HTF REVIEW: "The Last House On The Left" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jul 24, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    The Last House On The Left

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1972
    Rated: UNRATED
    Film Length: 84 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)

    Many of you who read my reviews know that I
    am not particularly a fan of low-budget horror
    films. The first time I heard of The Last
    House On The Left was during one of our earliest
    live chats with MGM Home Video. It seemed that
    members of this forum were very anxious for the
    film's release -- more importantly, the uncut
    version of the film.
    With the arrival of a pile of classic horror
    films that MGM is set to release just in time
    for Halloween, I decided it was about time that
    I watched this 1972 cult favorite from Director
    Wes Craven.
    The story is quite simple. Two teenage girls,
    Mari (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis (Lucy Grantham)
    are on their way to a rock concert located in a
    bad neighborhood. Marie's father (Gaylord St.
    James) is concerned, but Marie assures him that
    Phyllis will keep her safe.
    Along the way, three escaped convicts kidnap
    the girls, torture them and force them into sexual
    acts. They are then gagged and thrown in the back of
    a car. Unknowingly, their kidnappers take them to
    a secluded place in the woods, directly across from
    Mari’s home, where they are degraded, beaten, raped
    and sodomized, and then brutally murdered.
    The convicts then find shelter in a nearby home
    of strangers whom they later find out are the
    parents of Mari, the girl they just murdered.
    When the parents discover the shocking truth of
    their missing daughter’s tragic end, they contrive
    revenge against her killers.
    My initial reaction in the film's first few
    minutes was not good. I was suddenly faced with
    the prospect of watching a god-awful low-budget
    slasher movie. However, within the film's first
    thirty minutes, I found myself actually getting
    into the film.
    Make no mistake about it, The Last House On
    The Left is a brutally disturbing and realistic
    movie that will ultimately bother some. Time has
    sort of lessened the shock value of this film,
    though I can see how shocking and powerful this
    film must have been in the early 70s.
    How is the transfer?
    Well, folks, you can't ask for much out of a
    low-budget 1972 film that was shot in 16mm.
    The film looks pretty bad, filled with harsh
    grain and subdued colors. The film looks
    mostly unfocused with a lack of sharpness.
    The night scenes look pretty poor as character
    detail becomes as dark as the surrounding
    blackness. Flesh tones run extremely red.
    But you know what? This is how the film is
    supposed to look. And actually, with the print
    being generally clean, this is probably the best
    this movie has looked on any format.
    The mono sound is also what you would expect --
    a bit muffled and tinny. There is no dynamic
    range here whatsoever.
    Special Features
    Once again MGM goes the extra mile for horror
    fans by including some really cool extra material.
    When you first pop in the disc, you will have
    the choice of playing the film with or without
    a video introduction from Director Wes Craven.
    By all means, play it, for it's only 40 seconds
    long and it's a rather cool way to start the film
    as Craven warns you in advance about this fully
    restored version now completely uncut.
    The DVD features a full-length audio commentary
    by Director Wes Craven and Producer Sean Cunningham.
    The two are quite lively during the commentary. Since
    the movie was filmed in Sean's home, the two make jokes
    about Sean's familiar surroundings. With the NY shots
    (filmed down around 14th street), Craven reminisces about
    how he first came to NY and lost his virginity. It's funny to hear
    about the "seagull shot" and why the dog belonging to Sean's
    wife was often used in this manner. It's kind of scary to learn
    about how unsafe conditions were during the chain saw
    sequence at the end of the film -- especially since Craven
    and Cunningham reveal that this was shot in a stranger's
    home. It's a pretty cool commentary thanks to the
    humorous exchanges between the two artists.
    It's only a movie reunites the original
    cast and Director Wes Craven for a brand new
    retrospective on a film now 30 years old. As
    we begin, the cast reflects on the movie's initial
    release -- such as how they saw kids throwing up
    in movie theaters. Wes Craven and Producer Sean
    Cunningham talk about the early 70's era of filmmaking
    and how easy it was to work outside of the boundaries
    of what was expected as decent. These two amateurs
    seemed to find each other in New York City, hit it
    off immediately, and went off to write this film.
    Several of the cast talk about how they came to be
    selected for the film, as well as their experiences.
    It's interesting to learn that the film was shot
    in Sean's own home, in his bedroom and his car, all
    located in Connecticut. They even ran into some
    initial problems with the police over shooting
    without a permit. All in all, it sounds as if the
    cast had a hell of a lot of fun, and you'll have
    just as much learning how a bunch of amateurs filmed
    this cult classic. The only unfortunate thing about
    this featurette is that there's no interview with
    Sandra Cassell.
    (length: approx. 29 minutes)
    In order to access the additional bonus materials
    on this DVD, you must turn the disc over.
    There are about 13 minutes of Outtakes and
    Dailies, that run as a collage. There is no
    sound available for this footage as the original
    synchronized sound was lost. Still, very cool
    to look at.
    Forbidden Footage shows us sequences that
    are included in the film, and gory sequences that
    never made the cut, all intertwined with video
    commentary by Craven, Cunningham and cast members.
    The entire premise is sort of misleading, as there
    is more description given here of what was cut
    rather than showing us.
    (length: approx. 8 minutes)
    Finally, the film's original theatrical trailer
    is included. Play it enough and you'll be muttering
    in your sleep, It's only a movie! It's only a
    movie! It's only.....

