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House On The Edge Of The Park (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • House On The Edge Of The Park (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: March 29th, 2022.
    Director: Ruggero Deodato
    Cast: David Hess, Giovanni Lambardo Radice, Annie Belle, Christian Borromeo, Marie Claude Joseph, Lorraine De Selle, Brigitte Petronio
    Year: 1980
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    House On The Edge Of The Park – Movie Review:

    Directed by Ruggero Deodato hot on the heels of his infamous Cannibal Holocaust, 1980’s House On The Edge Of The Park opens with a scene where a man driving through New York City. He manages to stop a woman in her car, gain entry to the vehicle, and then throw her into the back seat and brutally rape her. This man’s name is Alex (David Hess), and he’s a scum bag.

    The next day, at the end of his shift at the mechanic’s shop where he works, Alex hooks up with his best friend Ricky (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) for a night of partying, but their plans get waylaid when a yuppie couple stop by with car trouble. Alex and Ricky aren’t really stoked to help out, but they do, and once the problem is resolved they’re invited to a party at the rich couple’s home as a thank you.

    When they arrive, there isn’t a whole lot of interest going on at the party, mostly some poker playing and goofy disco dancing. Tom (Christian Borromeo) is the guy in charge, and when Alex and Ricky start making moves on some of the beautiful women in attendance - Lisa (Annie Belle), Gloria (Lorraine De Selle), Glenda (Marie Claude Joseph), Susan (Karoline Mardeck) and then later on the dangerously young looking Cindy (Brigitte Petronio) – you’d think he’d speak up, but nope, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. Things intensify as the night goes on, Ricky and Alex getting more aggressive with the rest of the guests, until Alex’s penchant for rape really starts to get out of hand, leading to an inevitably grim finale.

    Obviously made to cash in on the success and notoriety of Wes Craven’s The Last House On The Left, Deodatoto’s notorious home invasion shocker still packs a pretty strong punch more than forty years since it first graced the silver screen. Set to a fantastic, disco-influenced score by the great Riz Ortolani and penned by Gianfranco Clerici and Vincenzo Mannino, the writers of Lucio Fulci’s equally sleazy New York Ripper, House On The Edge Of The Park wallows in depravity and sexual violence but underneath all the exploitative elements does at least try to address the haves versus the have nots and the class wars that exist in western society to this day. The social commentary does tend to get lost in the shuffle, but the premise of two blue collar workers, deranged as they might be, taking advantage of those with more money than they know what to do with does at least offer some food for thought even if it obviously never comes close to justifying Alex and Ricky’s actions.

    Deodato’s direction is solid and the cinematography really strong, but it’s the performances that make this one work. Hess is obviously front and center in pretty much all of this, tearing his way through the movie in that way that only he could, giving Alex a less sinister vibe than his Krug in Last House, but only slightly. What starts as playful early in the night soon escalates to the sexual torture of a young girl with a straight razor, so he isn’t exactly kinder or gentler, but he’s a kick to watch here. He and Radice play off of one another very well, some obvious homoerotic subtext existing between the two characters at times. Radice is also a lot of fun to watch here, chewing just enough of the scenery to make it work and really going for it in the film’s infamous dance scene. Christian Borromeo is solid here as well, while the women all hold their own. Lorraine De Selle in particular is really good here, playing her character with some smarts, and the gorgeous Annie Belle every bit her equal. Marie Claude Joseph, who doesn't appear to have ever acted again after this film, has a striking screen presence while Karoline Mardeck plays her rape victim with harrowing believability.

    House On The Edge Of The Park – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings House On The Edge Of The Park to Region A Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with the feature using up 28.2GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Touted as being taken from a new 4k scan of the original negative, this offers a substantial improvement over the previous Blu-ray editions (the first being an Italian release and the second a domestic disc from Code Red Releasing – you can check out an image comparison here), both of which used a transfer that was thick with obvious digital smearing and scanner noise, frequently sucking a lot of the detail out of the picture. This improves on those issues considerably, demonstrating much better depth, detail and texture in pretty much every frame of the movie. Colors are nicely reproduced here, black levels are solid and there are no noticeable issues with any compression, noise reduction or edge enhancement problems. Severin’s first edition had incorrect gamma levels and because of this there was noticeable crush in some scenes. This reissue uses a corrected transfer with proper black levels and it looks much nicer, essentially making this the one to beat for now.

