The Last House on the Left: 3-Disc Ultimate Edition (1972) DVD review

Keep repeating: It's only a movie. It's only a movie. It's only a movie...

Reviewing Wes Craven's 1972 debut feature The Last House on the Left isn't an easy thing. For those, like myself, who became horror devotees during the early 1980s the film has a significance and impact that is often lost on younger audiences. In this way it is much like those other '70s genre classics The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Exorcist, which are often greeted by hoots of derision rather than screams of terror these days.

The Last House... also suffers from not being a particularly well made film. Craven was clearly still learning his craft at the time, and even when compared to the likes of Tobe Hooper's infamously low-budget ....Chain Saw Massacre, this is the one that comes off as being the most amateur production. But, while they may be flaws in a technical sense, the clumsy camera moves and stuttering pace only serve to somehow add to the film's horribly nihilistic nature. Indeed, this is an extraordinarily angry and brutal piece of cinema that has real power to unsettle an audience looking for something beyond cheap thrills.

The most notable thing about this latest DVD release is that it represents the first time that the movie has ever been released uncut here in the UK, restoring the 31 seconds of material that were cut by the BBFC from the film's 2003 release. Presented anamorphically at the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the transfer does the best it can with the source material. But at the end of the day this was a film that was shoot on Super16 and blown up to 35mm for its cinema release, so it's never going to look great. The image is generally soft and grainy with some signs of minor print damage in the form of small marks and scratches. But there are no technical issues with the DVD transfer itself, so you have to admit that it's probably about as good as the film will ever look.

The audio is also limited by the source material. All that's on offer is a dual-mono version of the original soundtrack. It's thin and lacks range, but at the same time it's much better than the pointless 5.1-channel Dolby Digital and DTS remixes that appeared on the previous (censored) DVD release.

Apart from being uncut at last, this three-disc set also scores big when it comes to supplementary features. Indeed, it's hard to think what more a fan could want. The first disc houses the an audio commentary by writer/director Wes Craven and producer Sean S Cunningham, a second commentary by actors David Hess, Marc Sheffler and Fred Lincoln, the 40min Celluloid Crime of the Century retrospective making of... documentary, a Scoring Last House... featurette with actor/composer David Hess, the Krug Conquers England featurette about the first ever uncut screening of the film in the UK, an 11min reel of silent footage from an uncompleted earlier Wes Craven short film entitled Tales That'll Tear Your Heart Out, a 20min collection of outtakes and dailies (also silent), the trailer and a collection of TV and radio spots.

Taking centre-stage on the second disc is Krug & Company. This is an alternate cut of The Last House on the Left that runs slightly shorter than the original version and its only real value lies as a curiosity for collectors rather than as a film in its own right. Far more interesting is a chat with film distributor Carl Daft about the battles he went through to get the film certified for release in the UK. And finishing off the disc is a 6min collection of 'world exclusive never before seen footage'. Like the other excised material in the set it's silent, but in this case you really don't need sound to get a good idea of what is going on.

The final disc isn't really anything to do with Last House... itself, but is still a great bonus for horror fans. Metrodome has included the Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film feature-length documentary that was previously available to buy separately. This is accompanied by its own commentary track, deleted scenes and a horror film quiz.

Metrodome Distribution, Region 2 DVD, £20, On sale now