Lee Majors Week: The Last Chase (1981)

Editor’s Note: This review originally ran on December 8, 2020, as part of our “Fast and Furious Week Part II” of film reviews. We’re taking a second, tweaked look at the film as part of our tribute to Lee Majors this week.

Damn you, Burt Reynolds! Damn you, Mel Gibson! And damn you, Canadian film industry! For we blame each of you for this utterly dumb collision of Smokey and the Bandit and Mad Max*. And does anyone remember 1979’s Americathon with “Mr. President” John Ritter? And we’ll blame Burt twice because, since this is a cross-country race to a “free zone” in California where there are no vehicular rules, we have a touch of Cannonball Run. What the hell, let’s blame David Carradine, too. For if 1976’s Cannonball had a jet plane, we’d have The Last Chase.

Yes. You heard us right. This is a post-apoc flick about a car vs. a jet plane. For in a petrol-void world, the last chase will not be between a futuristic, Spaghetti Westerneque cop and punk-mohawked warlord: the end shall be waged between a Porsche driven by an ex-bionic man and a fighter jet piloted by an ex-penguin.

Remember Firebird 2015 with Darren McGavin? Well, if you thought that future was FUBAR’d. . . .

Warning: The Logan’s Run-inspired city may not appear in the actual film.

In this futuristic tale that takes place in the year 2011, Lee Majors stars as our faux “The Bandit” and Mickey from Rocky, yes, Burgess Meredith, stars as our defacto “Sheriff Buford T. Justice.” Only the Pengy is a burnt-out, ex-hot shot Air Force pilot assigned to fire up a mothballed fighter jet to chase down Major’s ex-race car driver gas scofflaw. And with cars and motor racing banned, the powers that be use Lee’s mothballed celebrity as a government shill to pitch the “new order” to the oppressed masses.

And I, desperate for entertainment in my youth, went to my town’s little duplex to see this.

Shame on me.

But not shame on Lee Majors, as his Fawcett-Majors Productions was already kaput when this went into production. So the blame for this is squarely on Crown International’s shoulders, as Lee was only an actor for hire. Yes, we speak of the same Crown International whose drive-in oeuvre fell into public domain and has served as grey-marketed home video fodder for years — but has also given us Allegheny County frolicking lads many-a-gleeful Mill Creek 12-Pack Box Sets (Savage Cinema and Explosive Cinema) to enjoy and fill out our personal film catalogs.

It was expected that The Last Chase — courtesy of its sci-fi plot in a post-Star Wars cinema world — would break Lee Majors, finally (and deserving) — unlike his first four films The Norseman, Killer Fish, Steel, and Agency — into a theatrical career. Sadly, as with most of Crown’s films, The Last Chase suffered, not so much from its Rollerballesque story about a man’s quest for individuality in an corporate-run, Gestapo-like police state, but from its ubiquitously, oh so Crown low budget. And let’s not forget that Crown’s other Star Wars bid, Galaxina, was another one of their duds.

In a Devil’s Advocate world: If Lee’s Canadian-made, post-apoc bid had Warner Bros.’ and MGM Studios’ production scope of their respective ’70s apoc-flicks The Omega Man and Soylent Green made with Charlton Heston . . . well, Lee Majors would have had a theatrical career analogous to big Chuck, there’s no doubting that fact. Could you see Lee Majors in James Caan’s role as Jonathan E. in Rollerball? With Lee’s football acumen, I sure can. Somebody, call Stallone and cast Lee in the next The Expendables flick. Or buddy cop him with Bruce Willis.

Sadly, The Last Chase was another Crown International hopeful that tanked at the box office — one that coincided with Lee having to deal with the fact that he was contractually obligated to be on location filming in Canada — while his marriage was failing. And that he had to see Farrah and her new lover, Ryan O’Neill (The Driver), paraded around the tabloids. It’s believed the culmination of the film’s failure and his wife’s affair during filming led to Lee’s decision to return to television — with The Fall Guy — and give up on feature films. For if not for this film, his marriage could have been saved.

Argh! No freebie uploads? What the hell? This is a Crown International Pictures production, after all, and their entire catalog in the public domain. Oh, well. We did find this 3:00 opening credits clip, a trailer, an alternate-extended trailer, and a segment of the first 30-minutes, with Part 2 and Part 3. The Last Chase was originally released on VHS by Vestron Video (now a division of Lions Gate Entertainment), which licensed the film to DVD in May 2011 through Code Red Releasing.

* While we’ve never reviewed Mad Max itself, we certainly reviewed all of its knockoffs with our “Atomic Dust Bin of Apocalyptic Films ” Part 1 and Part 2 round-up featurettes packed with links to all of our reviews. We also discuss the awesome, Porsche 917-Chaparral hybrid from The Last Chase in our “Ten Post-Apocalyptic Vehicles” featurette.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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