It’s been thirty years since The Last Motel was first released, and as I sit here writing this, no known print of this Australian horror film exists. I have yet to find another copy of it on video (the old ex-rental VHS I found in the bargain bin of an independent video store many years ago – which I used to write the first edition of the book – has long since deteriorated). Which is a shame, because this low-budget horror flick deserves to be seen.
The Last Motel was a minor success upon in its release in 1981. While it wasn't successful critically, the film was popular among underground horror fans – especially in parts of Europe (where it was known as Scary Motel in the Mountain), South America and the U.S. But not even that cult success could save the movie. Due to its realistic depiction of violence and liberal nudity, The Last Motel was lumped in with the other video nasties of the mid-eighties, and was subsequently banned in the UK, parts of America and in its home country of Australia. As a result, the film fell out of favour, and eventually into obscurity, where it lies today, all but forgotten except for a few die-hard horror fans.
Disappointingly – particularly for American writer/director, Bruce ‘Butch’ Callaghan – the film was marketed as a slasher flick upon its release, which didn't help the overall negativity towards the film. Due to his unhappy experience with the marketing and subsequent censorship of the film, Butch retired from filmmaking, disillusioned, and moved to a small town in Northern Victoria, where he lived a hermit’s life until his death in October of 2009.
I was fortunate enough to know Butch during the last eight years of his life - to call him my friend. Butch was still bitter about the whole Last Motel experience; he felt the movie all but ruined his career. I assured him it was a great film, that it deserved to be seen again but he wanted nothing to do with it. He didn’t want me to search for any prints; at least, not while he was alive. But as I felt the story was too good not to be out there, and because it seemed the movie was lost forever, I figured a book would be the next best thing. So, with Butch’s OK, I wrote a novel based on the movie. However, since Butch was adamant there was to be no mention of the film, the book was marketed as an original novel (apologies to all the readers who were unaware of the novel’s origins). Still, I had an ulterior motive for writing and publishing The Last Motel – I hoped that by its very existence, somebody familiar with the movie would come forward with a print. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen (although someone from Brazil did hear about the book and sent me a copy of an old horror movie which contained the trailer. Butch also allowed me to have everything that was stored in an old box of his (one he hadn’t opened for over twenty years), which included some old posters, portions of the script, production photos and the original soundtrack.
Now that Butch is gone, I’ve decided to come clean, with the help of Australian independent publisher LegumeMan Books, celebrate what little is left of this movie. At the same time, we hope that someone, somewhere, will see this web site and come forward with a print of the movie..
The Last Motel is an intense, brutal movie, on par with classics such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes and the original Friday the 13th. It deserves to be seen, it needs to be seen, and I hope that one day you’ll all have the pleasure of seeing this lost classic of horror cinema. Until then, LegumeMan's re-release of my book, as the tie-in novelisation I've always intended, can be enjoyed by all.
I hope your stay at The Last Motel is a pleasant one.
- Brett McBean (June 2011)