House on the Edge of the Park (1979)

(courtesy of guest reviewer – GORELORD)

There are some films that are good but don’t hold enough shocks or surprises to make them completely memorable. Then there are films that dare to cross boundaries and deliver shocks to the maximum. HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1979) falls into the latter category. It is a prime example of the raw, no-holds barred horror and exploitation films of yesteryear. Films like HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK will never be made again.

At the time this graphic Italian low-budget nasty was being made, Europe was booming with all kind of horror, exploitation, sexploitation and the like. There was a big market for this type of film making. Today, that is far from the case. The flow of unrestrained cinematic brutalities has ceased to exist. The morally conscious critics and protest groups of today would probably eat a film like this alive if it were released in the present time. Sure there are still some film directors such as Quentin Tarentino who like to push the envelope, but there’s nothing like the good old days when they ripped the envelope to shreds.

Director Ruggero Deodato had already cemented his reputation as a master of shocking imagery the year before with his notorious CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1978). He carried the brutal violence from that film right over into this one, and the effect is unsettling. Deodato seems to have a way of looming graciously over the grim scenes before us and very little is left to the imagination. This is exploitation cinema at it’s finest.

Some may say that this is a LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) rip-off, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. If Ruggero Deodato intended to make a film that imitates the 1972 cult classic, why would he wait seven years to do so? Besides, director Aldo Lado had already beaten Deodato to the punch in the European Last House rip-off sweepstakes with his film, THE NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS (1975) (Italian title: L’ULTIMO TRENO DELLA NOTTE). Maybe it’s because classic screen psycho and lead killer Krug in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, David Hess, was cast as the maniacal lunatic on the loose again in this film. There’s nobody that I can think of that’s better than Hess at playing the role though.

The opening pre-credits sequence gives the whole film a grim kick-off and sets the stage for more vile actions. The gritty opening shots of rapist/murderer thug Alex (Hess) driving casually down a highway in New York looking for a victim, paints the sleazy picture of the film nicely. A pretty young twenty-something lady drives down the same stretch of road, unaware of the sadistic fate about to consume her. Alex catches up to her and taunts her a little, before maniacally running her off the road. Quickly, with evil intentions, he scurries over to the car and hops in next to her. Almost drooling and with a cunning grin, Alex says he just wants to say hi. We soon learn his real motives as he forces the struggling female into the back seat, rips her clothes off, and savagely has his way with her. In the process he strangles her to death. This scene is made all the more disturbing by the haunting choir song “Sweetly”, composed by Riz Ortolani and sung by Diana Corsini. The song highlighted the girl’s innocence being ravaged by desensitized inhumanity. A graphic opening to a graphic film. No holding back.

Alex runs a car repair shop out of an underground garage with his simpleton friend Ricky (played by Giovanni Lombardo Radice). The two men are getting ready to go out on the town and “boogie”. The fact that this was made in 1979 is very evident as Hess talks jive while making adjustments to a not so pretty yellow suit and black bell bottom pants. I love the late 70’s atmosphere myself.

Meanwhile, a catchy little disco number called “Much More” grabs our attention as upper class big shots Tom (played by Christian Borromeo) and Lisa (played by the gorgeous Annie Belle) head to a party located in New Jersey. They experience car trouble and wouldn’t you know it, they end up at Alex and Ricky’s garage. Right away as the two pull up, you can tell by that cocky, callous look on Alex’s face that he’s up to no good. He immediately takes notice of Lisa, as he looks her up and down salivating at the thought of what he could do to her. A thought he would later try to make a reality.

At first, Alex tells Tom and Lisa that they can fix it themselves. He and Ricky want to go out and get down. Tom offers triple the price to fix it, but Alex is told about the party that they’re headed to by Lisa and gets other ideas. Meanwhile, dim-witted Ricky takes a crack at the car and gets it going, and then seeks childish approval from Alex. Ricky needs approval from Alex for everything. It’s almost like his security blanket to receive attention from his best buddy. Now that the car’s been repaired, Alex sees this as his opportunity to score an invite to the party. He basically invites himself and insists on going. Tom and Lisa are reluctant at first, but soon agree to let Alex come along. However, Tom really would rather that Ricky didn’t join them, but Alex already promised he could come. Just before they all head off in Tom and Lisa’s car, Alex runs in and gets something that will play a big part in the agony and blood shed to come. He opens up a locker and from it he takes his utensil of torture. An extremely sharp straight razor!

The scene with the four driving to the party is classic Hess. He gets a major kick out of playing the yuppies for complete idiots. His sleazy and sly personality immediately surfaces as he lies to them and hints at his intentions as Tom and Lisa fail to catch on to the underlying message.

When asked about his profession by Lisa he replies, “The only real bread in the automotive industry is if you’re dealin’ hot cars, otherwise you barely make a livin’. But a, I’m not into that kind of shit.” With a cocky grin and a glance over to Ricky, they both know what he’s really into. If only Tom and Lisa knew. Or do they? “Have you got a girlfriend?”, Lisa asks Alex. Alex knows he can make her believe anything. “Oh yeah, we’ve been together for a long time. She’s wonderful! I think I’m gonna marry her!”, he exclaims with a smirk. Alex is proving by now to be the master of cons. Lisa turns to Ricky, “And how about you?” Ricky pipes up, “No me, I don’t have one.” Then Alex sends chills with another big grin at Ricky and says, “You might find one tonight.” Oh yeah, these chicks will be Alex and Ricky’s girlfriends. Whether they like it or not!

