Sunday, April 15, 2012

Last House On Dead End Street

Last House On Dead End Street (A.K.A. Cuckoo Clocks of Hell) (1972)

Dir: Roger Watkins (Midnight Heat/The Pink Ladies)

IMDB Rating: 5.0 out of 10

Today we take a look at one of cinemas more controversial films of the Grind House era. Last House On Dead End Street, Originally titled "Cuckoo Clocks of Hell" was filmed in 1972 by Roger Watkins whom also plays the main character Terry Hawkins. Upon releasing the film it was suspected to be an actual snuff film , which seemed to be a common thing in the early 70's with low budget gore films getting blacklisted as actual murder on film due to the low budgets of the flicks I presume. Rumors of the film being made on a budget of only 800 dollars were confirmed years later by the director stating that the cast and crew spent the entire budget of 3 grand on drugs and spent the remaining few hundred filming the movie while completely high on amphetamines. The film makers and financiers changed the name of the film prior to it finally getting released five years after it was shot in 1977 to Last House on Dead End Street in order to cash in on the popularity of "Last House on the Left" , even going as far as to steal the "It's only a Movie" gimmick that was so successful for "Last House on the Left". All the background aside, how does this film stack up against the slew of Last House cash in's? well let's take a look.

          The film opens with Terry Hawkins being released from jail after doing a one year bid for dealing drugs. Upon release he decides to return to doing what he did prior and that was making low grade stag films. He quickly reunites with his old running buddies who some are none to pleased to see him do to his scumbag demeanor. Terry recruits a couple of lost young women as well as his old friends to get to work. Knowing that standard porn is not going to cut it as the viewing public is seeking something more intense, So Terry pitches a more violent approach. Next we meet Jim Palmer and his wife as they have a high society party with some porn film financiers and directors and word is getting out about Terry's new vision. Noticing a drop in sales and looking for the next big thing in the genre they decide to give Terry and his gang a shot at the big time. Also we see that the Palmer's have a strange out look on entertainment as the wife is beaten in front of the party goers while in black face.

Terry gets to filming as his two lady friends seduce a tied up blind man before Terry dawning a large Zeus looking mask strangles the man to death. Upon viewing this film , the financial backers are all to eager to put Terry and his crew to work. Unfortunately for them tings begin to unravel quickly as Terry arrives at the Palmer house to seduce Nancy and after doing so it is revealed that he is actually killing the people in these films and terry begins to get paranoid believing that the big wigs are trying to cut terry out of the equation financially. Terry's fears get the best of him and he demands a meeting with all involved in order to ensure he is not getting the shaft after filming the footage.

As expected the meeting does not go well and after being drugged the financier awake tied up in Terry's abandoned shooting stage. They are then forced to watch as Terry kills a blonde woman in front of them before the attentions are turned towards the powers that be.As everyone involved in the behind the scenes financing are offed one by one after being psychologically tortured  Financier Steve and Ms.Palmer are left. This leads to the films most disturbing scene as we are treated to a very graphic surgery scene.

After the intense surgery scene that garnered this film most of its controversy i'm sure we witness the last remaining film maker Steve get his dues with a drill through the eye, after a interesting torture sequence involving a woman with a deer leg as a makeshift dildo to humiliate the gentleman. Following that interesting scene ,  the gang just walks off into the stage lights. A voice over states that Terry and his gang had since been arrested are currently behind bars in State prison. Overall the ending seems a bit rushed as it appears that the film makers were forced to wrap up in a rush due to the budget and wasting much of the movie with pointless dialogue early in the film perhaps.

So does Last House on Dead End Street live up to it's hype? Is it a good film? well, Yes and no. The gore in the surgery scene is pretty convincing given the bare bones budget and the film grain only adds to the "Snuff" feel of the film. the story is somewhat interesting and a nice take on the Manson-esque  theme of the cult of killers lead by Terry. The actors although not great do accomplish coming off as a legitimate threat and certainly are convincingly mad which is important in a film like this. However, The sound is awful and at times there are voices of people talking with no ones lips moving or just completely off sync. The soundtrack is well done and sets the tone well , If you can get past the rest of the films flaws as far as the dialog scenes. Also I could not help but notice how much the Main killer and films director Roger Watkins looked like a cross between Rainn Wilson and Bill Hader but he was fun to watch in this role so credit to being intimidating regardless of his appearance. In 2011 the Character of Terry Hawkins returned to small screens in a film called "Cuckoo Clocks of Hell" in a nod to the films original title, The film also features another low budget madman in the killer from the Schizophreniac series. In order to prep for that gem I will be viewing the Schizophreniac series while I look for a copy of the new film. So the next few reviews are going to be real doozies as that series looks just out right awful but I'm sure there are laughs to be had. Back to this film, If you enjoy gore films and are looking for something off the beaten path , I would recomend this one but only for serious gore hounds and fans of real gritty cinema otherwise you may not enjoy this one as much as I did.

Fun Factor:6
Overall: 6 out of 10

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