Last House on the Left (1972)
By: David Michael Brown on December 17, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 84 minutes
The Movie
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: David Hess, Sandra Cassell, Lucy Grantham, Fred Lincoln
Screenplay: Wes Craven
Music: David Alexander Hess
Tagline:"To avoid fainting, keep repeating "It's only a movie…It's only a movie…It's only...""
Country: USA
AKA: Krug and Company
After years in the wilderness, Wes Craven's grim, sadistic tale of violent retribution The Last House on the Left has finally been released in this country. Not available since its original and banned video incarnation, the film has lost none of its power to shock and disturb. The film, a remake of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring, follows a group of repellent criminals led by Krug who kidnap two young teenagers out to celebrate one of their birthdays. The scenes of humiliation and torture as the two girls are slowly and viciously raped and killed are uncomfortable to watch at best and this is the power of Craven's film. The cinema verité style of camera work shows the harrowing scenes in dirty unflinching close up and the largely amateur performances, especially David Hess as Krug and Sandra Cassell and Lucy Grantham as the two victims, Mari and Lucy, makes the death scenes even more unpalatable. After their murderous rampage, Krug and friends go to the Collingwood house where Mari's parents are frantic with worry. They soon realise that they are playing host to their daughter's murderers and systematically kill their houseguest's in a brutal act of revenge. The resulting blood soaked carnage leaves their lives shattered forever.

The film had never been legally available in Australia before the OFLC passed this release without any cuts but in the UK the BBFC made 31 seconds of cuts to allow the film to be released. These include Mari's disembowelment and Krug carving a unique autograph, however, the brief snips do not affect the overall tone of the film. More harm is done by the clumsy use of humour, especially the two bungling cops, one played by Cagney and Lacy regular Martin Kove, and the often jarring Country and Western songs provided by David Hess that accompany many of the sickening scenes.

Definitely not for everyone; anyone who has discovered Wes Craven's work through the MTV horrors of A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Scream series will be shocked at the repulsive sexual violence on display. As a historical footnote on world censorship its fascinating, as a piece of entertainment its repugnant. Approach with caution!
The transfer works wonders with the source material, having been cut and chopped by censors and projectionists around the world it's a wonder there is anything left. Saying that the often soft image isn't quite up to the standards of the UK Anchor Bay release or the US MGM disc from which many of the extras have been taken.
The audio, as with the video is good but it's a shame that Umbrella didn't go the whole hog with a 5.1 surround mix.
Extra Features
The many versions of the film are given historical context in the fascinating documentary Celluloid Crime of the Century which includes interviews with most of the cast and the creative crew. The 40 minute feature covers the films inception, filming and it's controversial relationship with the censors of the world.

Two entertaining running commentaries add informative anecdotes to the documentary footage. Firstly Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham discuss the making of the film. Then Hess, Fred Lincoln and Marc Sheffler hilariously reminisce about being in Krugs gang, the Seventies porn industry and filming the shocking scenes that got the film banned.

The disc also features an interview with the Hess about scoring the film. The disc is completed with the films US and German trailers, TV and radio spots, a stills gallery and trailers for the latest Umbrella horror titles including I Drink Your Blood.

It's a shame the DVD didn't include the excellent featurette Krug conquers Britain from the UK release. The short follows the film's first ever public showing in Leicester in 1980 and features the erasable Hess playing to the crowd and strumming his guitar. The featurette also follows the films chequered history with the BBFC, arguing the case against former head of the organisation James Ferman and his ridiculous attempts to save the working classes by banning films! Ironically the film is unfortunately still cut in Britain!
The Verdict
Some will find the film repellent and un-watchable but no one can deny the quality of the DVD; Umbrella have pulled together a fine selection of extras for the films debut Australian release. The film claims to be fully uncut, a tall order indeed, the UK release already features the re-edited version entitled Krug and Company, which includes alternate footage and after reading David. A. Szulkin's excellent book on the making of the film you soon realise that we'll probably never see a full version of the film, there are so many alternative cuts and takes out there. Saying that you really can't go wrong with this, the shear fact that you can go down to your local K-Mart and pick up a (pretty much) uncut version of Last House on the Left is great in itself.
Movie Score
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