Sunday, October 23

Some quick thoughts on Last Flight to Hell (L'ultimo volo all'inferno) (1990)

TDK's full frame Japanese VHS entitled "REGAIN"
Reb Brown stars as a combat-ready DEA agent contracted to capture a high-ranking druglord (Mike Monty) running narcotics through the green inferno of the Philippines. Even before the mission can commence, the wanted man is taken hostage by a rival Chinese group, which prompts his daughter (Michele Dehne) to start her own rescue. All the while, the man overseeing Reb's task (Chuck Connors) might be working both ends toward the middle as other shaky alliances are formed...

The career of the embodiment of one of those Chinese knock-off action figures, Reb Brown, can be likened to the fast fall of heavy metal's mainstream prominence to grunge in the early '90s. Starting out in the '70s, the actor received steady work throughout two decades only for the bottom to fall out of his specific niche almost immediately after the dawn of the '90s. Either by this factor or perhaps by choice, Last Flight to Hell marked his last leading role before stumbling around in a handful of minor work before running cold for over a decade after 1998. David A. Prior's next upcoming masterpiece, Night Claws, marks his long belated return. (see Dread Central article here)

The sedate atmosphere of this jungle hut exploder is perfectly reflective of this sea change. Everything is unusually quiet with the meager dollops of gunfire, brawling, and a few of the aforementioned huts blowing up into giant balls of light just barely acting to propel interest. Even the usually excitable and likeable Brown seems tired of this shit while mostly mumbling through the role. He's still in good shape looking the character and as evident in the previous year's Cage with Lou Ferrigno, his acting is fairly decent for the admittedly dumb material. But as his screen presence has improved, much of the unintentional hilarity that cake the walls of Strike Commando (1987), Space Mutiny (1988), and Robowar (1989) is significantly dampened. There are scant laughs to be had but they aren't coming from good ol' Reb.

Surprisingly Chuck Connors, just two years before his passing, is always and obviously 100% game. With his chiseled visage holding up and hair perfectly coiffed, the best way to describe his presence can be summed up in a comment on the trailer on YouTube, "Chuck Connors acts the shit outta that shit." The veteran never sees any action sequences, but like a pro never once seems above spitting out his trite lines with unexpected zeal. Mike Monty, who seemed to make an '80s dayjob out of jumping between every Italian/Filipino production imaginable, cashes his check and is naturally dependable. Another Bruno Mattei vet, David Brass, gets more than a walk-on as a member of Brown's extraction team.

The action (to the recycled tune of Strike Commando's music) is where you find it with a few gunfights, remote hut denotations, venomous viper stand-offs, and Brown making teeth find stomachs through force. Instead of his patented scream n' spray, Brown uses almost entirely controlled machine gun bursts with zero vocalization. The only time that he breaks out the rebel yell is in the climax and is immediately shot in the guts. Almost as if that little touch acts as a (probably) unintentional rejection of Brown's God-like panache for surviving even the most intense onslaughts untouched in prior features. Last Flight to Hell begins and ends on a whimper much like its star's career and the bygone industry that produced it. Still, I can't say I wasn't entertained despite my sides not hurting from laughter afterward.

(trailer uploaded by fellow awesome tapehead blog, The Scandy Factory)


J. Astro said...

This post is a bit of a wake-up call, reminding me that I don't watch nearly enough Reb Brown movies.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the plug, Jayson! And thanks for tipping me off to Night Claws. I am such a rabid David and Ted Prior fanboy, and this makes me excited.

Anonymous said...

I met Reb Brown in person a week ago. He is one of the coolest people I've ever met. I asked him about his "rebel yell", and he said "Yeah, that yell of mine. That's pretty epic, huh?" LOL. He was really great and we talked for quite awhile.

Anonymous said...

I was in some movies with Reb Brown and he was always a real class guy for sure. Strike Commando, Last FLight to Hell and one or two more.David Brass you dare tread upon the staircase?

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