Film Review: Last House on Dead End Street (1977)

SYNOPSIS:

After serving 1 year in jail a guy decides to repay the society by making some snuff-films. Four people are captured, tied up and held as material for his project. One by one they are killed in scenes for the camera. A woman has her limbs sawn of while he keep her conscious. Another victim is killed by a power drill.

REVIEW:

Written by: Roger Watkins (as “Brian Lawrence”)
Directed by: Roger Watkins (as “Victor Janos”)
Starring: Ken Fisher (as “Dennis Crawford”), Bill Schlageter (as “Lawrence Bornmen”), Kathy Curtin (as “Janet Sorley”), Pat Canestro (as “Elaine Norcross”), Steve Sweet (as “Alex Kregar”) Edward E. Pixley (as “Franklin Stats”), Nancy Vrooman (as “Barbera Amunsen), and Roger Watkins (as “Steven Morrison”)

Hell-o, seekers of the rare and extreme. This review is for a hard film to come by these days. Even if you own the two disc set, you still do not have the original version that Director, Roger Watkins ( also known as “Steven Morrison,” “Richard Mahler,” “Ray Hicks”, “Victor Janos,” Brian Lawrence” and “Bernard Travis”) created. You have the version in which the distribution company made into their own cut. This pissed off The Writer/ Director, and every one of his many pseudonyms. Not only he, but just about everyone in the cast and crew went under different names for this brutal feature. The brutality was not only the reason for Roger’s name change, but also, this was to spare him the embarrassment of seeing his butchered baby. The only scenes he can stomach are the murder scenes. This is Last House on Dead End Street. A buried classic which many fans throughout the years have sought to dig up in one way or another.

In the words of the late and great Roger Watkins… a complete version does not exist as with his original print. The distribution company cut, pasted and butchered the feature entirely. Some of the most jolting gruesome scenes (that were supposed to be near the end of the film) were put at the beginning. Some scenes were cut out entirely and the sound was dubbed… and poorly, I might add. The visual presentation (not the film, itself) looks like a badly overdubbed Japanese film. The words are a few seconds ahead of the mouth movements. How this company could be happy with this version as a final product, I have no idea.

One thing is for sure, the creator was not thrilled… at all. After seeing the final product, he asked for his name to be removed from the credits(many of the actors involved used different names as well). His name appears as several different pseudonyms throughout the opening credits. Just about every name you read should in fact say “Roger Watkins.” The distribution company also tried to tie the film in with The Last House on the Left, by using the tagline…”It’s back, the evil that had you screaming, “’It’s only a movie.”

Nonetheless, this film still had a massive following upon its theatrical run. Many give it praise for its unrelenting and unflinching approach, even if it wasn’t what Roger himself wanted his vision to be. The film is also known as The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell and The Fun House… Yes, the pseudonyms do not stop. Some of the reviews made it compete with some of the best on the bloody silver screen, such as “… makes Texas Chainsaw Massacre look like Child’s Play (when in fact, Child’s Play had more violence that Texas Chainsaw Massacre)…,” and “more raw Horror than Friday the 13th and Halloween combined.” Other reviews raved, “Worst film… Kids love it.” and “Definitely not for the uninitiated, it will probably be rated X if it turns up at the drive-ins in ’81.”

Some fans of the Death Metal band, Necrophagia may notice the film’s appearance on their home video nasty, Through Eyes Of the Dead. The film was used visually and with audio clips in some of the video’s opening shots. Not only has this cinematic slaughter fest had its influence on the darker side of metal, but it was influenced by none other than the Manson family murders… and snuff films. Rumors started to surface that the ending of the film is actual snuff footage. This of course, is not true. Every character in the film was based off of a member of the Manson family. In fact, some of the names match some of the Manson members’ aliases. All the same, the snuff publicity pushed the fame even further and the production company also added the later tag line “you bet your ass this is for real.”

Yes, the film looks cheaply made… but don’t judge the quality of the overall product by the presentation itself. It was made for practically no money and it shows. In some ways, it adds to the disturbing nature, atmosphere and tone of the presentation. Just remember, and keep repeating… “It’s only a “f*cking moo-vay!”

The title card is shaky. The sound is fuzzy and badly dubbed, the film footage has lines and streaks throughout and you couldn’t ask for it any other way. These are some of the inevitable factors which give this monumental piece in Horror history its disturbing character. Most reviewers are not even aware of the fact that most of the names were changed during the film’s production. These are the same ones that trash the film. Remember, you are reading a Horror review, on a Horror site, by a Horror fan. I would not steer another Horror fan in the wrong direction. If you want to see a good film for worth it’s worth, even if the production value is barely nothing… Check out this “f*cking moo-vay.”. Sure, it’s no Last House on the Left… In the Woods, By the Cemetery, On the Edge of the Park, on Hell Street … or even of 1,000 Corpses, but a house that stands all on its gritty own… on Dead End Street.

The gore score is around an eleven. There are plenty of whippings, intestines, entrails, blood and guts throughout to satisfy the fellow gorehound. The acting is decent, for a first attempt on pretty much everyone’s parts. The double disc DVD is loaded with extras that are sure to intrigue the curious mind feeder. There is an audio commentary/ interview with Roger Watkins with Deep Red Editor, Chas Balun. Around twenty minutes of rare out takes and a sixty minute radio interview with Writer, Roger Watkins and Actor, Ken Fisher. There are four, early, never before seen short films with commentary by Roger Watkins.

A special called At home with Terry Hawkins, which has seventy minutes of behind -the-scenes footage of phone calls detailing the making of the film as it is in pre-production. There is an original trailer. A segment from the Joe Franklin Show with Roger and Actor, Paul Jensen. There is the alternate opening credits with the title The Fun House. There is a gallery of stills detailing the career of Roger Watkins. A video tribute by the band Necrophagia (by Jim Van Bebber, Director of The Manson Family, Roadkill, Deadbeat At Dawn, My Sweet Satan, a series of other Necrophagia videos and star of The Mutilation Man) for the song They Dwell Beneath. The package also includes a thirty six page booklet by Headpress Editor, David Kerekes. Original cover art by comic legend, Steve Bissette (Swamp Thing) and much more.

All in all, this is absolutely a package worth owning. It is too much content to let slip by for the collecting fan. While it may not neighbor to the caliber of Last House On the Left, it is truly a house worth at least visiting at least once, if you can make it out alive. I give this film, or “f*cking moo-vay,” Last House On Dead End Street, FOUR (RAW AND IN YOUR FACE) HORNS UP.

Until next time, this was Jay… Keep one foot in the grave, one fist in the guts and your eyes out for gore… Later.

Last House on Dead End Street (1977)

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