The Last House on the Left (1972 film)

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The Last House on the Left

Theatrical release poster
Directed byWes Craven
Produced bySean S. Cunningham
Written byWes Craven
StarringSandra Cassel
Lucy Grantham
David A. Hess
Fred Lincoln
Jeramie Rain
Marc Sheffler
Music byDavid Alexander Hess
CinematographyVictor Hurwitz
Editing byWes Craven
Distributed byHallmark Releasing Corp
Release date(s)August 30, 1972
Running time84 minutes
91 minutes (Original cut)
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$87,000
Box office$3,100,000[1]
 
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The Last House on the Left

Theatrical release poster
Directed byWes Craven
Produced bySean S. Cunningham
Written byWes Craven
StarringSandra Cassel
Lucy Grantham
David A. Hess
Fred Lincoln
Jeramie Rain
Marc Sheffler
Music byDavid Alexander Hess
CinematographyVictor Hurwitz
Editing byWes Craven
Distributed byHallmark Releasing Corp
Release date(s)August 30, 1972
Running time84 minutes
91 minutes (Original cut)
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$87,000
Box office$3,100,000[1]

The Last House on the Left is a 1972 exploitation-horror film written and directed by Wes Craven and produced by Sean S. Cunningham. The story is inspired by the 1960 Swedish film The Virgin Spring, directed by Ingmar Bergman, which in turn is based on the 13th century Swedish ballad "Töres döttrar i Wänge". The film was remade into a 2009 film of the same name.

Contents

Plot

Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel) plans to celebrate her 17th birthday by attending a concert with her friend, Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham). Her parents (Gaylord St. James and Cynthia Carr) express concern both at the band and Mari's friendship with Phyllis. They let her go, giving her a peace symbol necklace as a gift before she leaves.

Phyllis and Mari go to the city for the concert. On the way, they hear a news report on the car radio of a recent prison escape, involving criminals Krug Stillo (David A. Hess), a rapist and serial killer, his son Junior (Marc Sheffler), Sadie (Jeramie Rain), a psychopath and sadist, and Fred "Weasel" Podowski (Fred Lincoln) a child molester, peeping tom, and murderer. Before the concert, Mari and Phyllis stroll the streets, seeking someone who might sell them marijuana. They find Junior, who leads them back to an apartment, where they are immediately trapped by the criminals. Phyllis tries to escape, then tries to reason with the criminals, but fails and is raped by Krug. Meanwhile, Mari's unsuspecting parents prepare a surprise party for her.

The next morning, the two friends are locked in a car trunk and taken to the countryside as the gang intends to leave the state. The villains' vehicle malfunctions right in front of Mari's house while police are in her home talking to Mari's parents about her disappearance. Removed from the trunk, Phyllis is beaten as Mari realizes that they are near her own home while she is dragged to the woods. In the woods, both teenagers are untied. Mari and Phyllis are forced to have sex with each other and then Sadie performs oral sex on a weeping Mari. Phyllis runs away to distract the kidnappers and offer Mari an opportunity to escape, but is chased by Sadie and Weasel, while Junior stays behind to guard Mari, who tries to convince Junior that her father can help him, and she gives him her peace symbol necklace as a symbol of her trust. Phyllis manages to hit Sadie in the face and runs, but is then cornered and stabbed to death numerous times by Weasel. Sadie reaches into Phyllis's wounds and pulls out the insides, while Krug and Weasley amputate the hand and half of the forearm.

Mari eventually convinces Junior to let her go, but they are immediately halted by Krug. Sadie and Weasel present Phyllis' severed hand and half forearm and Krug proceeds to carve his name into Mari's chest. As Mari screams in pain, Krug tells her that she's gonna "get yours" at which point he pulls down Mari's pants and rapes her. Soon after this act, Mari vomits. At this point, the gang very briefly feel pangs of conscience. Mari quietly says a prayer then walks into a nearby lake. Krug shoots Mari and she floats on the top of the lake. Krug, Sadie, and Weasel wash and change out of their bloody clothes.

In their new attire, the gang go to the Collingwoods' home, masquerading as traveling salesmen. Mari's parents agree to let them stay overnight. Junior exposes their identity when Mari's mother, Estelle, sees Mari's peace symbol necklace dangling around his neck. Later that night she listens in to the gang while they are spending the night in Mari's bedroom and finds blood-soaked clothing in their luggage. She and Dr. Collingwood rush out into the woods, where they find Mari on the bank of the lake. They carry Mari's body back to the house then exact revenge against the crooks.

Outside, Estelle dupes Weasel into a sex game, then performs fellatio on him. Without warning, she bites off his penis and leaves him to bleed to death. Inside the house, Dr. Collingwood carries his shotgun into his daughter's bedroom, where two of the criminals are sleeping. Krug escapes into the living room and overpowers the doctor, but the criminal is then confronted by his own son, who now brandishes a firearm and threatens to kill him. Krug psychologically manipulates the already troubled young man, demanding him to put the gun in his mouth and blow his brains out. Junior then shoots himself in the head. Then Krug finds out the doctor has disappeared.

