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Blu-ray Review: The Last House on the Left (1972)

I’m gonna come right out and lay some truth on you cats; The Last House on the Left was never one of my favorite Wes Craven fright flicks…but it has been well over a decade and a half since I last laid my eerie eyeballs upon it, so now that Arrow Video is unleashing a feature packed Blu-ray of ol’ Last House, let’s see if the ever shifting sands of time have mellowed my attitude towards this (admittedly classic) film…

The Last House on the Left concerns the misadventures of young Mari Collingwood  (Sandra Cassell) who heads out (after a bizarre conversation with her parents about her tits) to a concert by the wholesome sounding Bloodlust with her friend Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham)…a concert taking place in New York City…far away from her bucolic home. Meanwhile, the ultra villainous Krug (David Hess) and his kill krew have recently escaped from prison, and soon our comely protagonists find themselves in the gang’s clutches after trying to score some weed. The no-good-niks then rape our heroines (implied) and head back upstate where along the way things turn less implied and way more depraved (and all set to what be cinema’s most inappropriate soundtrack of all time…more on that below). What follows is Bergman’s The Virgin Spring by way of Hershell Gordon Lewis as violence begets violence…and folk music (and a tricks n’ traps finale Craven would use again with 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street).

After not having seen the film in a while, I can safely say; “What in the fuck is this movie’s problem?!!”…and I say that as a good thing! For starters, Krug and his pals are so damn over the top (to wit: when we first are introduced to Krug he pops a child’s balloon with his cigar…because he is one evil hombre) that they are like walking, talking cartoon characters (albeit extremely dangerous ones). Speaking of cartoons…the music that Craven chose to accompany this film (some performed by Hess himself) is some of the zaniest mother fucking shit you will ever hear…a strange combo of folk songs and ragtime (and kazoo…so much freakin’ kazoo) that in no way at all screams “Hey kids, rape and murder a plenty are comin’ your way”! Oh, and let’s not forget the wacky ass cops (one of whom is an impossibly young Martin Kove) that are on the case…the whole affair comes off like Craven wanted to make a comedy but threw in sexual violation, degradation, and the horror biz just for shits! Is it always successful…well, not exactly, but it’s so brazenly off-the-wall and downright surreal that it’s impossible to take your eyes off from it ( no matter how rough some parts get)!

So I gained a new found love (read: absolute adoration) for The Last House on the Left, but what makes this new Blu edition worth picking up if you are already B.D. with love for the flick? The F’n house sized amount of extras this thing has to offer (spread out over three discs)! First up we get an archival interview (from 2009 when the Last House remake hit theaters…remember that one? I sure as shit don’t…) with director Craven detailing the lasting legacy of the film, an archival retrospective documentary from Blue Underground’s 2002 release of the film, an archival interview with Hess about the film’s score (also from 2002, and full of off-kilter statements and moments), an archival (from 2002…again) making of doc, a discussion of the film’s controversial scenes by cast and crew (also archival), new interviews with Actor Marc Sheffler (who play’s Krug’s junkie son Junior…and during which we learn that the dude has seriously upped his facial hair growth since 2002), and Make-Up Artist Anne Paul, a look at the film’s locations as they appear today (guided by journalist Michael Gingold), an extended scene of Mari’s parents discovering her body, a large selection of outtakes and dailies, trailers, TV and radio spots, and image galleries. Also included are three audio commentaries (including a new scholarly analysis of the film by by podcasters Bill Ackerman and Amanda Reyes, and two archival conversations; one featuring Craven and producer Sean S. Cunningham, and the other with Actors Hess, Sheffler, and Fred Lincoln). All are excellent listens, with my favorite being the Ackerman and Reyes presentation as it sounds exactly as it is; two horror aficionados sharing personal anecdotes about their experiences with the film (though I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how amusingly self effacing and charming the Craven and Cunningham talk is). Lastly you get the film with an isolated score, and you know what that will be like from reading my comments above!

Moving on to Disc Two we get two more cuts of the film; the Krug and Co. version, as well as a truncated R-rated version. Why you would pick one of these (slightly) altered version over the superior one featured on Disc One is beyond me; but the completest in me is glad they are included. Of course this disc has it’s own bevy of bonus material as well including; a new featurette examining Craven’s lasting legacy in the horror biz (and beyond), a new retrospective on Craven and Last House by Filmmaker Roy Frumkes (Street Trash), Craven’s footage (minus sound) from the unfinished anthology Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out (fans of the Doctor Butcher M.D. cut of Zombie Holocaust should be very interested to see more from the film that was Frankensteined into that fright flick), a Q&A with Sheffler (and his beard) at a screening of the film (shot in the standard substandard way these things always are), an archival interview with Hess, and an archival doc featuring the film’s first uncut screening in the U.K. (also heavily featuring Hess).

Guess what? We ain’t done yet!

Disc Three features the film’s soundtrack and of course is one hell of a listen…and one hell of a good time if you pop it in in public (like your foolish reviewer did), as the whole affair begins with a sound bite of Hess commanding Grantham to piss her pants. Fun!!

Since I just wrote a freakin’ novel length revoltin’ review here, there isn’t much more I can say…this is the version of The Last House on the Left to own; it’s packed with features, and I dare say it may even make a new fan out of you if you aren’t one already!!!

 

 

 

 

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