Friday, January 22, 2016

Video Nasties Episode 3!

Seems like I hardly ever update this damn blog anymore, but here's the latest scoop.

The newest video on the Dr. Sparkle After Dark channel has been posted. In response to Wes Craven's death, I decided to cover 1972's Last House on the Left, which was produced by Sean Cunningham and written/directed by Craven. Aside from the 1080p Youtube version, you can find downloadable versions on Archive in 1080p, 720p, and a smaller sized 720p formats.

Aside from discussing the film itself, I go into a bit of professional history of some of the cast and crew. Craven's work in the porn industry is somewhat well known, though little discussed. Additionally, several members of the cast, namely Sandra Cassel & Lucy Grantham, who played Mari & Phylis, as well as Fred Lincoln (Weasel) and 'Gaylord St James' (Dr Collingwood), had history in the sex movie industry. Lincoln, in particular, was an extremely prolific actor and director, who worked in the porn biz until two years before his death in 2013. He was also the co-owner of the notorious NYC swinger's club Plato's Retreat.  (Richard Dreyfuss was a regular there. Jeramie Rain, who played Sadie in Last House, married Dreyfuss a few years after Plato's Retreat opened. Coincidence?)

One way to look at Last House is that it is a porn movie without hardcore sex. It was originally planned to be a sexually explicit film. This element was dropped in pre-production, but it does explain the casting of several porn actors. There were also numerous ties, both personal and professional, among the cast and crew. For example, Fred Lincoln and Lucy Grantham were dating at the time; David Hess was dating Martin Kove's sister, and so on. 

One thing about Last House that really bothers people is the severe tonal shifts throughout the film. Scenes of psychological torture and violence are intercut with the goofy antics of the local sheriff and deputy. The music (by David Hess) appears to be wildly inappropriate at times. The killers' theme song is a rollicking bluegrass-y number that refers to  Krug, Sadie, etc as a "quartet in harmony/barbershop band" and describes the film's murders and rapes as a fun little afternoon outing.

The first time I saw Last House, the silly humor and inappropriate music struck me was being very strange. Having seen it a couple more times over the years, and then scouring every inch of the film while editing the video, I realize these elements are essential to Last House's artistic success. The lighthearted moments not only keep Last House from being 90 minutes of unrelenting bleakness, but also provide enough contrast to make brutal moments feel that much more brutal. 

The use of irony, especially in the soundtrack, acts as a distancing technique. Craven must have picked this up from studying Europeans films such as those by Bergman. Watching it now, I can see its art film roots much more clearly than I could when I was younger. For a debut film, Last House on the Left is surprisingly sophisticated.

Next up is Chrontendo 49, which will cover a bunch of crap along the lines of LJN's Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. A pretty rough episode, for the most part, considering it also has a Hokuto no Ken RPG and another Japan-only adventure game from Nintendo.

When The Video Nasties return, it will cover the bizarre 1980 horror movie The Frozen Scream, which was recently released in a pretty watchable edition, taken from the original negative, for the first time.