Sadie rushes outside where she is tackled by Estelle. The two of them wrestle and fight on the ground. Sadie punches Estelle and runs away. She then trips and falls into the pool. Estelle grabs a knife and pulls Sadie up and cuts her throat open, killing her. The doctor kills Krug with the chainsaw and the couple meet each other again in the living room as the police come.

Cast

Production

Sean S. Cunningham made his directorial debut with the white coater film, The Art of Marriage. His film grossed $100,000 and attracted the company Hallmark Releasing (unaffiliated with Hallmark Cards Inc.). Cunningham made the film Together as a "better version" of film. Wes Craven, who had no money, was put on the job of synchronizing dailies for Cunningham's four-day re-shoot. He soon began editing the film with Cunningham and they became good friends. Hallmark Releasing bought the film for $10,000 and it was considered a "hit". Hallmark Releasing wanted them to do another film with a bigger budget and gave them $90,000 to shoot a horror movie.

Cunningham served as producer and Craven served as writer and director.

Advertising campaign

One of the more memorable aspects of the film is the advertising campaign. The film underwent many name changes, including Sex Crime of the Century (from the characters' dialogue in the car ride scene), Krug and Company (a version included on the DVD release), and The Men's Room (simply because one poster showed a men's bathroom). None of these names were particularly successful. Someone then came up with the title The Last House on the Left, along with the infamous "To avoid fainting, keep repeating-it's only a movie..." advertising campaign. (In actuality, it had been used twice before: first in gore-meister H.G. Lewis's 1964 splatter film Color Me Blood Red, and then in William Castle's Strait-Jacket the following year.) The film under the Last House... title proved to be a massive hit. Stories as to where the advertising campaign originated vary somewhat. Sean Cunningham claims that the person giving the idea for it was watching a cut of the film with his wife, who continually covered her eyes, prompting him to tell her that it was 'Only a movie...'. Other origins have been suggested, however.[2] The tagline was so successful that many other exploitation films later used it, sometimes with own spin. The title was sometimes imitated, as in the case of Last House on Dead End Street.[3]

Script

Written by Wes Craven in 1971, the original script was intended to be a graphic 'Hardcore' film, with all actors and crew being committed to filming it as such. However, after shooting began, the hard decision was made to edit down to a much softer film. This script, written as Night of Vengeance has never been released; only a brief glimpse is visible in the featurette Celluloid Crime of the Century, and a sample is available in the UK DVD release.

Music

The film's soundtrack was written—and partially sung—by David Hess, who also played the main antagonist Krug. It is particularly notable for being heavily contrasted with the events on screen. For example, as the gang drives the two girls out into the countryside, the upbeat, almost comical, tune "Baddies Theme" plays and, after the rape scene, a soothing ballad plays. This counterpointing was also used elsewhere in the film, with the slapstick antics of the two police officers occurring in between scenes of torture. The soundtrack was released commercially around the same time as the film.

In popular culture

The Riptides recorded and released an instrumental song entitled "Last House on the Left", inspired by the original film.

The Dangerfields recorded a song entitled "Last House on the Left" on their 2005 album, Born to Rock. Written by drummer/vocalist Andrew Griswold, it references events and lyrics from the original film, while the CD booklet features a pastiche of the movie poster.

Deathcore band Last House on the Left draws their name from the film.

Reception

The film received generally positive reviews. The film currently has a 63% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[4]

The film was nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills.[5]

English film critic Mark Kermode opined that while the film is shoddily made, its subject matter "horrible, grim, and nasty," and its perceived notion that "violence begets violence" comes off as "obnoxious," it stands as a "very, very important work in the evolution of American horror cinema" because of the events influencing and surrounding its creation and release, namely television footage of the Vietnam War.[citation needed]

Controversy

The film was censored in many countries, and was particularly controversial in the United Kingdom. The film was refused a certificate for cinema release by the BBFC in 1974[6] due to scenes of sadism and violence. During the early 1980s home video boom, the film was released uncut (save for an incidental, gore-free scene with the comedy cops, and the end credit roll) as a video that did not fall under their remit at the time. This changed when the "video nasty" scare which started in 1982 led to the Video Recordings Act 1984. This in turn banned the film as one of the Department of Public Prosecutions list of "video nasties".

The film remained banned throughout the remainder of the 1980s and into the 1990s. However it had built a cult reputation in the UK, plus critics such as Mark Kermode began to laud the film as an important piece of work. In 2000, the film was again presented to the BBFC for certification and it was again refused.[7] Blue Underground toured an uncut print around Britain without a BBFC certificate, with Southampton City Council granting the uncut version its own 18 certificate.[8] It was granted a license for a one-off showing in Leicester in June 2000, after which the BBFC again declared that the film would not receive any form of certification.

