Jag Mundhra’s Last Call (1991): A Star is Born

The first standout feature from one of erotic thrillerdom’s most fascinating voices is also home to a career-making turn from one of the form’s biggest stars. Matty gives it a gander.

Though not the megabucks smash that Night Eyes (1990) was, producer Ashok Amritraj and director Jag Mundhra’s follow-up to their epoch-making trendsetter is, artistically, the superior erotic thriller. The first of the sorely missed Mundhra’s saucy programmers to truly exhibit all that made him so special, LAST CALL is a deliciously done smorgasbord of the jiggle flick auteur’s quirks and trademarks, from the easygoing pacing and flashes of seductive weirdness; to the droll humour and imaginatively conceived scenes of whamming and banging. Better still is that the film marks the final step in star Shannon Tweed’s metamorphosis from B-movie starlet to the undisputed queen of the erotic thriller’s low budget, straight-to-video wing; an evolution that began with Don Carmody’s The Surrogate (1984) and extended to Nico Mastorakis’ In the Cold of the Night (1990) before it kicked into gear here.

Presented by Mundhra as a fascinating, complicated mix of girl next door, femme fatale, and out and out goddess, Tweed dominates as Cindy: a savvy, multifaceted performance artist who recruits a smitten real estate broker, Paul (William Katt, the Michael Douglas of DTV), into a cheque forging scam in order to avenge her mother’s death. Cindy’s target, you see, is her mother’s slimeball killer, Jason: a despicable businessman-cum-conman played to the skeevy hilt by Puppet Master’s (1989) resident horn-dog, Matt Roe. Naturally, Tweed looks stunning and the heavy-breathing set will be more than satisfied by the generous helpings of flesh on show. However, it’s the intricacies of her performance that elicit Last Call’s richest pleasures: the mischievous twinkle her in eyes during her and Paul’s courtship; the steely pursing of her lips when Cindy’s plan shuttles into action; and the mannered, purposefully histrionic posturing that defines her brief secondary role as Cindy’s mother in the film’s heavily stylised black and white prologue. 

As for the rest of it, Last Call’s engaging (if not entirely airtight) plot is kind of freewheeling, but the film is nicely lensed by Mundhra go-to James Mathers, and Mundhra himself has a ball escalating scripter Steven Iyama’s pleasingly soapy melodramatics — even if the bursts of mean-spirited violence that bookend the story do sit at odds with the film’s generally playful tone. Regardless, Mundhra stages the awestruck Paul’s willing coercion from mild-mannered middleman to black-clad embezzler with vim, and his orchestration of the rumpy-pumpy is really quite something. A romp on a swivel chair and the utterly joyous sight of Katt’s lily-white arse bouncing up and down as he ravishes Tweed on a skylight are blissful reminders of the late Mundhra’s pomp, and the meta credentials of his Fatal Attraction (1987)-tipping elevator tryst are bolstered by the fact that Fatal Attraction’s helmer, Adrian Lynne, would homage Last Call’s use of money as bedding in Lynne’s subsequent skin-bearing drama Indecent Proposal (1993). But it’s Mundhra’s masterful, single take, how-the-hell-did-he-do-it? transition between Cindy and Paul smooching to them passionately humping on the floor of her apartment that stands as one of the most striking moments in the director’s enviable resume. It is, in no uncertain terms, marvelous.

Last Call was released on U.S. video by Paramount on 7th February 1991 in both R-rated and unrated versions, and landed on U.K. shores via Shapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment (SGE) Home Video four months later.

USA ● 1991 ● Erotic Thriller ● 87mins

Shannon Tweed, William Katt, Matt Roe, and Stella Stevens ● Dir. Jag Mundhra Wri. Steven Iyama

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