    You can see a comparison between the corrected transfer (top image) and the original transfer (bottom image) below:

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    24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks are provided in Italian and in English with subtitles available in English SDH only that translate the English track. Again, Severin trumps the past editions, as the Italian disc only offered Italian audio while the Code Red disc only offered English audio. It’s nice to have both options included, though it would have been ideal to get separate subtitles for each track. Either way, the audio sounds good. The tracks are balanced and clean and hearing Ortolani’s score in lossless is a treat.

    Extras on disc one starts off with an audio commentary from Cinema Arcana’s Bruce Holecheck and Ultra Violent Magazine’s Art Ettinger that starts with a quick talk about how Ettinger considers this 'one of the all-time greatest films.' They then go on to talk about time spent with Deodato, Hess and Radice, the 'soothing sounds' of Ortolani's score, the use of 'the Cannibal Holocaust font' in the opening credits, some of the New York City locations used in the opening portion of the film, Deodato's history in the Italian film industry, and the main house where the bulk of the film takes place. As the track progresses they cover Hess' music career, where some of the other cast members like Annie Belle have appeared, the depiction of sexuality and bisexuality in the film, how the film was received and reviewed upon its initial release, how pretty much everyone in the cast got along and partied together when the cameras were off, the film's home video release history starting with the Vestron Video VHS release and lots, lots more. These guys are having a good time here, the end result is a track with a decent sense of humor that is also quite informative and worth spending time with.

    The Man Who Loved Women is an interview with director Ruggero Deodato that clocks in at thirty-two minutes. He talks about working on this picture after finishing Cannibal Holocaust, bringing the right producer on board, the inspiratino that Last House On The Left provided for the picture, where the New York City footage came from and shooting the film on a modest budget. He also goes over the quick two week schedule, the importance of the cast to the film, how this remains one of his most popular films, Hess' obsession with money and natural charisma as well as their friendship, Hess' insistence on using his wife as the rape victim in the opening film, cuts that were made to the film and quite a bit more. He also tells some amusing stories from the shoot. Deodato is pretty blunt here about which cast members he liked working with and which ones he didn't get along with so well, it's interesting stuff.

    Lights On is a new interview with cinematographer Sergio D’Offizi that runs for twelve minutes. He talks about shooting the film right after Cannibal Holocaust and it's very rushed production schedule, the advantages and disadvantages of shooting most of the film in the villa, what went into choosing the locations, the importance of proper lighting in some of the film's key scenes, trying his best to remain professional on the set, how he got along very well with Deodato and how he got along with some of the actors.

    Like A Prairie Dog interviews actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice for thirty-seven minutes. In this piece he goes over how he got into acting after a back injury, getting his start on some smaller productions, starting his own company for stage productions, getting into film roles with his start in House On The Edge Of The Park, his thoughts on working with Deodato, thoughts on his character, finding inspiration for his character with a prairie dog, his wardrobe choices seen in the movie, his relationship with Hess and what it was like working with him, his infamous dance scene in the film, being on set with a cast that spoke different languages, his personal relationship and cocaine use during the making of the movie, shooting the sex scenes in the movie, his thoughts on some of the more graphic scenes in the movie, the sequel that was made to the film and why neither he nor Deodato were involved in it and quite a bit more.

    External Beauty & Internal Ugliness is an archival interview with the late, great David Hess that lasts for twenty-three minutes. He talks about how he came to appear in the film, shooting the opening rape scene and how it sets up his character for what's to come in the movie, how he feels that the movie is a genuinely good film despite the fact that it is very over the top, how he got along with Deodato on set, the gay subtext that exists between his character and Radice's character, how he got along with the rest of the cast including Belle (he describes their under the sheets scene as 'a real under the sheets scene'!), how he feels about his role and his character in hindsight, his feelings on the 'insidiousness of alcohol' and his drinking in his younger days, whether or not he's as tough in real life as his characters are and bringing a lot of himself to his role, shooting Hitch-Hike and how he feels he owes it to the audience not to play the same character over and over again.

