Last House on the Beach (1978)
By: Julian on December 19, 2008  | 
DVD
Severin (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 89 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Franco Prosperi
Starring: Florinda Bolkan, Ray Lovelock, Flavio Andreini, Sherry Buchanan, Stefano Cedrati, Laura Tanziani
Screenplay: Romano Migliorini, Gianbattista Mussetto
Country: Italy
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Last House on the Beach, or for those more linguistically attuned, La Settima Donna (or 'The Seventh Woman'), is a really terrific film, and probably one of my favourite Italian exploitation movies. Last House on the Beach is a thoroughly rewarding picture, and one that is very unusual for its stock – it's competently made, acted and scripted.

The film introduces three men – Aldo (Ray Lovelock, an Italocrime favourite), Walter (Flavio Andreini) and Nino (Stefano Cedrati). The trio are thieves, with Aldo the dominant leader of the pack. After staging a daring heist, they make a quick escape. After their getaway car breaks down (moral of the story thus far, kids: get getaway cars checked out before you hit the road with your loot), they hole up at a beach house occupied by five young women and Sister Cristina (Florinda Bolkan), who are rehearsing for A Midsummer's Night Dream. The thieves decide to have a bit of macabre fun with their situation, and stage a terrifying home invasion.

As you can probably guess from this point, a good chunk of Last House on the Beach is based on how Sister Cristina is required to maim, injure or even kill, or else be maimed, injured or killed. The typical morality tale but before you can say "trite" and "overused", let me say this: it's done so well that the whole thing doesn't seem contrived in the slightest. The screenplay, written by Romano Migliorini (The Inglorious Bastards) and Gianbattista Mussetto (Night of the Devils) is exceedingly intelligent, transcending the genre's usual suspensions of reality and fashioning a truly scary yarn.

I don't buy the assertions that this is a rip off of Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left (ignore the cash-in title, and remember that this film was originally titled The Seventh Woman). It's as ridiculous a proposition as suggesting Argento's Deep Red ripped off Hitchcock's Psycho – some genre conventions are shared here, but that's firmly where the similarities end. It's alarming to see the number of critics, even those who purport to have an affinity to Italo-exploitation, who allege that this is a Last House on the Left rip-off. It's not. Director Franco Prosperi can confidently lay claim to having directed a film that can be judged on its own merits, and they're plentiful.

Above all of these merits, however, is the sheer hate that courses through Last House on the Beach's veins. It's an utterly acerbic film, lacking the unintentionally slapstick quality of some of its predecessors and relishing in presenting pared-to-the-bone, raw, visceral horror. I don't even think it's particularly exploitative – the violence is, for Eurotrash standards, fairly judicious and in this scantness it packs a far harder punch than other films.

Prosperi proves beyond doubt his worth as a director and he helms some marvellous sequences. Generally speaking, Last House on the Beach is a film of superb technical quality – the camerawork is courtesy of a gentleman by the name of Cristiano Pogany, who worked on a number of Italian exploitation films and shorts before his death in 1999 – his CV, however, is dreadfully understated given the brilliant work he does here. Francesco Malvestito's editing also oscillates between hyper-kinetic and hypnotically smooth. He also does a very fine job.

Criminally overlooked – and those who have have generally drubbed it as a Craven rip-off, assertions that are entirely unfounded – Last House on the Beach is a masterwork of the Italian exploitation genre. It's incredibly well made but above that, it's actually scary: Prosperi doesn't offer us camp reprieve, and his film is a well-oiled machine designed to utterly galvanise the viewer.
Video
Picture is presented in 2:35:1 widescreen, with 16:9 enhancement. It looks bloody good for a film of this type and this age. A brilliant job has been done here but whether that's Severin's doing is debatable – it doesn't look any different to the Austrian Region 2 Sazuma release of a couple of years ago.
Audio
A good English 2.0 Dolby track. But I'm a bit of a puritan when it comes to foreign language films, and I'd much rather watch the movie in its original language with subtitles. Again, this was an option offered by Sazuma (with no English-language track and only subtitles) that was sadly omitted by Severin.
Extra Features
The extras comprise of a 28-minute featurette titled Holy Beauty vs The Evil Beasts, which is an interview with Ray Lovelock. It's an interesting featurette and Lovelock remains lucid, fortunately lacking the vaguely apologetic tones that sometimes follow ageing actors into these sorts of retrospectives. Also included are two theatrical trailers that screened in Italy and Germany.

Severin are usually very adept at tracking down some elusive material for their releases, but this disc of Last House on the Beach merely recycles extras from Sazuma's far superior Region 2 one. The latter release also comes with an additional disc containing the soundtrack, as well as an alternate opening credits sequence.

The cover art is terrible. A poorly Photoshopped image of Aldo terrorising our protagonist, complete with the yellow-lettered titles dripping blood is a far cry from Sazuma's excellent illustration. The art reproduction on the disc itself is only a few rungs shy of artistic abomination.

The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
The film is brilliant, and I think I've waxed lyrical enough about it throughout the review to get that point across. It's a shame that the release isn't that flash – the only feature that hasn't been recycled from the Region 2 disc is the English soundtrack, and that was a misstep anyway. What Severin has done, though, is made this amazing film more widely available, which is a move that is to be commended.

Buy it as soon as humanly possible.

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