on March 31, 2009
I too was curious about this release. What was different in this release vs. the 2-sided DVD released by MGM in 2002 and now out of print? I have both and they are different. The 2002 release was a 2-sided DVD, one side was standard, the other side was widescreen with some extras on both side. The 2002 version has about a 15 minute version of outtakes and dailies with no sound. In here we see lots of outtakes from the horrible murder of Phyllis. Lots of fake looking footage of Sadie caressing Phyllis' innards, something only glimpsed for a second or two in the movie. Nasty stuff for sure. Also on the 2002 release is a featurette "Forbidden Footage". Its about 10 minutes long and consists mostly of Wes and Sean discussing how prints of the movie came back all chopped up from irate theater owners and religious folk who were horrified by some of the footage.
This new 1-sided 2009 release has a much better documentary titled "Celluloid Crime of the Century" that was produced in 2002 in the UK and runs about 40 minutes. Jeramie Rain (Sadie) looks fabulous in her fifties and it contains interviews with Wes, Sean, David Hess, Fred Lincoln and Marc Sheffler (you'd never recognize him) but the poor girls are not included. The outtakes and dailies from the 2002 version are not on this DVD and neither is "Forbidden Footage". But there is new footage never seen before that also has no sound. There is a lot of nudity in this footage from the scenes where Mari and Phyllis are forced to make it with each other in the woods and it also contains (soft-core) scenes of Sadie performing oral sex on Mari. (Are they selling this at Wal Mart??) There is also an extra scene of the parents finding Mari alive by the lake, kind of like what they did in the remake. There are a couple of other extras too: some short film made by Wes which I haven't yet watched and another chat with Wes that must have been made recently because he discusses the new remake and how he came to produce it. He really liked the new remake, more than I could say. IMHO, the new one isn't nearly as sick and disgusting as the original.
So the difference is in the extras. The movie appears to be the exact same version on both.
on October 1, 2001
This is one of those films that are difficult to explain or defend. While the film actually is based on The Virgin Spring (as opposed to Roger Corman's liberal use of Egdar Allan Poe's legacy to try to give a hint of art to his Vincent Price films in the early '60s) and Wes Craven's stated intentions about making a comment on the state of American society at the time do seem to be sincere, its still a hard film to really recommend. Basically, two teenage girls from the middle class are kidnapped, raped, and brutally murdered by a pack of degenerates who are then just as brutally and sadistically murdered by the girl's family. What set the film apart is the extreme (and close-to-realistic) nature of the gore and violence involved. People literally have gotten sick while watching this film and for good reason. I saw an edited version and still found it hard to take. As well, Craven makes it clear that the criminals and the avenging parents are pretty much only distinguishable by their social class. The parents, by the end of the film, take the same sadistic pleasure in their revenge that their victims took in their original crime. Its a grim message and not an extremely pleasant one. It also might be a lot more truthful than a lot of people want to admit. Still, I can't really recommend this film for that message. To get to it, you have to sit through some really repugnant, sadistic stuff and its hard to say that Craven's artistic intent can really be used as justification. (I guess the main problem is that I got the feeling that the filmmakers were basically getting off on the same violence they claimed to be condemning.) This is the type of film that everyone will have to make up their own minds on. So, in the end, a film that painfully betrays its low budget but manages to carry a very disturbing power to it and claims to, at least, contain a message that is still relavent. Not for anyone with a weak stomach but if you're a fan of gore films, (I'm not but I won't condemn anyone who is -- sometimes excess and shock has an understandable appeal) Last House is kind of required viewing. It doesn't really work as a horror film (I was never really scared as much as disturbed) but it does have a primitive, very raw power. Whether to see it is your own decision. I don't regret having watched it but at the same time, its not something I ever want to sit through again.
