Back in 1972, Wes Craven’s feature-film debut The Last House on the Left pushed more than a few puritanical buttons, but it was a scene featuring a girl pissing on demand that seemed to spark the most controversy. Some 30 years after its original theatrical release, this schlocky extrapolation of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring is still the definitive horror-film-as-cautionary-tale. Dr. William Collingwood (Gaylord St. James) and his wife Estelle (Cynthia Carr) smother their daughter Mari (Sandra Cassel) with listen-young-lady care before the 17-year-old heads off to a Bloodlust concert with Manhattanite best friend Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham) in tow. Craven evokes the innocence of the love generation via hippie songs, a peace-sign necklace, and a carefree stroll through the woods (it’s there that Mari and Phyllis compare cup sizes and discuss romantic love). When the girls go looking for marijuana, they’re kidnapped, tortured, and killed by a group of Mansonesque escaped cons. It’s the ultimate Vietnam allegory, except there’s no room for peace here, just war. Craven heightens the dramatic tension by expertly cutting back and forth between the Collingwoods’s happy suburban home and the Stillo gang’s hike through the woods. Way before Drew Barrymore had her larynx cut in Scream, an irony-stoked Craven had the Stillo posse unintentionally making their way back to the Collingwood estate, and though this exploitation quickie’s infamous promotional hook read “It’s only a movie,” it could have easily been “It can happen in your backyard.”
MGM Home Entertainment presents The Last House on the Left in its original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Shadow delineation is poor and scratches are noticeable on this video transfer while audio is noticeably flat on the English 1.0 Mono soundtrack. Regardless, Craven's grassroots debut feature more or less looks and sounds like a film with a $90,000 budget.
Craven and producer Sean S. Cunningham provide insightful commentary on this DVD edition of Last House on the Left. Their 20-year distance from the material encourages refreshing insights. That the film was shot on such a small budget, the DIY details of its guerilla production design (who owned the dogs and cars; the blood pack stored away in Jeramie Rain's chest) are fascinating to discover. A Craven introduction accompanies the two versions of the film included on the disc (the 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen and the 4:3 full screen). The cast and crew share their recollections on the spiffy "It's Only A Move: The Making of The Last House on the Left" but you have to flip over to the disc's second side to find the rest of the features: Audio-less outtakes and dailies, a "Forbidden Footage" mini-featurette, and the film's theatrical trailer.
Considering the source material, an all-around good DVD package fit for that special ghoul in your life.