The Last House on the Left (1972)
Director: Wes Craven
Fred J. Lincoln/Weasel
Mari (Cassel) and Phyllis (Grantham) are going to the big city to smoke some of that sweet ganga and dance to a band named "Bloodlust". But when they have a run in with Krug (Hess) and his motley crew, the plans change from girls night out to a little bit of kidnapping, torture, rape and murder. What are Mari’s parents gonna say?
Loosely based on Ingmar Bergman’s "Virgin Spring" this is a tough movie to sit through. Watching the extensive torture and rape of two happy go lucky teen girls is not my idea of fun times but I cannot ignore the film’s power, rawness and its guts. It shows the flip side of the 70’s. In a time where flower power ruled, this film was a slap in the face to all hippies and their "cause". Lets face it, the 70’s were not all about the love, it was also about Charles Manson. This sour drink reflects that dark corner of the era to a T.
This was Wes Craven’s first film and we definitely get a glimpse of things to come. I was surprised to see that Last House had Elm Street elements in it. Be it the dream sequences or a practically identical scene of home booby trap setting (just like the scene when Nancy booby traps her home in the first Nightmare). This film was shot guerilla style, no story boards, just a 16 millimeter camera and a pair of balls. Most of the actors are dead on and the violence is very real and brutal. The movie’s weaknesses lie in the attempt at comic relief via two bumbling cops (one of them is Martin Kove the evil karate teacher in Karate Kid) who are very unfunny and the performances given by the two actors that play Mari’s parents (the expression "lazy performance" is redefined by these two sleepwalking thespians).
But on a whole this film is very effective and accomplishes what it sets out to do: disturb the shite out of you. If it wouldn't have been for the atrocious performances by the two pseudo parents that took me out of the film at times, I would've gotten my ass kicked my just how real everything feels. Thank god for those two stinky actors, they gave me some down time and the chance to keep repeating to myself: "its only a movie, Its only a movie, Its only a movie. Pass that joint…
Lots of "karo" syrup, lots of sickening suggestions, lots of rape and a blow job scene that almost made me give up on head jobs. I said almost.
Sandra Cassel (Mari) goes through hell in this one. She reaches high levels of hysteria and fear. I hope it was worth it cause I wouldn’t be surprised if therapy was needed after this shoot. Gutsy performance. Lucy Grantham (Phyllis) doesn’t go the same way Cassel goes. For a girl stripped naked and raped repeatedly she’s pretty calm about it all. David Hess (Krug) is amazing as the murderous leader. His calmness is extremely scary and the fact that he’s also handsome in a rugged way adds to that scariness. A part like that usually have actors overacting their little butts off, but Hess gives a controlled performance, very effective…brrrr. Fred J Lincoln (Weasel) is perfect casting, he looks like a weasel, a charming one at that. Love that jackknife bud. Jeramie Rain (Sadie) plays the dickish killer perfectly and Marc Sheffer is excellent as Junior, the heroin addicted youth.
T & A
Some breast action and frontal stuff but I assure you, there’s nothing pleasant about the nudity in this film.
Point and shoot with the occasional crazy camera angle. Technically the film is clumsy, the lighting is sometime very crude, the voice dubbing is very obvious. I’m also a bit surprised at the lack of suspense considering the subject matter. There’s one chase scene that’s a bit overlong and some of the editing is a bit off but in a weird way all those imperfections help the movie…you somewhat forget it’s a film you're watching.
The music is great. It amplifies the dreadful mood of the film and is composed by David Hess (Krug). I especially loved the song "The Road Leads To Nowhere".
Distributor: MGM Home Video
DVD Release Date: August 27, 2002
IMAGE: This dual sided disk gives us the option of watching the film in "standard" mode or "Widescreen 16x9 ratio" The image is cleaned up and as sharp as it can be considering when the film was shot.
SOUND: The sound is in English MONO and again its as clear as it can be taking into account when and how cheaply the film was shot. I have no complaints.
Introduction by Wes Craven (~ 1 minute): Here we get an into by Mr. Craven stating that this version is the most complete cut of the film. Nice little touch.
Commentary By Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham (feature length): This very entertaining commentary with Wes and Sean gives us info on everything, from the locations, the actors, the improvs, the murders, the film's themes, the original shooting titles, trivia behind specific scenes and more! They're is some minor dead time but when the boys are on, they are on. An overall humorous and informative commentary.
"It's only a movie" Featurette (~ 28 minutes): This slick featurette has Sean and Wes come in to explain how they met, how he script came to be, the feedback from outside readers and their own thoughts on the film. Some cast members also come in to give in their two cents on the film and how they got their respective parts. Martin Kove even shows up to explain how he hooked up David Hess! We also get some info on the complications that arose during the shoot, how they got the house, how the title was found, how the effects were done and the reactions to the first screenings. Now THIS is a complete featurette.
Outtakes and Dailies (~ 14 minutes): We get lots of outtakes from the film but unfortunately there's no sound (the sound tracks were lost). They're still somewhat interesting to look at but the lack of sound took away from them. Better than nothing I guess.
Forbidden Footage (~ 8 minutes): Wes and cie comes in a to give us insight on the pissing scene ( the actress is pissing for real), the dick chewing off scene and a few other bits. Although interesting to watch, they spent too much time TALKING about the footage, opposed to showing it. Still a kool extra though.
We also get the film's 70's groovy Theatrical Trailer. It's only a movie, only a movie, only a movie, only a movie....
Overall this is a pretty solid DVD that any fan of the film should own. Thank you MGM for giving this "black sheep" of horror cinema its just dues.
This is not a date flick nor is it an amusing ride. But if you’re in the mood for a unapologetic look at how violent our society can be, to see where Wes Craven came into the scene or just to be shocked off your rocker…this ones up your horror alley. The comic relief blows and the actors playing the parents don't even bother acting but that doesn’t stop the film from getting it’s point across. Compare films to alcohol. Scream would be a "rum and coke" Last House On The Left would be ten scotches…straight up. Let the drinking begin.
This movie had many titles: Grim Company-Krug and Company-Night Of Vengeance and Sex Crime Of The Century.
Martin Kove was living with Hess’s sister and he recommended that Hess try out for the part of Krug.
The actors that play Mari’s parents were soap opera actors (it showed).
The girl in the chicken truck (Ada Washington) was Sean Cunningham’s family maid. The kid that gets his balloon popped by Krug’s cigar is Wes Craven’s son.
Fred Lincoln (Weasel) was an adult movie actor and was also a stuntman on "The French Connection".
The "piss your pants" scene was an improv by Hess.
David Hess got into the part so much that the girls were afraid of him even off set. They wouldn’t be able to rehearse with him.