Director: Franco Prosperi
Severin Films

Franco Prosperi’s LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH (known in its native land as La Settima donna) is not the first Italian-made imitation of Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT nor the last: Aldo Lado’s NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS came before and Ruggero Deodato's HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK followed. While LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH is not as effective as either one of those two, it’s still an interesting exercise in Euro sleaze made by the man behind many a Mondo film, and it benefits from its cast of familiar cult stars. Americans got to see the film under the title “Terror” when it was briefly issued on VHS, but Severin Films is now presenting it in a stunning uncut widescreen Region 1 edition.

A trio of bank robbers – Walter (Flavio Andreini), Nino (Stefano Cedrati) and their leader Aldo (Ray Lovelock) – flee the scene of the crime unscathed and look for refuge in their automobile. They happen to come across a secluded beach house being rented by Cristina (Florinda Bolkan) and her five Catholic school female students, all studying for exams. The three robbers quickly take over the house with their automatic weapons in tow, and the female inhabitants have no choice but to obey them. A maid found hiding is quickly beaten to death with an iron, and when one of the thugs makes advances at one of the schoolgirls (naked, and looking at herself in the bathroom mirror), he is stabbed in the leg with the sharp end of her comb, leaving him badly injured for the duration. When Cristina is unveiled to be a nun out of uniform, she is stripped of her clothes, humiliated with her white nun attire back on, and soon raped by two of the robbers. Further humiliation and violence is beset upon the ladies, who are waiting patiently for a bus to arrive and pick them up – but seeing as the bus is delayed, that’s not going to be so easy.

LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH commences with a gunfire happy bank robbery (a staple of Italian crime films) and introduces the “innocent” schoolgirls lazing about poolside in string bikinis, with several of them removing their tops to avoid tan lines. With heartless ruffians as their captors, the girls are constantly subject to their unwanted advances, which are usually in the form of outbursts of rape and cruelty. While nudity and bloodshed is on display, the visual sadism is more restrained than in other films of this prototype, but it’s still downright nasty, and sometimes these actions are shown in a Peckinpah-esque slow motion technique, with the repugnant mugs of the rapists swaying towards the camera for a disturbing effect.

Although tense throughout, the confined proceedings have less of an unsettling aftertaste, much like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but Prosperi does manage to make it stylish and somewhat unpredictable, and he juxtaposes such imagery as hanging crucifixes and Disney caricature posters with misogynist actions, including women being slapped to the sounds of harsh chop socky punches. The late Cristiano Pogany handles the widescreen cinematography well, and the opening bank robbing sequence is shot almost entirely on the ground, with the scene later repeated in flashback from different angles for characterization purposes. Ray Lovelock (ALMOST HUMAN, THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE) and Florinda Bolkan (LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN, FLAVIA THE HERETIC) are good as the contrasting leaders of the villains and victims respectively, and both deadpan it for most of running time, making the climactic outcome more surprising. Laura Totter (NIGHTMARE CITY) and Sherry Buchanan (TENTACLES, ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST) play two of the schoolgirls, even though they are both well into their 20s here. If you’ve seen most of her exploitation/horror films, Buchanan's characters often take a lot of onscreen abuse, and this film is no acceptation.

Severin Films presents LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH in an uncut anamorphic widescreen transfer that preserves the film’s 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The transfer looks excellent, with fantastic colors and fleshtones, as well as great detail. There are no blemishes or grain on the print source to speak of, and the Dolby Surround mono audio contains a clean replication of the English-synched track.

Extras on the disc include “Holy Beauty vs. The Evil Beasts,” which is a solid 30-minute interview with star Ray Lovelock. Here, Lovelock talks about the origins of his name, his first film, his music career (he actually croons a tune for this soundtrack), and when his movie career took off. Lovelock’s reflections on LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH has him remembering all his co-stars and director Prosperi in a positive light, and he concludes with his views on violence in cinema. Original German and Italian trailers are included. Both are similar in content, but since there are subtitles provided, it’s interesting to see how dialog varies in the two different versions. (George R. Reis)