    Final Thoughts
    It's hard to recommend a film like this that is
    not just badly acted and poorly directed, but
    accented with a hillbilly soundtrack to boot.
    Yet, somehow, Last House On The Left is
    one of those films that has to be seen, as if it
    were some artistic triumph of its time. It's
    one of the most realistic and disturbing films
    I have ever seen, and just because it turned out
    to be better than I had thought, keeping my
    interest for nearly 90 minutes, I am going to
    recommend it as a rental first. Of course,
    fans who have patiently waited for this release
    will be the first on line to buy it.
    Release Date: August 27th
  2. Kenneth Cummings

    Kenneth Cummings Supporting Actor

    Aug 7, 2001
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    Sounds good to me for a late October buying mood. I not the biggest fan of horror movies, but I starting to grow into them now, so I will give this a try.
  3. Anthony Thorne

    Anthony Thorne Supporting Actor

    Oct 10, 2000
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    Sounds like a good disc, if you know what you're in for. I'll definitely be picking this one up. It's nice to see how MGM have handled this title, too. They spent an extra year restoring and remastering it (if you think it look grainy now, check out the old tape and overseas DVD masters), hired journalist David Szulkin as a consultant to assist with the restoration and to track down various interviewees, went the full distance with the supplements (creating docos, a commentary track and more), added Craven's introduction at the start of the disc to defuse any potential negative feedback about the film's content, and then priced the whole thing at around $14.95! If only every studio could treat some of their 'limited interest' titles like this! If you're a horror fan, this has to be one of the DVD bargains of the year. With the studio chat and resultant feedback thread on this title, I'd like to applaud MGM for producing this disc in the way that they ultimately did, and genuinely listening to the wishes of a small but vocal bunch of horror-film fans. It is much appreciated.

    Roger Ebert's old review of LAST HOUSE concurs with Ron's by mentioning how the film became fairly gripping when the storyline kicked in, so I'm looking forward to watching the whole thing again on DVD next month.
  4. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

    May 19, 2001
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    Thanks very much, Ron! It's good to know that MGM have put out a quality disc.
  5. Justin_S

    Justin_S Producer

    Mar 4, 2001
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    Thanks for the review! LHOTL is a favorite of mine, and I can't wait till I have my copy in my hands!
  6. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

    Jun 15, 2001
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  7. Esten

    Esten Supporting Actor

    Nov 15, 2000
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    Nice review.August is going to be one expensive month.Lots of MGM discs to buy.
  8. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

    Jun 3, 1999
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    My copy is on order.

    This review also reminds me of something about 1970s-style gore/horror another member said in a current thread about Dawn of the Dead: This sort of film would not get made today. The 1970s were arguably the most permissive era ever on film; almost anything went.

    Excessive gore and violence have been, um, brutally eliminated from today's fare.
  9. Jan Strnad

    Jan Strnad Screenwriter

    Jan 1, 1999
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    I've never been able to see this film as "entertainment." I'm a horror fan, but Last House on the Left just strikes me as a sick piece of garbage.
    I guess, to each his own.
  10. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

    Apr 8, 1999
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    Real Name:
    David Scarpa
    Well Unless it's War movie and then Gore and Violence are OK. I know what everyone means. Films like Last House, Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw, hell even Halloween (Not the mindless sequels) could'nt be made today. I Don't know if this is good or bad but it's probably bad for the movies, as I'd take a Hill Has eyes over alot of the crap being shoveled out of Hollywood these days.
  11. Darren Davis