In June 2002 the BBFC won against an appeal made to the Video Appeals Committee by video distributor Blue Underground Limited. The BBFC had required 16 seconds of cuts to scenes of sexual violence before the video could be given an ‘18’ certificate. Blue Underground Limited refused to make the cuts, and the BBFC therefore rejected the video. The distributor then appealed to the VAC, who upheld the BBFC's decision.[9] During the appeal, film critic Mark Kermode was called in as a horror expert to make a case for the film's historical importance. However, after his report, the committee not only upheld the cuts but doubled them.[10]

The film was eventually given an 18 certificate with 31 seconds of cuts on July 17, 2002[11] and was released in the UK on DVD in May 2003. The cut scenes were viewable as a slideshow extra on the disc, and there was a weblink to a website where the cut scenes could be viewed.

The BBFC classified the film uncut for video release on March 17, 2008.[12]

Rare or lost scenes

Some small cuts from the original, completely uncut, 91-minute film are still rare today and many different versions exists on both DVD and VHS releases with different cuts in many of them from different countries.[13] To get a completely uncut version is difficult as even some cinema machinists themselves cut scenes out from the movie before showing it in theaters and drive-ins during the 1970s; many copies were cut or "hacked to pieces" and because of this some scenes have become rarities.[13] According to Wes Craven, some people who were offended by the movie even stole copies of the original film and burned them.[14]

Some incomplete scenes are:

Remake

In August 2006, Rogue Pictures finalized a deal to remake The Last House on the Left with original writer and director Wes Craven as a producer. The company intended to preserve the storyline of the original film. Craven described his involvement with the remake: "I'm far enough removed from these films that the remakes are a little like having grandchildren. The story, about the painful side effects of revenge, is an evergreen. The headlines are full of people and nations taking revenge and getting caught up in endless cycles of violence."[18] Craven formed Midnight Pictures, a shingle of Rogue Pictures, to remake The Last House on the Left as its first project. Production was slated for early 2007.[19] Screenwriter Adam Alleca was hired to write the script for the remake.

In May 2007, Rogue Pictures entered negotiations with director Dennis Iliadis to direct the film.[20] The film was released to theaters in the US and Canada on March 13, 2009.

References

  1. ^ "The Last House on the Left, Box Office Information". The Numbers. http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/1972/0LHOL.php. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  2. ^ David A. Szulkin: Wes Craven's The Last House On The Left; Revised Edition, pages 127–133; published June 2000, FAB Press; ISBN 1-903254-01-9.
  3. ^ David A. Szulkin: Wes Craven's The Last House On The Left; Revised Edition, Page 178; published June 2000, FAB Press; ISBN 1-903254-01-9.
  4. ^ "Last House on the Left (1972)". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/last_house_on_the_left/. Retrieved 3 Mar 2010. 
  5. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Ballot
  6. ^ "LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT Rejected by the BBFC". Bbfc.co.uk. http://www.bbfc.co.uk/website/Classified.nsf/0/31911632127F0951802566C80031CEC7?OpenDocument. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  7. ^ "THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT Rejected by the BBFC". Bbfc.co.uk. http://www.bbfc.co.uk/website/Classified.nsf/0/989E06A37C4DB4B180256885002E278B?OpenDocument. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  8. ^ Mark Kermode (July 2001). Left on the shelf. BFI. p. 26. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ Mark Kermode (2008-05-09). "Mark Kermode's film blog: DVD News: Last House on the Left". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/markkermode/2008/05/dvd_news_last_house_on_the_lef.html. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  11. ^ "THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT rated 18 by the BBFC". Bbfc.co.uk. 2002-07-17. http://www.bbfc.co.uk/website/Classified.nsf/0/AE4F890AEAF8FEC680256BFB0031D829?OpenDocument. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  12. ^ "THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT rated 18 by the BBFC". Bbfc.co.uk. http://www.bbfc.co.uk/website/Classified.nsf/0/4F6572F4AB0BFAD88025740F003F1803?OpenDocument. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  13. ^ a b c Celluloid Crime of the Century, featurette documentary on the 2003 Anchor Bay DVD edition of The Last House on the Left
  14. ^ Celluloid Crime of the Century, featurette documentary on the 2003 Anchor Bay-DVD edition of The Last House on the Left
  15. ^ "The Last House on the Left". Dvddrive-in.com. http://www.dvddrive-in.com/reviews/i-m/lasthouseontheleft737151972.htm. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  16. ^ a b "The Last House on the Left : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Dvdtalk.com. http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/36662/last-house-on-the-left-the/. Retrieved 2011-03-21. 
  17. ^ a b Booklet from Anchor Bay 2-disc edition of The Last House on the Left, 2003
  18. ^ Michael Fleming (2006-08-16). "'Left' right for Rogue". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117948565.html?categoryid=1236&cs=1. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  19. ^ Michael Fleming (2006-09-27). "Helmer haunts Rogue's house". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117950849.html?categoryid=1238&cs=1. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  20. ^ Borys Kit (2007-05-30). "Iliadis on path to 'House' redo". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2007-09-15. http://web.archive.org/web/20070915141741/http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/film/news/e3i23e0aa399c616f0f7425d91a12a8f7c2. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 

External links