Shit you may not know: “The Last House on the Left” (1972)
When it comes to disturbing horror, I’ve yet to find one that matches the raw and visceral nature of Wes Craven’s 1972 game changer: “The Last House on the Left“
The story of two innocent teenage girls who end up kidnapped by a gang of sadistic psychopaths who proceed to rape, torture, and murder them only to later be gruesomely killed themselves by the parents of one of the girls.
It’s a film that created massive controversy upon release and 46 years later, continues to divide audiences. The brutal and unrelenting depiction of violence still has the power to deeply affect viewers. Time usually tames a film’s ability to shock, but not Craven’s first foray into the genre. “The Last House on the Left” is still as disturbing and powerful a film as the day it was released. Many still have to remind themselves, it’s only a movie…it’s only a movie…
Below are 8 facts about Cravens masterpiece you may not know. Let’s do this!
1.) The film is basically a remake of Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring” (1960), which Wes Craven was fascinated with due to its commentary on the nature of human violence. The story which is set in the 14th century, tell’s the tale of two young women who while out are raped and tortured by Goat herders who end up murdering one of the girls. Later the goat herders unknowingly seek shelter at the home of the family of the girl they killed. When the family learns who they are they proceed to torture and murder the goat herders in an act of revenge.
Craven took Bergman’s story, updated it, and cranked the violence up to 11.
2.) Craven’s motivation for making the film was the Vietnam War. Like many at the time he was deeply opposed to it and after having seen film depicting the horrible violence of the war, wanted to make a film that showed how insane and senseless violence truly was. The film’s realistic depiction of rape, torture, and murder was done deliberately to shock audiences into realizing the true horror of violence and its lasting effects.
3.) Martin Kove, who you probably best remember as Sensei Creese in “The Karate Kid” films, was originally asked to play the lead psycho, Krug, due to his large size. Kove instead wanted to play the more comedic role of the sheriff’s deputy. He recommended his friend David Hess be given the role instead. Craven and Producer Sean S. Cunningham were impressed with Hess and hired him immediately. Craven offered Hess the job of scoring the film when he learned Hess was a musician and songwriter. Hess accepted.
4. Fred J. Lincoln who played Weasel, Hates the film to this day and regrets ever being part of it. In an interview for the DVD release he stated that he thought the film was crap and that it probably caused the rape of many women.
5.) Many have remarked how realistic Sandra Peabody’s (Mari Collingwood) acting was during the rape/torture scenes. Thing was, she wasn’t acting. According to cast and crew, she was genuinely terrified for her safety during filming. The actors playing the psychos apparently embraced their characters so much poor Sandra feared they may go too far. She was particularly frightened by David Hess who reportedly never broke character and would often go to extremes to convey his characters depravity. In scenes where Krug attacks Mari, Hess would get extra rough and grope Sandra, even attempting at one point to remove her pants when the scene didn’t call for it.
During one scene in which Krug was raping Mari, Hess was on top of Sandra holding her down. When Craven yelled cut, Hess looked up at Craven with a sadistic smile and asked “Can I?” prompting Sandra to then freak the fuck out.
Hess may have frightened her most, but he wasn’t the only one to scare the shit out of her. While filming a scene on the edge of an embankment, Marc Sheffler, after becoming frustrated that Sandra kept flubbing her lines, grabbed Sandra, leaned her over the steep embankment and told her that if she screwed the lines up one more time he was going to throw her over and that she’d certainly be hurt and have to go to the hospital.
Sandra got her lines perfect on the next take.
At one point, truly afraid for her safety, Sandra quit the film and walked off. The filmmakers chased after her and convinced her to come back and finish the film.
6.) The scene in which Lucy Grantham’s character Phyllis attempts to comfort Mari during their ordeal by saying “No one else is here, it’s just you and me.” while the psycho’s look on laughing is considered one of the most powerful moments in the film. It was also completely ad-libbed by Grantham.
7.) The original script contained much, MUCH more sex. So much it bordered on pornographic. The cast and crew told Craven they felt the film would be better without all the sex. Craven eventually agreed and removed the scenes.
8.) Originally, Mari was to survive long enough to make it back to her parents and tell them what happened. The scenes were shot but were removed in editing as Craven felt it was more impactful if both girls perished before anyone found them alive.
That’ll wrap up this edition of “Shit you didn’t know“. There are def more interesting facts about Cravens beast of a film, maybe one day we’ll do another top 8. Until then…SCREW YOU’RE BANANAS!!!!