They arrive at the title house where three others are awaiting their arrival. Alex and Ricky are introduced to the lovely Gloria (played by Lorraine De Selle), the arrogant prick Howard (played by Gabriele Di Giulio), and the unique and beautiful Glenda (played by Karoline Mardeck), as a groovy disco beat plays in the background. The whole soundtrack is amazing. Almost immediately everyone starts to boogie to that wickedly funky track “Much More”. Oh yeah, I can here it now. “Do it to me much more (love me more and more), do it to me much more (love me more and more)” What a tune!

Gloria and Lisa seem to be getting their amusement from Alex and Ricky. One of the best and funniest scenes in the film comes when Gloria asks, “What else do they do besides fixing cars?” Alex answers, “We can dance” Well good old Ricky, always eager to impress with his little talents, proudly says to his pal, “Hey Alex, tell them how I can dance!” “Why should I tell them?”, Alex proclaims. “Do your number!” Ricky does just that as he grooves and gyrates all over the place. Little does he realize however, that the rich scum are not laughing with him, but laughing at him. In fact, they’re down right making fun of him. Ever observant Alex sees what’s going on and his blood begins to boil. It’s not going to be long before the blood begins to spill.

From here, Tom, Glenda, and Howard invite Ricky to play some poker while Alex follows Lisa up to the shower. I’d do the same. Lisa proves to be a major tease though, as she flirts with Alex and invites him in to scrub her back, and then simply walks away and leaves him hanging (literally). This adds fuel to the raging fire that is Alex’s deranged mind. Pissed off, Alex comes downstairs and takes notice of the shifty game of poker that Ricky’s taking part in. The greedy assholes are robbing him blind and Alex knows a cheat when he sees one. “Be careful Ricky”, he warns him. “They’re takin’ ya for a ride. These bastards wouldn’t know a straight game if they followed one home!” Tom and Howard try to get tough with Alex, but they don’t stand a chance. Alex punches the shit out of both of them and pulls out his trusty razor to show that he’s not playing games.

He forces everyone to sit down at the poker table and sees to it that Ricky wins all the cash as he deals whatever card he pleases. “You’re great Alex! I always said you were great!”, Ricky exclaims with glee. “Well, what now?” Do we blow this shithole?” Alex has other plans. “You must be cartooning, the best is yet to come! Now we’re gonna have some fun with these cunts!” Let the brutal ass kickings begin!

At this point Alex really starts to take over, wielding his razor like a battle sword. He gives Ricky a shot at whatever girl he wants to force down and screw. “Go ahead, pick the one you want.” Ricky’s eyes light up. “I get first choice?!”. Alex tells Ricky what he wants to hear. “I’m your friend ain’t I?” Ricky picks Gloria as his lucky victim, but after he rips off all her clothes he can’t bring himself to do it. This enrages Alex and he decides to show him how it’s done as he mounts Gloria. Before he can do the deed though, Howard grabs Alex from behind as Tom and Glenda fumble the razor. Alex quickly regains control as he flips Howard, grabs Tom and says “Lesson time!”, as he slashes his face. He then punches Howard to a bloody pulp with a psychotic expression on his face, takes him outside, kicks him in the pool, and takes a leak on him. As only Hess can do.

The rest of the film continues the same violent way. It’s an orgy of rapes, face smashings, torture, and psychological humiliation. What a swell pair of guys! One really nauseating scene has Alex running his razor up and down the body of visiting virgin neighbor Cindy (played by Brigitte Petronio). He gently sings “Cindy, oh Cindy, don’t let me down”, as he wiggles the blade up and down her torso, before shockingly cutting the hell out of her. Brutally grim scene.

I don’t want to spoil this classic video nasty so I’m not going to say anything about the film’s climax. However, it does take the savage tone of the film to an ultimate high.

Fans of European horror and exploitation will have a field day with the many familiar faces. Of course, there’s the incredible David Hess, who is well known in North America, as well as Europe for his roles in such respected films as HITCH HIKE (1978). Giovanni Lombardo Radice is no stranger either. He’s been in such graphic horrors as the vomit inducing CANNIBAL FEROX (1981), Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) (aka. THE GATES OF HELL), CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980), and the fantastic slasher/gialli STAGE FRIGHT (1987). Lorraine De Selle was also in CANNIBAL FEROX, as well as other unpleasant outings such as the controversial Laura Gemser film EMANUELLE IN AMERICA (1976), Bruno Mattei’s SS EXTERMINATION CAMP (1977), and WILD BEASTS (1982). Annie Belle, who happens to be a total babe, was in Aristide Massaccesi’s ANTHROPOPHAGUS 2 (1981) (aka. MONSTER HUNTER), and Christian Borromeo was in Dario Argento’s TENEBRAE (1982). Lot’s of well know Euro-cult stars in this one.

The only other thing I can say about this take no prisoners, in your face film is that it is incredibly acted by Hess and Radice. They play their parts to the fullest and both give realistic performances worthy of praise.

So, if you want a film that breaks taboos and doesn’t say no, seek out HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK. Director Ruggero Deodato may be ashamed of the film, but I’m proud to have this relic of a bygone day of film making in my collection. Memorable stuff.