes in the film that, to any normal person, would be telltale signs of a very, very bad relationship. That being said, who among us hasn’t done something extremely stupid in ‘the name of love’ at one point in our lives, so maybe it’s justified here, despite feeling a little bit contrived at times.

    Minor guest appearances from Joe Spinell (best know for his sleazy role in William Lustig’s Maniac) as one of the restaurant thugs, Max Wright as a commuter(who we all know and love as Willy Tanner of Alf fame), Mandy Patinkin (from Chicago Hope), also as a commuter, and director Demme himself as a train passenger make the movie a fun ‘Where’s Waldo’ film for movie and television junkies like myself..

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The film is presented in a decent quality anamorphic 1.85.1 transfer. There is some print damage that is evident throughout but most of it is thankfully quite minor and not overly distracting. The worst problem with the transfer is a couple of scenes where the edge enhancement does distract you a little bit from the movie, and a few scenes where there are some odd shimmering effects that are quite noticeable as well. Overall though, it’s a decent looking presentation.

    Last Embrace is presented in its native English language in a decent Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono with removable Spanish subtitles. There is also a Spanish language track available on the disc as well.

    Bios for stars Roy Scheider and Janet Margolin as well as for director Jonathan Demme, which are all in Spanish. A brief photo gallery is also included. There are also some promotional trailers for a few other unrelated films included, as well as menu option that allow you to adjust the subtitles, and of course, the requisite chapter selection options as well.

    The Final Word:

    Last Embrace is a solid, if imperfect, little thriller with some nice stand out set pieces and a solid cast. Demme’s direction is solid and engrossing, performances are pretty decent, and the DVD presentation isn’t half bad.