Sunday, December 14, 2014

YouTube Finds :: Things Go Boom on Any Given Sunday in the National Commando League :: Fabrizio De Angelis' The Last Match (1991)

After she's framed for smuggling drugs out of the island republic of Midnightxpressistan, Susan Gaylor (Palmisano) sends out an S.O.S. to her dad, Cliff (Tobias), who plays quarterback for the Otisburgh Generics of the National Fauxball League. Naturally, a distraught Cliff exhausts every legal venue to prove her innocence and get his daughter out of prison. But confronted with impudent shoulder-shrugging from the American embassy and mass corruption everywhere else (the police, the prison commandant, even his own defense attorney), no matter how much he monetarily greases the wheels, Cliff only has one option left and it's the craziest audible ever called.

For the first 70 minutes, The Last Match a/k/a L'ultima meta (1991) is a rather tedious Lifetime Original knock-off as the film bides its own sweet time with daddy/daughter/worthless boyfriend melodrama mixed with an oddly sanitized Women in Prison flick to get to the climax that amazing, seemingly too good to be true, poster art promises. And what's truly amazing is how accurate the poster actually is (-- well, except for the blatantly misleading Orange Crush era Denver Bronco uniforms --) in describing the action for the last 25 minutes or so when this thing reaches a whole 'nother level of inspired lunacy.

For you see, with nowhere else left to turn, Cliff calls on his team for help -- and rather blunt help at that. Led by his coach, simply referred to as Coach (Borgnine), several teammates (all ex-servicemen, apparently) arrive, armed to the teeth, with every intention of busting Susan out of prison. And, after a brief training montage (-- a shameless grope at The Dirty Dozen), this commando assault on the heavily fortified prison is executed, wait for it, IN FULL UNIFORM!

E'yup. That's right. As Coach calls the plays from a circling helicopter, a platoon of armed, helmeted, and padded-up football players pull an A-Team by way of Golan 'n' Globus and a New World Filipino shoot-em-up. (Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut!) Filling these roles are several true NFL veterans. (I only recognized Jim Kelly). And all one can do is watch and boggle as this unfolds, with wave after wave of guards being mowed down, 'splosions, and limited peripheral vision, culminating with a grenade being stuffed into a football and then punted into an approaching helicopter which promptly explodes. No. I am not making that up. And what's even more amazing, from the arrest, through Cliff's failed efforts at diplomacy, to the assault, this whole thing takes place between two Sundays! As the post-International incident epilogue finds the whole gang back on the field to win one for the one guy who, quite laughably, didn't make it.

From the brazen hook to the asinine plot wrapped around it, The Last Match really did feel like a Cannon product, especially when considering a cast that's littered with Ernest Borgnine, Martin Balsam (as the corrupt lawyer), Charles Napier (as the worthless ambassador), and Henry Silva (as the lecherous commandant). But, no. This film can be traced to Italy.

I was not real familiar with director Fabrizio De Angelis, but his producing credits are quite impressive, covering everything from body-count flicks, to zombies, to post-apocalyptic barbarian/biker movies. Also adding a lot of genre clout were co-scriptwriters Vincenzo Mannino and Gianfranco Clerici, who worked rather extensively with the likes of Umberto Lenzi, Lucio Fulci and Ruggero Deadoto, with Cannibal Holocaust, The New York Ripper, The House at the Edge of the Park, The Last Shark, and The Beyond written between them. And with that pedigree, you'd think this thing would be a lot less cartoony and a lot more sleazy.

As is, The Last Match runs the gambit of boring to baffling to completely bonkers. And as far as I can tell, though it appears to be shot in English for that market, the film was never released "legally" in the United States. However, there are several gray market options available and last check there was a decent print streaming on YouTube (-- with what appears to be Cantonese subtitles). But as a Public Service Announcement, since I've already given away the set-up, feel free to fast-forward to the raid on the prison because, for once, the poster and video box do not lie. Well, at least for the last twenty or so minutes.

The Last Match (1991) Fulvia Film / EP: Mark Young / P: Fabrizio De Angelis / D: Fabrizio De Angelis / W: Gianfranco Clerici, Vincenzo Mannino / C: Giuseppe Ruzzolini / E: Adriano Tagliavia / M: Guglielmo Arcieri / S: Oliver Tobias, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Napier, Henry Silva, Martin Balsam, Melissa Palmisano

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