House on the Edge of the Park, The (UK DVD)
Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Distributed by Shameless Screen Entertainment
Ruggero Deodato’s classic “Video Nasty” The House on the Edge of the Park returns to DVD with a new UK release courtesy of Shameless Screen Entertainment. Most genre aficionados and Deodato fans will likely already have this one adorning their shelves, but for those of you who have missed out thus far, here’s the skinny:
David Hess stars as Alex, a mechanic with a particularly deep psychopathic streak to his personality. After we witness him raping and murdering a woman in the opening moments, Alex and his dim-witted, but seemingly good-natured, buddy Ricky (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) are soon getting ready to head out and hit the tiles for the evening – a plan disrupted by the arrival of a well-to-do suburban couple experiencing some car trouble. When Ricky quickly resolves their automotive issue, as thanks the couple invite the rugged pair along to a high-class house party out at their glamorous estate.
Taking up the offer, Alex soon discovers that he and Ricky’s hosts have less honourable intentions as the pair – especially the naive Ricky – are consistently ridiculed and taken advantage of by the privileged attendees. With the discovery that Ricky is being cheated in a fixed game of poker, Alex finally snaps and, whipping out his trusty straight razor, turns the evening into a night of savagery, violence and rape.
The House on the Edge of the Park, while by no means an imaginative or original piece of work, is an exploitation triumph. Gritty, grimy and thoroughly repugnant, director Deodato mostly eschews visual flair for a more matter-of-fact realisation of the events at this titular abode. Overt sexualisation, both consensual and not, is likely to make many a viewer very uncomfortable, and mostly earnest performances from the cast evoke an authentic level of fear and unpredictability. The script also toys with the audience’s allegiances, repeatedly switching roles between victim and perpetrator – whether it’s the unwitting Ricky being ridiculed or the socialites facing the blade of Alex’s razor. As both sides partake in acts that make them worthy of loathing, before (or after) being placed in the position of the victim, The House on the Edge of the Park will constantly toy with you, evoking a level of emotional disquiet that isn’t quickly forgotten.
It’s occasionally far too melodramatic for its own good but easily does what it sets out to and more. The twist ending is pleasantly unexpected, and who can forget one of cinema’s most memorable screams at the finale?
Unfortunately, Shameless’ release of the film is not completely uncut as to this day the many shots of sexual violence, including views of the breasts of youngest victim, Cindy, being sliced with the razor remain a large bugbear for the BBFC. Still, even with the excisions the pacing remains consistent with no obviously jarring edits. The video presentation here is crisp but not entirely solid as instability and strobing are noticeable in dark interior scenes where light shines in through windows, and frames appear to jump erratically from time to time. Grain is well handled, but while it’s most definitely not a displeasing transfer, the film certainly shows its age. English and Italian audio soundtracks are available here, and both are nicely rendered. Some brief distortion is noticeable during the credit sequence of the English track; however, it never falters again once this has recovered.
In terms of special features, we have a 20-minute interview segment with David Hess and Ruggero Deodato. Brilliantly informative and instantly engaging, this one seems to last longer than it really is as you just forget the time ticking away. Censorship on the Edge of the Park opens with a text scroll stating that it was never intended for the release but due to the content Shameless felt they should include it. Sporting rough video and audio quality, this was taken from a screening of the film with Deodato, Radice and others including the BBFC’s senior examiner Craig Lapper in attendance. The first part features a lengthy introduction by Aberystwyth University’s Professor Martin Barker, who at the time had just completed leading a BBFC-funded audience study on Deodato’s film, before the second part segues into an audience grilling of Craig regarding BBFC policies and behaviour (and one which he handles with aplomb). This is roughly 45 minutes in length and worth every single second. I won’t go into it and spoil it, but anyone who has listened to or read Professor Barker’s enthusiastic study of genre and censorship in the past will know exactly just how essential a watch this is. Bravo, guys, bravo.
David Hess on Cutting the House sees David Hess have a short rant as he echoes the sentiments of many intelligent genre fans when it comes to censorship in cinema. This is followed up by a scrolling list of the 13 BBFC-commanded cuts made to the film. A UK-exclusive introduction to the film by Hess is a nice surprise with the theatrical trailer rounding out the package.
3 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5