Last House on the Beach (US - DVD R1)
Thanks to exploitation films Gabe always avoids the left end of every street...
Woe on to he who owns or rents the last house on his block. It’s all thanks to Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham, and their seminal and uncompromising thriller, Last House on the Left. Now we’ve got Last House on a Dead End Street, The Last House in the Woods, The Last House Near the Lake, Last House on Hell Street, and a bunch of other Last House clones that change up the title a bit ( Late Night Trains, House at the Edge of the Park). This bring us to a lesser known ocean side entrée in the canon called Last House on the Beach. A later Spanish pic, A.K.A. Séptima mujer, this one is directed by super sleaze merchant Franco Prosperi, one of the godfathers of the Mondo revolution. Prosperi's co-credits include the origianl Mondo release. Mondo Carne, and two of the most severe genre entries, Addio Zio Tom and Addio Africa.
The structure is taken directly from Ruggero Deadato’s House by the Edge of the Parktextbook - some generally bastardly criminals bust into a girls school as part of a half witted robbery/kidnapping plot, then take to pushing the young ladies and their teachers to most torturous and desperate means. The whole beach side estate is generally used to good effect, ensuring some pleasant outdoor photography, and some nice (though pretty innocent) bikini action. Deadato's class war subtext and sense of moral ambiguity is sadly missed, but Prosperi sneaks in a bit of tastily tacky nunsploitation action to fill the void.
Most of the cast is pretty weak (I know, shocker), and the dialogue pretty repetitive and drab (again not unexpected), but Prosperi scores Ray Lovelock ( The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue and Autopsy) and Florinda Bolkan ( Flavia the Heritic and A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, who add a dash of olderschool class to the pot. Both stars play the exact same characters they played for years (Lovelock a suave bad boy, Bolkan a sexy nun), but it's familiarity that makes B-actors into B-stars, so we can forgive them.
So the frat boy foils get worse, from humiliation, to forced stripping, attempted rape, forced alcohol consumption, watching nudie videos, groping, actual rape, and eventually murder. The production is definitely disturbing, and when it counts the beseeched virgins are full the appropriate dread, but despite Prosperi’s revolting history on film this isn’t all that shocking of a film. Properi pulls off one genuinely upsetting and surprisingly stylized rape scene (the music takes a sudden shift into something out of Suspiria), but Last House on the Beach lacks the gritty realism of the original Last House, the sadness and drama of Straw Dogs, and the genuine frightfulness of Late Night Trains. At its best Last House on the Beach is a less mature director’s rendition of House on the Edge of the Park (which isn't really very good), minus the obvious social commentary. Fans can take that for what it’s worth.
Though the overall colour pallet is a bit dull and dishwatery, Severin does a generally fantastic job in presented the cleanest version of such an aged and under the table flick. There’s almost no print damage or film artefacts, and the general grain and noise levels are as minimal as can be expected. The whole transfer suffers a bit of softness, which mostly appears to have been done on purpose (the beach house is a bit foggy). The softness dulls some of the details, but most genre fans will still be pretty impressed. One of the film’s biggest problems, just in general, is that it’s filmed under such harsh light for the majority of the run time, which robs it of a lot of atmosphere which the actors and script aren’t quite able to make up for.
I can say a lot of things about this generally average invasion/revenge trip, but I can’t fault the English dub on any normal levels. Lovelock and Bolkan indicate a mixed beyond Spaniards cast, so it’s a good possibility that some of these folks are actually speaking English, but there’s no way these are their voices. Still the voices and the faces match up pretty well, as does the lip sync. The dialogue is a lithe high on the track for the music and thin sound effects cues, but there’s no overt distortion when noises build up on the Mono track, or when the pretty ladies scream. The music is similar to many moody Italian and Spanish thrillers, but effective. Occasionally composer Roberto Pregadio digs into his western and crime roots, rather then recycling the same horror/porn cues over and over again, which is about as much as fans can expect out the era (both major rape scenes are way over the top musically speaking)
‘Holy Beasts vs The Evil Beasts’ is a brief interview with star Ray Lovelock, recorded in Italian with English subtitles, which appears to have been recorded in his living room. He quickly covers a lot of the same basic career aspirations that he spoke about so well on Blue Underground’s Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, working his way through his early Western and horror career, eventually working his way up to the film in question. Italian and German trailers finish out the disc.
Last House on the Beach is a well made enough thriller, but it’s pacing and suspense are a bit lacking, and in their stead there isn’t a whole lot of super sleazy gore or nudity. Most of the violence and rape is pretty tame. When the vengeful action final comes tearing down it feels a tiny bit too late, but does carry an odd sense of pathos. We’re talking all around pretty average, but an interesting and oft-missed entry for sub-genre fans, even if it misses most of the more entertaining elements that usually follow it. Great A/V production on Severin’s part, and I continue to look forward to more of these under the radar first run R1 releases.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 9th September 2008
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono English
Extras: 'Holy Beasts vs The Evil Beasts', Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Franco Prosperi
Cast: Florinda Bolkan, Ray Lovelock, Flavio Andreini, Stefano Cedrati, Sherry Buchanan
Length: 86 minutes
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