Sunday, June 26, 2011

House on the Edge of the Park (1980)

Poor David Hess- it's got be hard for an actor to get typecast as a rapist. That's pretty much what happened to Hess after he appeared in the sleeper hit Last House on the Left. He's a compelling actor and accomplished musician, but for years the only roles Hess could get were variations on his thug character from Last House. This film is an Italian Last House ripoff that even rips of the name, making its lineage even more evident. It's a better made film than Last House, although that's not exactly saying much.

Hess plays Alex (probably a Clockwork Orange reference), a young disco-hopping hooligan whose problems with the opposite sex are pretty clearly established in the opening sequence, in which he drives a young woman he saw in a discoteque earlier off the road and britally rapes and strangles her in a scene that is even more disturbing due to its light disco ballad score. It's also sort of amazing that nobody saw this assault since the film is set in New York City. But, whatever- the very next scene shows Alex working at the garage with his hooligan friend Ricky (played by Giovanni Radice of Cannibals in the Streets, The Beyond, and numerous other Italian exploitation flicks in his first role) and they're looking to hit the late 70s streets and boogie.

Into the garage comes a rich, sophisticated couple with minor car problems who, in a pretty unbelievable twist, invite the two thugs to a little soiree of five rich assholes with the intention of making fun of them. The class dynamnics are pretty sharp in these early scenes, with the beautiful rich girl (played by the gorgeous Annie Belle of Laure) Lisa aroused by Alex but unwilling to have sex with him, and the snotty young men getting Ricky drunk in order to make a fool of him. Soon the little party is getting the dim thug to strip for them and ripping him off in a rigged card game.

Before you know it, though, the tables are turned and Hess is holding the kids hostage with a straight razor. Let's consider that again: he is holding five strangers hostage in their own home with nothing but a straight razor, and for most of the movie nobody gets the idea to just throw a chair at him! He throws one dude in the swimming pool and pisses on him, smashes another's face in on the pool table, rapes Annie Bell (although she eventually gets on top- classy), and finally slices up a young friend who comes to the door on the couch with the razor, and nobody stops him. That last bit, incidentally, is excruciatingly cruel and misogynist: Cindy (Brigitte Petronio) is a virgin, so Hess strips her naked and takes at least a dozen slashes out of her on the couch. It's scenes like this that have given the film a notorious reputation.

Again, though, the framework of the story is so stupid and unbelievable that you start to tune out until the last ten minutes in which there's a twist that is supposed to explain everything, but which is even stupider than the original storyline! So, for about an hour and half The House on the Edge of the Park is drawn out thuggery with serious logical problems. Annie Belle is hot as usual and David Hess is lots of fun to watch, and Ruggero Deodato's direction is fairly competent, but the film will lower your IQ by 20 points.

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