In the film, set in New York, Alex a disco dancing mechanic (played by David Hess, stepping right out of Last House on the Left) and his dim-witted sidekick Ricky (a debut making John Morghen) wind up at the house of some affluent Park Avenue types having a small get-together. Initially, the hosts are amused by their less than sophisticated guests but the mood darkens considerably when Alex, a sadistic sociopath, seen earlier raping and strangling a woman, breaks out a switchblade and subjects his hosts to a night of terror and violence…
Of all the films on the Video Nasties list, House on the Edge of the Park is one of the hardest to like. Technically, the film is as accomplished as any other Deodato film, made with the director's usual muscular style. It has a nice Riz Ortolani score (and some decent Abba-esque Euro-pop fluff thrown in to the mix), and visually the film which takes place for the most part in one location, is tight and claustrophobic. But like Deodato's previous film, the flawed masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park is so morally confused it's hard to see the film as little more than Exploitation Cinema at its most cynical, with little to say about the class war. In the scene where David Hess rapes actress Annie Belle - playing the spoiled rich bitch role, half way through her violation, she begins to enjoy it. In another moment John Morgen's character, regretting the abuses dished out to their captives is rewarded for his compassion when Lorraine de Selle offers him her body (so he can lose his virginity). Not surprising the BBFC were still finding problems with the film in 2002. To paraphrase one New York Times writer - "You don't have to be a sadist to enjoy House on the Edge of the Park but it helps".1
Which brings us neatly to the film's most notorious sequence. At one point a teenage-looking Barbie doll calls around to the house and is made to suffer the wrath of a clearly unhinged Alex, as he strips her naked and proceeds to slash her breasts and body with his razor. It's a chilling scene, made all the more objectionable by the fact that the actress playing victim looks uncomfortably young. It's worth noting that this bit of psychosexual mania was co-authored by Gianfranco Clerici who wrote Lucio Fulci's slasher epic The New York Ripper. Worth mentioning also that the film contains a twist in the final scene that throws a new slant on the everything seen up this point in the film, making the film seem over more pungent. So much so that Deodato interviewed for Gorezone #17 (Spring 1991) dismissed the film: "Oh yes, that was violent. I forgot that film. It was shot just after Cannibal Holocaust. I don't like the movie"
House on the Edge of the Park is available uncut in the US courtesy of Shriek Show and features a very nice, crisp anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. The mono audio is serviceable and dialogue is clear. Aside from some Shriek Show trailers, the disc features a long, extended 36-min interview with David Hess who discusses his approach to the role, his fellow actors and claims that his sex scene with Annie Belle was real (which I find hard to believe, unless Deodato used a different take for the film). John Morghen turns up for a second interview to discuss the first of his famous roles. A third interview, this time with Deodato is also present but the English subs can't be activated due to a technical fault with the disc. Finally, the international trailer has been included and is worth seeing if only for the mix up on the film's title card - House of the Park On the Edge (sic).
1. This quote was originally attributed to a New York Times review of Performance
"You don't have to be a drug addict, pederast, sado-masochist or nitwit to enjoy Performance, but being one or more of those things would help."