    Darren Davis Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 9, 2001
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    I've never even seen the movie but I think I'll be picking this one up. The story sounds pretty interesting and I really love those 70s horror films like Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that have already been mentioned.
    P.s. I also like it when studios realize that releasing a movie on DVD can be grounds for a great package and not just a laundry list task. [​IMG] for MGM.
  12. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

    Jun 21, 2000
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  13. Andy Olivera

    Andy Olivera Screenwriter

    Jul 25, 2000
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  14. James Zos

    James Zos Supporting Actor

    Jan 7, 2002
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    I find both this film and the positive reaction to it more than a little disturbing.
    I'm all for excessive gore and violence. I love Dawn of the Dead. But the rape/sodomy and torture of women as "entertainment" crosses an ethical line for me, maybe because I've known women and girls who actually have been raped.
  15. Jan Strnad

    Jan Strnad Screenwriter

    Jan 1, 1999
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    James Zos,

    What you said, every word.

  16. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

    Dec 28, 1998
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    Im probally gonna regret this post
    "But the rape/sodomy and torture of women as "entertainment" crosses an ethical line for me"
    I dont believe either are actually shown though.I believe the rape(and attempted rape) scenes in A Clockwork Orange were more graphic.
    As for the cruelty,what about:
    The ear in Reservoir Dogs,the hobbling in Misery,the hook on texas chainsaw massacre, the beating at the end of Casino,the razor scene in Hellraiser,pick any scene in Schindlers List,the chainsaw scen in Scarface, the put your teeth on the curb scene from American History X, etc etc.I understand people are a bit more repulsed because its against women (I am too in reality)but torure is torture.
    The only part that really made me wince was carving his name on her chest
    Movies have changed so much, while I can see this being really upsetting in the early 70s, to me, LHONL just wasnt that shocking(but it is very ugly).
    Before the mob comes after me with pitchforks I guess I should say that Im against violence against women of any kind(the reason I couldnt be a cop, Id probally end up throwing a wife beater down the stairs).
    Anyone who causes violence against someone unable to defend themself is a true piece of dogshit,and I truly believe in a eye for a eye in such cases.
    Halloween is a movie I really love. If Im not mistaken, the only scene with blood is the beginning when Micheal kills his sister
    Its not a graphic movie at all.I recently showed it to my g/f whod never seen it and she even commented on how little gore it had and she was suprised by the suspense of it.
  17. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

    Jun 21, 2000
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  18. James Zos

    James Zos Supporting Actor

    Jan 7, 2002
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    Jonz, I've seen every movie you mentioned, and I think there is a factor you have overlooked. In every one of those movies (with the possible exception of, say, Hellraiser, but that's arguable) the sadism was a part of the movie, but it wasn't the whole POINT of the movie.
    Yes there is a rape scene in Clockwork Orange, but that movie was ABOUT the effects of violence and desensitization, about the ability to make or not make a moral choice, etc etc. If it was just image after image of women being brutalized, I wouldn't be making this argument. Can't you see the difference between the way a film like Clockwork Orange uses violence, and a film like Last House on the Left Does?
    As for Hellraiser - yes, Hellraiser uses gore and violence for pure entertainment value. And I loved it. But I think I would feel differently if it was all centered on the realistic rape and torture of women, instead of demons from hell (or wherever they were supposed to be from) carving up a variety of victims.
    It's the difference between reality and fantasy. I can enjoy gore and violence as part of a fantasy, because there is no question of any "real people" getting hurt.
    Let's take an example from the headlines.
    In recent weeks there have been a number of kidnap/rape/murder cases involving young children, young girls to be precise.
    I would not go to a film that centered entirely on a realistic depiction of their agony.
    That just would not be my idea of "entertainment."
    (And I would question anyone who would argue that I would somehow "learn something" from viewing such a movie.)

    Matt, you wrote:

    "IMO, that is the entire point...the film's brutal relaity is supposed to be disturbing."

    But to what purpose Matt?
    One could make a two hour movie full of nothing but "brutally realistic" scenes of a woman/children/whoever being raped and tortured, and that would, as you say, certainly be "disturbing." But so what? Is the fact that something is disturbing, in and of itself enough to validate or explain it?
  19. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

    Jun 21, 2000
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    In a sense, yes. The movie was supposed to envoke specific feelings in the viewer...and those feelings are being disturbed, and deeply saddened. I would agree with you if people were celebrating the act of rape/murder/etc, but they are celebrating the fact that the realism envokes feelings on a very deep level.

    That being's obviously not for everyone, and just because you see it one way doesn't mean I have too...and vice versa.
  20. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

    Mar 7, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Real Name:
    Damin J. Toell

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