House on the Edge of the Park – original title: La casa sperduta nel parco – is a 1980 Italian feature film directed by Ruggero Deodato (The Washing Machine; Cannibal Holocaust; Last Cannibal World).
Degenerate New York mechanic, Alex (David Hess, to some extent reprising the role he played as Krug in The Last House on the Left) spends his downtime prowling the streets abducting and assaulting, sometimes murdering the local women.
A typical day sees Alex and his workmate, the slow-on-the-uptake Ricky (Giovanni Lombardo Radice), closing the garage for the night, only for a car containing socially mobile yuppie types Tom (Christian Borromeo, Tenebrae, Murder-Rock) and his girlfriend Lisa (Annie Belle, Absurd) who need some urgent repairs on the Cadillac. Ricky agrees to help and in no time the job is done – as a way of thanking them for their time, Tom invites them to a party at their friend’s large villa, situated, yes, next to a park. Pausing only for Alex to equip himself with a straight razor, they set off for a night of high jinx.
Upon arrival, it’s clear that the social and financial divide between the two groups of partygoers is some cause of amusement, at Alex and Ricky’s expense. Ricky is coerced into cinema’s greatest dance sequence and later a game of poker, with some extremely naughty cheating going on.
As Alex’s anger continues to rise, he is lured by Lisa who leads him to the shower, only for her to reject him. His rage is unleashed on another of the guests, Howard (Gabriele Di Giulio), who is given a severe beating, then tied to a table leg as Alex announces that he’s running the show now.
Despite being outnumbered, Alex and Ricky subject the group to a relentless torrent of attacks, Alex slashing Tom with his razor and Ricky becoming involved with Gloria (Lorraine De Selle from Cannibal Ferox and Wild Beasts) who finds it easy to distract him with an enticing dance.
Meanwhile, Alex is running rampage, with next door neighbour, Cindy (Brigitte Petronio) cut to ribbons and the rest of the household lining up to be next. Ricky finally snaps and begs him to stop, only to be disemboweled for his troubles. The worm turns when, rather belatedly, Tom remembers there’s a gun hidden in a desk drawer…
Sporting a title that revels in the greatest obsession of scuzzy filmmakers, houses and the environs thereof, House on the Edge of the Park is regularly compared to The Last House on the Left, primarily because Hess plays a similarly unhinged killer. Hess was singled out for the role because of his portrayal of Krug and was allegedly lured to the part by the promise of half the film’s rights.
However, the tragedy and dynamics of the earlier film are shifted considerably by Deodato’s effort, with the rich party hosts being morally dubious and the whole household frankly needing a stern talking to.
The infamous director came straight from filming Cannibal Holocaust and was in no mood to lighten things up, employing hard-nosed writers Gianfranco Clerici and Vincenzo Mannino to sketch out the sense-light/violence-heavy screenplay – and their track record for demented cinema was admirable, with a host of grim shockers under their belt, from Don’t Torture a Duckling to Last Cannibal World leading to, in 1982, the misogynistic yet mesmerisingly mean The New York Ripper. Despite admitting that he thought the script was ‘too violent’, Deodato went ahead and filmed it anyway, omitting only one ‘bridge too far’ scene.
The savage make-up effects by Raul Ranieri, who also worked with Deodato and Hess on Hitch-Hike and on Umberto Lenzi’s Eaten Alive! coupled with an unremitting sordid tone landed the film in hot water in the UK, being rejected for a cinema certificate in March of 1981 and after sneaking out on VHS finding itself on the now notorious video nasties ‘banned list’.
When it was resubmitted in 2002, it was, ironically, savagely cut by over 11 minutes. The latest UK version is still trimmed by 42 seconds of razor mayhem some 33 years on from its initial release.
Though regularly flagged up as an example of films that are morally bankrupt and can only serve to corrupt the mind, House on the Edge of the Park is unfailingly enjoyable, primarily because of the energetic and all-or-nothing performances of Hess and Radice. Their victims are almost a roll call of Italian trash cinema faces whose names may escape you but are part of the firmament of 70’s and 80’s grub-core.
The disco dancing scene, whether intentionally or not, is a riot and the fact that all the characters represent many of the worst elements of society simply adds to the rather cartoon quality of the film, something of an uber-violent pantomime.
Though Riz Ortolani‘s score is nowhere near as accomplished as that of his masterpiece for Cannibal Holocaust, it is nevertheless similarly inappropriate, raising the question of whether he ever understood the kind of films he was scoring for. Or cared?
Before the untimely death of David Hess, plans were apparently underway to revisit the film with a sequel, with both Radice and Hess appearing in some capacity, and Deodato again slated to direct.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES & MANIA
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Cast and characters:
- David A. Hess … Alex
- Annie Belle … Lisa
- Christian Borromeo … Tom
- Giovanni Lombardo Radice … Ricky
- Marie Claude Joseph … Glenda
- Gabriele Di Giulio … Howard
- Brigitte Petronio … Cindy
- Karoline Mardeck … Susan
- Lorraine De Selle … Gloria
In October 2018, Death Waltz Records released the soundtrack score by Riz Ortolani pressed on 180-gram red vinyl with blue colour-in-colour vinyl. It features artwork by Eric Adrian Lee and costs $30 via Mondo.
Dance along like Ricky!
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