Not your typical Last Supper

The Last Supper (1995) focuses on five liberal grad students, rooming together in a big Iowa farmhouse. Smugly proud of their forward-thinking ways, they nonetheless find themselves succumbing to murderous temptations when faced with extreme right-wing thinkers at their dinner table. Funny how those tomato plants in the backyard keep multiplying…

This little-known film pulls together threads of pitch-black comedy and morality puzzlers like in Hitchcock’s Rope. And for such a small-scale film, it boasts quite a number of star cameos, including Bill Paxton, Charles Durning, Mark Harmon, and Ron Perlman. Annabeth Gish was arguably the biggest “name” in the cast at the time the film was released, but it also stars Cameron Diaz and Courtney B. Vance in roles before they hit it big. Alas, the most interesting bits in the film are the opening (and ending) credits, which could illustrate an anthology of Flannery O’Connor‘s most disturbing short stories.


So how does the reel librarian, played by South African actress and award-winning playwright Pamela Gien, end up in this Class III film? Dead, of course, with a knife in her back. Thaaaaat’s gotta hurt.

But let me back up a bit. How does she end up dead? A little over 50 minutes into the film, this (gotta be) single white female finds herself at the head of the table. Although obviously quite young, her conservative dress; minimal, if any, makeup; and nondescript hairstyle age her considerably. Strike one.

Who, me? The ‘Illiterate Librarian’ in The Last Supper

This meek librarian’s mannerisms also convey her inner Puritan; she puts her hand across her chest and also uses it covers her mouth, almost as if to block any direct, or indirect, contact. Strike two.

And then she opens her mouth, speaking in a high-pitched, nervous voice:

Catcher in the Rye is supposed to be art? Thumbelina is art. Catcher in the Rye is just mean-spirited garbage littered with the “F” word.

Strike three!

They all laugh, and Luke (Courtney B. Vance) proclaims, “I’ve heard enough. How about a toast?” (FYI, they’d been killing people with poisoned wine.)

Interrupted by the doorbell, three of the wannabe philosophers leave the room. They come back to find the reel librarian draped over a chair, stabbed in the back. Why? Because she didn’t drink wine. (Of course! Strike four!)

That’s gotta hurt

Although we actually do learn her name throughout the scene, Barbara Mensa, this Comic Relief librarian gets credited as “The Illiterate Librarian.” And she continues to inspire controversy after her demise.

Marc (Jonathan Penner): “But look at her. She was just an illiterate. I mean, we’re getting out of hand.”

Paulie (Annabeth Gish): “They’re not people. They’re people who hate.”

Jude (Cameron Diaz):  “What are you talking about? She just had bad taste.”

So there you have it. Fellow librarians, dissing Catcher in the Rye in public can lead to very bad things. I’ll be keeping my own opinions on that controversial classic to myself. 😉


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