It's not so much the scenes of horrific violence in themselves that make one wince here (after all, presumably one has signed on for a hardcore violent thriller when ponying up to rent or buy this infamous title), but it's the frequent juxtaposition of disturbing violence with slapstick comedy that is the really unsettling thing. It's really strange, for example, to see a violent rape & assault immediately followed by a scene of two cops having to hitch a ride on a chicken truck, and (as if that weren't enough) a few seconds later watch the cops fall off the truck when it stops too fast. Very weird. Also, the curious among you should be aware that this film isn't nearly as polished or professional looking as the slick box art might lead you to believe. In other words, if you have no tolerance or appreciation for on-the-fly, low-budget guerilla film-making, avoid this at all costs. I DO have a certain affection for this type of film-making, and even I said "whoa, what were they thinking??" and "Wow, that's really cheap looking (or sounding)" several times during the course of this. Ultimately, however, I have to say that the movie is worth a look, but it's probably worth a look more because it's an interesting bit of movie history than because it's actually a good movie.
on August 4, 2000
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is Wes Craven's startling debut as a no holds barred horror director. Unflinching in its depiction of torture, rape, and humiliation it can still make audiences gasp almost thirty years after its initial release. This tale of two young girls on their way to a concert and their misfortunate run in with four dangerous fugitives is essential viewing for any fan of the Horror genre. What really disturbed me in this film is the way the four villains had so much fun in demeaning and then killing the two girls. And how very close help was... Little Craven-esque quirks tended to pop up (such as a sudden shift from extreme violence to a scene of almost slapstick humor) that will remind viewers of the Elm Street and Scream series. As well as one of the killers names being "Krug" add an "er" and well, you figure it out. Keep a look out for the mother's scene of revenge down by the lake, that alone is worth the price of admission. Truly deserving of "cult" status!
Many horror fans consider "The Last House on the Left" a major cult classic, a movie that changed forever the very conceptions of the genre. Made in the early 1970s on a shoestring budget, the movie boasts several memorable performances, gritty urban set pieces contrasted with scenes shot in peaceful woods, gruesome violence, and teeth gritting psychological torture. If praise for "The Last House on the Left" rested solely upon these merits, the movie would differ very little from other cult classic shock-o-ramas like "I Spit on Your Grave," or "The Hills Have Eyes." What makes the film a cut above the rest, if you can say that without groaning, are the filmmakers involved in the project. None other than Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham wrote and lensed this motion picture. Craven, as even non-horror fans know, went on to worldwide success with the "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream" franchises. Cunningham, less known outside the world of slasher cinema, was the guiding light behind the first (and best) "Friday the 13th" film. "The Last House on the Left" was the first real project for both men. The movie made a killing at the box office in the days when filmmakers could still distribute films to small theater chains.
The plot is ghastly in its simplicity. Two attractive young girls, Mari and Phyllis, plan on heading into the city to have some fun. Once there, they unfortunately approach an escaped convict in order to procure some drugs. The guy, some wild haired loony heroin addict referred to as Junior, sweet talks the girls up to an apartment where his compatriots are hiding. These escapees are desperate people--there's the leader of the gang, the sadistic thug Krug Stillo (David Hess), the razor thin psycho Fred "The Weasel" Podowski, and Sadie, the gang's moll. All four of these outcasts are fugitives from the law, but cannot help planning further egregious crimes when they catch sight of the two girls. They end up driving the hapless gals out into the woods where the gang proceeds to mentally and physically torture them. It's not necessary to go into specifics about the horrible deeds perpetrated on these two nice looking young ladies except to say it's pretty horrible. Craven and Cunningham even show some of the more objectionable scenes up close in vivid color (and outtakes on the disc provide an even closer view of the general nastiness). What is of interest takes place after the gang disposes of their victims. You see, Mari's parents just happen to live on the edge of these very woods, and a very interesting exchange occurs when the gang happens to turn up on their victim's doorstep looking for shelter.
Mari's parents have been worried sick about their missing daughter. Since they are decent, upright citizens, they call in the local police (one of the cops played by Martin Kove, by the way) and file a missing persons report. Still, no Mari. When their daughter's killers show up posing as traveling salesmen, these decent folks invite them right in. They even feed the quartet of goons and offer to put them up for the night. Well, one thing leads to another, and it isn't too long before Mari's parents figure out these people bear the responsibility for their daughter's disappearance. Since they can't reach the bumbling cops, Mom and Dad decide to take matters into their own hands. The two sneak about the house setting up elaborate traps to ensnare the unwary murderers, things like setting up trip wires and slicking up the hallway floor with shaving cream. Mom takes an extra step I would rather not talk about on a public forum, but you get the general idea. The trap springs, chaos ensues, and several brutal murders take place as Mari's parents make the killers reap the whirlwind. And that, my friends, is a brief, highly censored summary of "The Last House on the Left."
