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The Last House on the Left

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Wes Craven
Produced by Sean S. Cunningham
Written by Wes Craven
Starring Sandra Cassel
Lucy Grantham
David Hess
Fred J. Lincoln
Jeramie Rain
Marc Sheffler
Cynthia Carr
Ada Washington
Music by David Alexander Hess
Cinematography Victor Hurwitz
Editing by Wes Craven
Distributed by Hallmark Releasing Corp.
Release date(s) August 30, 1972
Running time 91 min.
Country United States USA
Language English
Budget $87,000 (estimated)
Gross revenue $3,100,000

The Last House on the Left is a 1972 horror film written and directed by Wes Craven and produced by Sean S. Cunningham.

The story is based on the 13th century Swedish ballad "Töres dotter i Wänge", which was also adapted into the 1960 Swedish film The Virgin Spring, directed by Ingmar Bergman.

Contents

Plot

Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel) plans to celebrate her seventeenth 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 violent criminals by the names of Krug Stillo (David Hess), his son Junior (Marc Sheffler), Sadie (Jeramie Rain) and Fred "Weasel" Podowski (Fred J. Lincoln). After the concert, Mari and Phyllis stroll the streets, seeking someone who might sell marijuana. They find Junior, who leads them back to an apartment, where they are immediately trapped by the criminals. Phyllis resists and is punched in the stomach and raped. Meanwhile, Mari's unsuspecting parents prepare a surprise party for her.

The next morning, the girls 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, the girls are untied, and Phyllis is subjected to torment and sadistic humiliation by the gang. Phyllis tries to run away to distract the kidnappers and offer Mari an opportunity to escape. She 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. Meanwhile, Phyllis is cornered, tortured with a knife, stabbed fatally, and disemboweled by Weasel and the gang.

Mari eventually convinces Junior to let her go, but they are immediately halted by Krug. Sadie and Weasel present Phyllis' severed hand and Krug proceeds to carve his name into Mari's chest before violating her sexually. Soon after this act, Mari, sick from the shock of being raped, vomits and then walks into a nearby lake. Krug shoots at Mari and her body 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 the couple finds Mari's dead body by the lake.

Outside, Estelle dupes Weasel into a sex game, in which she performs fellatio on him then bites him in the groin area, apparently mutilating him. 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. Junior threatens to kill his father. Krug psychologically manipulates the already troubled young man, and Junior commits suicide with the weapon. As soon as Krug notices that Dr. Collingwood is missing, the doctor attacks Krug with a chainsaw.

The sheriff arrives and pleads with the doctor to let Krug go. Dr. Collingwood kills Krug with the chainsaw anyway. Sadie runs outside, where she trips and drops her weapon. Estelle tackles Sadie, and after a struggle, Sadie punches Estelle but trips once again and falls into the family's pool. Estelle catches up with Sadie and slits her throat. The couple reunites in their living room in their blood-spattered clothes.

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.[1] 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.[2]

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.

Although the soundtrack was released commercially around the same time as the film, it did not sell very well.

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.

Reception

The film currently has a 65% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[3]

Controversy

The film had problems with censorship 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[4] 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[5], though 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.[6] 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[7].

The film was eventually given an 18 certificate with 31 seconds of cuts on July 17, 2002[8] 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.[9]

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."[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] The film was released to theaters in the US and Canada on March 13, 2009. [13]

References

  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Last House on the Left (1972)". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/last_house_on_the_left/. Retrieved 3 Mar 2010. 
  4. ^ http://www.bbfc.co.uk/website/Classified.nsf/0/31911632127F0951802566C80031CEC7?OpenDocument
  5. ^ http://www.bbfc.co.uk/website/Classified.nsf/0/989E06A37C4DB4B180256885002E278B?OpenDocument
  6. ^ http://www.bbfc.co.uk/news/press/20020618.html
  7. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/markkermode/2008/05/dvd_news_last_house_on_the_lef.html
  8. ^ http://www.bbfc.co.uk/website/Classified.nsf/0/AE4F890AEAF8FEC680256BFB0031D829?OpenDocument
  9. ^ http://www.bbfc.co.uk/website/Classified.nsf/0/4F6572F4AB0BFAD88025740F003F1803?OpenDocument
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ Borys Kit (2007-05-30). "Iliadis on path to 'House' redo". The Hollywood Reporter. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/film/news/e3i23e0aa399c616f0f7425d91a12a8f7c2. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  13. ^ IMDb - The Last House on the Left - Release dates

External links








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