The Last House on the Left (1972 film)
|The Last House on the Left|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Wes Craven|
|Produced by||Sean S. Cunningham|
|Written by||Wes Craven|
David A. Hess
|Music by||David Alexander Hess|
|Editing by||Wes Craven|
|Studio||Sean S. Cunningham Films
The Night Co.
|Distributed by||Hallmark Releasing Corp (1972)
Filmways Pictures (1981)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Current) (DVD, 2009)
|Running time||84 minutes|
The Last House on the Left is a 1972 American exploitation-horror film written, edited, 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". It is the directorial debut from Craven.
The film was remade into a 2009 film of the same name.
Mari (pronounced Mar-e) Collingwood plans to attend a concert with her friend, Phyllis Stone, for her 17th birthday. Her parents, Estelle and John, express concern both at the band and Mari's friendship with Phyllis, but let her go after giving their daughter a peace symbol necklace.
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, a rapist and serial killer, his son Junior, Sadie, a promiscuous psychopath and sadist, and Fred "Weasel" Podowski, 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 gang-raped by Krug, Weasel and Sadie.
Meanwhile, Mari's unsuspecting parents prepare a surprise party for her.
Both Mari and Phyllis are transported to the woods by the criminals. Mari recognizes that the road is near her home. 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.
While the two criminals chase Phyllis, Mari tries gaining Junior's trust by giving him her necklace as a symbol of her trust and naming him "Willow".
Phyllis manages to hit Sadie in the face and runs, but is then cornered and stabbed to death by Weasel. Sadie reaches into Phyllis's wounds and pulls out the insides.
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 then rapes her. Soon after this act, Mari vomits. 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 travelling 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's body on the bank of the lake. They carry Mari's body back into the house then exact revenge against the crooks.
Outside, Estelle seduces Weasel and then performs fellatio on him which turns deadly when 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 Junior, who now brandishes a firearm and threatens to kill him. However, his father is able to manipulate him and Junior commits suicide.
Sadie rushes outside where she is tackled by Estelle. The two of them wrestle and fight on the ground. Estelle eventually is able to slit Sadie's throat with a knife and Dr. Collingwood kills Krug with a chainsaw. After the bloodbath, the couple meets in the living room as the police come.
- Sandra Cassel as Mari Collingwood
- Lucy Grantham as Phyllis Stone
- David A. Hess as Krug Stillo
- Fred Lincoln as Fred "Weasel" Podowski
- Jeramie Rain as Sadie
- Marc Sheffler as Junior Stillo
- Cynthia Carr as Estelle Collingwood
- Gaylord St. James as Dr. John Collingwood
- Marshall Anker as Sheriff
- Martin Kove as Deputy
- Ada Washington as Ada
- Steve Miner (uncredited) as Hippie-taunting deputy
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 film.
Cunningham served as producer and Craven served as writer and director.
Written by 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.
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.
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 for gore-meister H.G. Lewis's 1964 splatter film Color Me Blood Red, and then for 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 who gave 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. The tagline was so successful that many other exploitation films later used it, sometimes with their own spin. The title was sometimes imitated, as in the case of Last House on Dead End Street.
The film received generally positive reviews. The film currently has a 63% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars out of four, and described it as "about four times as good as you'd expect." However, he hinted in his review of the 2009 remake that he no longer held the film so highly: I wrote that original "Last House" review 37 years ago. I am not the same person. I am uninterested in being "consistent."
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.
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 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. Blue Underground toured an uncut print around Britain without a BBFC certificate, with Southampton City Council granting the uncut version its own 18 certificate. 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. 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.
The film was eventually given an 18 certificate with 31 seconds of cuts on July 17, 2002 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.
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. 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. According to Wes Craven, some people who were offended by the movie even stole copies of the original film and burned them.
Some incomplete scenes are:
- "Lesbian rape scene" - One scene long-thought lost, except as a photographic still, is the two female victims forced to commit sexual acts on each other in the woods. This forced lesbian rape scene was found as an outtake with no sound to it on the Metrodome Three-Disc DVD Ultimate Edition as well as the 2011 Blu-ray release.
- "Mari in her room" - Photographic stills exists showing a nude Mari in her room in the beginning of the movie where she is reading birthday cards, the shot scenes of this no longer exist.
- "Mari raped by Sadie" - Short cuts showing Sadie committing sexual acts against Mari in the woods is often cut out, even from some DVDs that have been labeled as "uncut".
In the Krug and Company cut, Mari is still alive when her parents find her. She tells her parents what happened to her and Phyllis before dying in front of them.
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.
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." Craven formed Midnight Pictures, a shingle of Rogue, to remake The Last House on the Left as its first project. Production was slated for early 2007. Screenwriter Adam Alleca was hired to write the script for the remake.
In May 2007, Rogue entered negotiations with director Dennis Iliadis to direct the film. The film was released to theaters in the US and Canada on March 13, 2009.
The Last House On The Left was released in a Region 1 DVD on September 15, 2009 by Fox Video.
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- 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.
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- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Ballot
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- [dead link]
- Mark Kermode (2008-05-09). "Mark Kermode's film blog: DVD News: Last House on the Left". BBC. Retrieved 2011-03-21.
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- Celluloid Crime of the Century, featurette documentary on the 2003 Anchor Bay-DVD edition of The Last House on the Left
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- Booklet from Anchor Bay 2-disc edition of The Last House on the Left, 2003
- Jeff (March 28, 2009). "Chapter VII: After Friday V". Stone Cold Crazy. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
- Johnny (November 10, 2011). "Lost In Developmental Hell: Beyond The Last House On The Left". Freddy in Space. Retrieved November 19, 2012.
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- Michael Fleming (2006-09-27). "Helmer haunts Rogue's house". Variety. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- Borys Kit (2007-05-30). "Iliadis on path to 'House' redo". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2007-09-15. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- The Last House on the Left at the Internet Movie Database
- The Last House on the Left at AllRovi
- The Last House on the Left at Rotten Tomatoes