Does the film deserve its cult status? Are Craven and Cunningham worthy of the accolades heaped on this movie? Yes and no. Yes, the film does work well in achieving a sort of sleazy atmosphere through extreme violence and an over the top, menacing performance from Hess. However, I think the negatives outweigh the positives. First, the background music is wildly inappropriate for the film, with its twangy guitar and saccharine sweet lyrics. Second, the pacing drags horribly in spots, especially during the extended chase scenes between the gang and the two teenagers in the forest. Third, the entire subplot concerning the blundering cops feels wrong. The movie constantly cuts away from the unfolding nightmare to show the sheriff and his deputy running out of gas on the highway or trying to hitch a ride on a truck loaded with chickens. The movie plays these scenes for humor and it just doesn't fit; it's like putting Three Stooges' footage in a documentary about ethnic cleansing.
The DVD comes with a ton of extras, including a commentary from Craven and Cunningham, interviews with cast and crew, trailers, stills, outtakes, a widescreen picture transfer, and some other stuff. After watching these extras, it becomes apparent quite quickly that the movie succeeded primarily due to slick marketing rather than content. Still, I guess the film does make a statement about violence in America, and it did help Craven and Cunningham find other opportunities for their twisted imaginations. Where would we be, after all, without Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees (don't answer; it's a rhetorical question!)? Give it a go if you want to see an early influence on the genre, but I recommend you dive into H.G. Lewis if you want to see early films that made a bigger splash in the horror field.
on June 4, 2015
Last House on the Left is not for everyone, lets be clear about that. From its original marketing campaign it was very clear about what it was setting out to be, and it does an astonishingly good job at doing it. It's a movie which is deliberately setting out to upset you. In everyway possible. And it does a damn fine job, perhaps most unexpectedly because of its non-traditional approach to good and evil. On the surface, the events of the movie, and what our reactions should be, seem like they should be pretty cut and dry; group A horribly rapes, tortures and murders group B and we then subsequently hope for group A to get what's coming to them. But, because this is the master Wes Craven, it is rarely that simple. Not even close. And that's why this movie endures as a classic in the horror genre.
It's also a random movie. Frustratingly so, if you think about it too long. I don't mean the movie is randomly put together, I mean the story is frustratingly realistic in how random it is. Like all the awful things you hear about on the news and think to yourself how random it was, that's how this movie is. And its just a small part of its genius. It is also a horror movie which has no traditional villain or heroes. Yes, you naturally root for the girls who end up in this awful predicament, but you also can't completely dismiss the fact that they bring it on themselves by both a) seeking out drugs from strangers in a run-down part of town, and b) willingly enter said strangers apartment. Does it excuse the shocking things that are subsequently done to these two young girls? No. But my point is that Wes Craven does not give us cookie cutter versions of good and evil here. There is no masked maniac randomly attacking helpless teens. These are girls who willingly put themselves into a terrible situation that completely unravels on them. As for the group of bandits the girls run into? Yes, on the surface, they are what most people would call the bad guys, and they (make no mistake about it) do very bad things to these girls, but they also have well developed characters and you feel a sense of community and desperation among them. They feel like real people who simply took a few wrong turns and just keep making bad decisions.
When the movie begins, with a shower scene and nudity from our main character (which sort of tells you the sort of movie you're watching, when there is a shower scene during the opening credits), after which she appears before her parents in a skin tight shirt with no bra, you start to abandon the idea that she is a purely innocent character. Then she convinces her friend to find drugs before attending the concert they're going to see, and to go into the apartment of complete strangers to do so. This is where our story really begins. It just happens that the apartment is occupied by a group of crooks on the run from the police, and so they can't let the girls go, for fear of being exposed. The group leader realizes pretty quickly they'll need to kill the girls, but not in the city, and not before they have some fun with them first. You can imagine where this goes, but honestly, it goes further. An extended sequence of shocking violence ensues, with everything from rape, torture and murder taking place. But why this movie is so enduring is that almost immediately after these events take place in the film, even as the audience is disgusted and outraged at what they just witnessed, the crooks who just completed those acts become equally disgusted with themselves. Its not spoken. It's not overly obvious or explored to death, but for the remainder of the film, the crooks are obviously shaken by how far they went and by what they just did to two (mostly) innocent girls. And yes, the desire for justice and revenge fuels the rest of the film, as the crooks seek shelter and by pure, ironic happenstance, end up at the house of one of the girls parents.