    House Sweet House interviews set designer Antonello Geleng for twenty-six minutes about how he started working on the film, what was involved in the pre-production side of his job, shooting the movie right after Cannibal Holocaust, how the film seems naive by modern standards, the use of violence in the movie, doing the costume work on the film as well as the production design, thoughts on the script and its homage to Sunset Boulevard, mistakes he now sees were made that he was blind to at the time, trying to get a claustrophobic feeling for the film, what it was like on set, certain lighting choices, his thoughts on the main performances in the film, dealing with censorship issues when shooting the movie, the aesthetics of the design work he did on this and other films, where he finds inspiration and quite a bit more.

    A still gallery, menus and chapter selection options round out the first disc.

    The second disc contains a feature length documentary called Deodato Holocaust, directed by Felipe M. Guerra. Presented with 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo audio in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen with the seventy-one minute feature taking up 16.8GBs of space on the disc, this turns out to be quite a treat for fans of the storied director, who is interviewed quite extensively here (the audio is in Italian but optional English subtitles are provided).

    This piece does a great job of letting Deodato's personality shine through we see him goofing around at a restaurant and singing only to then sit down with the man to basically hear his life story. He talks about whether or not he considers himself a horror director or not, how he wound up getting tagged as a gore film maker, his childhood and growing up in Rome, how he got into filmmaking, his education, his parents, working early on with Roberto Rossellinii and then having his career really take off from there. He also talks about working with Corbucci and Margheriti, his work in the advertising industry, helping Nero get the lead in Django, directing his first feature in the form of Gungula The Black Panther Girl in Kenya. He then goes thorugh most of his early filmography film by film hitting the big time with films like Waves Of Lust and Live Like A Cop Die Like A Man, going on to make Last Cannibal World which he describes as a real adventure in terms of shooting on location in the jungle. He talks about making The Concorde Affair '79 and then, of course, gets into a lengthy discussion of Cannibal Holocaust (but not anyone else's cannibal films because 'I hate them!'), what influenced him to make it, what it was like on set and the very real legal trouble he got into once it was released. As the documentary progresses he talks about making House On The Edge Of The Park, why he didn't touch the sequel to the film, shooting Raiders Of Atlantis in The Philippines and going back to the jungle with Cut And Run. As it draws to a close he covers the making of Body Count, The Barbarians, Phantom Of Death, Dial Help, The Washing Machine, some TV work, and his return to filmmaking with 2016's Ballad In Blood.

    It’s a genuinely great piece, very entertaining as Deodato does not hold back when asked about his reputation, legal issues, The Blair Witch Project’s debt to Cannibal Holocaust, some of the people he was lucky enough and unlucky enough to work with over the years and lots more. He’s very candid and upfront about his career’s highs and lows and it makes for really interesting viewing.

    A selection of excised material from the interview sessions used for the documentary are also included here. These eleven scenes cover everything from advertising, his fear of shooting a comedy, what went wrong on Cut And Run, filming naked women to Charlize Theron and cell phones.

    Finishing off disc two is a theatrical trailer for the documentary, menus and chapter selection.

    This release also includes the film’s entire soundtrack on a CD and a cool postcard insert that features some vintage artwork on one side and a track listing for the disc on the reverse. The tracks included here are:

    Sweetly (Titoli Vocal) / Do It To Me / Sweetly (Instrumental) / La Casa Sperduta Nel Parco (Terror Sequence) / La Casa Sperduta Nel Parco (Love Sequence) / Sweetly (Titoli Vocal Rerprise)

    House On The Edge Of The Park – The Final Word:

    House On The Edge Of The Park remains a high point in Deodato’s career, a tense work of horror and exploitation highlighted by some great performances, slick direction and unforgettable set pieces. Severin’s special edition Blu-ray release is packed some fantastic extra features and presents the film looking far better than it ever has before. Highly recommended (to those who know what they’re getting into)!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized House By The Edge Of The Park Blu-ray screen caps!

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