I never thought I’d come across a decent copy of this ultra-sleazy 70’s underground cult classic, let alone a two-disc DVD release of this caliber. Barrel Entertainment has done it again (their previous DVD releases include “Nekromantik” and “Schramm”), they’ve taken a filthy little horror film and given it the treatment that, for the most part, is reserved for big budget Hollywood releases. Floating around the past 15-20 years as a heavily genned down and barely watchable bootleg, “The Last House on Dead End Street” existed as a cinematic mystery – no one involved with the film could be reached. Match that with the film’s snuff theme and many believed that maybe this “Last House” WASN’T “only a movie.” But a few years ago, a Roger Watkins popped up on the web, visiting different horror related message boards, claiming that he was in fact Victor Janos, the credited director of “Last House on Dead End Street.” His story checked out, excitement about a possible re-release of the film stirred up and before long, Barrel Entertainment began the long, arduous process of making this film a DVD reality – this is the result.
Like I said, I never thought I’d have the fortune of seeing a more than barely watchable copy of the film, but here it is – filth never looked so clean. The 35mm print used to master this DVD is loaded with film blemishes and scratches, but for this film especially, that’s a very endearing quality. The transfer is crystal clear, so all of those lovely film wounds make it feel like that rare 35mm print is being projected for you right in your own living room.
“Last House on Dead End Street” opens with a disgruntled, fresh out of prison Terry Hawkins breaking into an abandoned building. His fuming thoughts serve as narration as we listen to him bitch and moan about how society and the Man have done him wrong. He insists that he’ll show ‘em, he’ll show ‘em all and this building he’s breaking into plays a big part of his twisted scheme. We then follow Terry as he rounds up a few old “movie business” associates of his, which culminates in the shooting of a snuff film, featuring a few people who f****d over Terry as its stars. Acts of torture and mutilation are shown in graphic detail.
It’s not only the intense gore contained within these 78 minutes that has led many to label this film as the most vile ever made, but it’s also the drab, dreary settings and the assortment of malcontents you’re forced to put up with if you want to make it to the other end of this ride. Nothing that has to do with this film is happy or light and the film itself, even though presented nice and clear on this DVD, appears to be covered in dirt. This is what led many people to believe that “Last House on Dead End Street” was created by some sort of sociopathic menace who would be better off locked behind bars than running around with a movie camera.
But the extras on this DVD prove otherwise. Roger Watkins comes off as a very intelligent and well-mannered guy, even though in the disc’s running commentary, he admits to being f****d up on crystal meth all during the making of the film. But hey, that doesn’t make him a bad guy. Joining him on this commentary is Deep Red editor Chas. Balun…and this is a very good thing. Even though Watkins seems like a nice enough guy, he’s still pissed at how the original distributor re-edited his film and would more than likely have just bitched and moaned the whole time if it weren’t for Chas. being there to wrangle the commentary together so that it remained informative and even quite funny at times.
The extras in this two-disc set are in wild abundance. Included are the running commentary, 20 minutes of MOS outtakes, Roger Watkins on “The Joe Franklin Show,” a 60 minute radio interview with Watkins and actor Ken Fisher, over 70 minutes of behind-the-scenes production phone calls, a gorgeous booklet that comes in at a whopping 36-pages and a shitload more.
This amazing DVD edition of “Last House on Dead End Street” isn’t going to win the film many new fans. This movie is strictly an acquired taste. But for those that know, love and maybe even fear this film, Barrel Entertainment has produced a dream come true.