Yes, you read that right; the house they end up at happens to be the house of the parents of one of the girls they just raped and murdered. Genius. The third act then becomes a fantastic build up of tension, as the crooks deal emotionally with what they did in the woods, and as we the audience anticipate what will happen when the crooks and the parents of the slain girl realize their awful, ironic connection. A true masterpiece in horror that should not be missed by any avid horror fan, but could understandably be skipped by people turned off by the premise. Just know its a deliberately shocking film, but that the shocking events within have a purpose.
on September 28, 2014
One of the seminal horror films of the early-70's, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was one of the most disturbing films of its time mainly because it dealt with sadism in unflinching terms. The late David Hess is terrifying as Krug, a sociopath with no regard for human life, proving it when he accidentally meets two girls looking to score some pot on their way to a rock concert. Krug and his gang torture, rape and humiliate the two girls in the woods before killing them, but their car breaks down and they end up at the house of one of the dead girl's parents, which leads to a finale that is not soon forgotten. This would almost be the perfect horror film if it wasn't for the two bumbling cops added for comic value, much like in the later THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN. Still, this is an unrelenting look (supposedly based on THE VIRGIN SPRING, but don't you believe it) at people at their worst, whether they were born that way or forced to act in that manner for circumstances they have no control over. The 2009 remake is pretty good, but if you want to see the real deal, this is the one to watch. Be aware that this contains different extras than the MGM DVD issued in the early 2000's. There is no extra gore footage as extras. Instead there is an additional scene of softcore sex the two girls are force to perform on each other in the woods as well as other different extras (but the commentary, including the late Hess, is still the same). If you still have your old MGM DVD, keep it, just for the different extras.
I saw this movie in the famous Wiltern Theatre (corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Western Avenue) in Los Angeles in the summer of 1973 (Yes, they actually showed movies!). (For the record, I think the second flick was "Don't Look in the Basement" (anybody remember that movie?)). But, I digress...
To this (then) 14 year-old (yes, it was rated "R" - and they let me and my neighbor/friend in anyway!), I spent most of the movie in shock! The story, the violence, the nudity made for a strange combination that has stuck with me to this day (41 years later, no less)!
Furthermore, I saw it twice that day...(and I can't explain why...well, the movie..."blew my mind", ok? I admit it!)
It is safe to say that this movie isn't for everyone...three stars!
on April 2, 2005
I don't think I've ever seen a film that has as many titles as The Last House on the Left (1972)...let's see...it was also known as Grim Company, Krug & Company, Krug and Company (see how they replaced the `&' with `and'?), Last House on the Left (they left the `The' part off here...I know, a minor distinction), Night of Vengeance, and Sex Crime of the Century, both of these last two being working titles...it's funny as almost any of these other titles would have been more applicable, but there you go...produced by Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th), written and directed by horror maven Wes Craven (I'm a poet and didn't know it), the man behind the popular Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream films, the film features Sandra Cassel (The Filthiest Show in Town), Lucy Grantham, David Hess (Swamp Thing), Fred J. Lincoln (who has since gone on to the wonderful world of adult films as not only and actor but also as a director...you may remember him from the film Edward Penishands 3), Jeramie Rain (The Abductors), Marc Sheffler, Gaylord St. James (Deadly Weapons), Cynthia Carr, Marshall Anker (Shamus), and character actor Martin Kove, who many probably most will recognize as the very nasty and uptight Cobra Kai Sensei John Kreese from the film The Karate Kid (1984).
The film starts off with a shower scene, and we get a nice shot of Sandra Cassel's jubblies. She plays the character of Mari, and we soon find out she's going out with a friend, Phyllis (Grantham), to see a concert featuring a band called Bloodlust. Her parents, played by Gaylord St. James and Cynthia Carr, are concerned, but she has just turned 17, and you can't keep them on the farm forever. Anyway, as the girls drive into the city, we hear a news broadcast on the radio, going into great detail, about a couple of very nasty criminals who've recently escaped, and are the focal point for a statewide manhunt, along with their two accomplices. We then cut to a seedy apartment where we get to meet these lovely individuals, obviously all New Yorkers given their accents, featuring Krug (Hess), who appears to be the leader, Fred 'Weasel' Podowski (Lincoln), who looks like the illegitimate love child of Joe Pesci and Arnold Horshack, Krug's son Junior (Sheffler), who definitely looks like Arnold Horshack, and finally the group floozie Sadie (Rain). Okay, so now the girls are in the city, and they approach Junior, who just happens to be standing outside, for some wacky tobaccy, to which he lures them up to the apartment (Sadie couldn't handle the three of them I guess so they decided to recruit some fresh meat), and thus begins the defilement. The following day the group decides to leave the city (too much heat) and they toss the girls in the trunk. Their car eventually breaks down out in the country near familiar surroundings, and more defilement takes place in the woods. Eventually retribution comes, and in some very unique forms...
I've heard much over the years about this film, and while it does possess some fairly intense material, I've seen worse (check out some early 80's Italian horror films and you'll see what I mean). Some have stated the film has a documentary feel, but I would disagree...it felt more to me like a no frills, low-budget 70's film with a lot of bad music (you can thank Hess, the actor who played Krug, as he responsible for most of the score, which ranged from weird hippy music to upbeat pianny music...and who was responsible for the audio mixing? The volume on the music was much too high, often overpowering the dialog). There are a number of harsh and brutally graphic scenes, but then this is offset by scenes of what I think are supposed to be of a comic nature featuring the local sheriff and his deputy (played by Kove), showcasing their complete ineptitude as law enforcement officials. I think the non-comedic scenes were handled well, as Craven infuses a strong sense of tension, the kind where you want to look away but can't, finally assaulting you with a good deal of the ultra-violence, taking it where few, if any, had gone before at the time, featuring some of the most realistic blood I've seen in a film in a long time. As far as performances go, they were decent, but I felt the guy who played Krug had much more presence than anyone else in the film, and rightfully so as he was the main antagonist. The final act featuring the retribution scenes was odd to me as it seemed unlikely that the characters would have the presence of mind to go to the trouble setting things up the way they did, especially given the circumstances involved (if you've seen the film, you probably understand what I mean, but I don't want to give away any more than I already have), but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it as it provided a suitable outlet given the grotesque nature of the crimes committed by the despicable foursome. I think it's important to note that if you have delicate sensibilities, you should probably avoid this film as it does have a couple of particularly nasty scenes, one involving a disemboweling and another involving a rape. All in all a powerful film with some really weird musical choices.
There's a short introduction available featuring Wes Craven, and he basically says this is the most complete version of the film available. The DVD features both the fullscreen and widescreen anamorphic formats (presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for 16 X 9 TVs) and has decent audio in English mono. There are a number of extras available including a commentary track by writer/director Craven and producer Cunningham, Outtakes and Dailies (14 minutes), Forbidden Footage featurette (8 minutes), It's Only a Movie featurette (28 minutes), and a theatrical trailer for the film.
on April 4, 2005
I think this film has at its essence the true spirit of the horror film. To me this film is not entertaining, and it is one of only a handful of films that truly disturbed me, one that follows through on it's intent to horrify. Most modern horror films tend to glamorize violence and gore, and tend to herald killers as anti-heroes to a point where the audience is no longer horrified or scared. What I found interesting is where this film sits on the timeline of horror, right after Night of the Living Dead, and right before Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween. It surprises me because it exhibits characteristics that are out of place for the time. The level of gore and outright brutality are much higher than in the films that immediately surround it, and the fact that it predates Texas Chainsaw Massacre by two years astounds me. For me three of the most important aspects of the film are: its "fairy tale" plot, it's documentary feel, and it's early use of the "Rules of Horror". I believe this is one of the first films that uses punishment as a repercussion of immoral behavior, i.e. "If you are going to go into a strange apartment in hopes of buying drugs, you will be (insert punishment here). I also believe that this is one of the most exploitative films that came out of the 70's. It's not a comfortable film and it isn't entertaining, it's purely disturbing and horrific.