with Franco Nero, Corinne Cléry, David Hess
Directed by Pasquale Festa Campanile
Written by Aldo Crudo, Peter Kane
By John Bikowski
When I was too young to legally see it, I watched a friendly little film called Last House on the Left. That infamous and grungy rape and revenge flick certainly left its mark on my psyche. One of the most memorable psychos from that film was Krug, played by a maniacally powerful David Hess. This ‘fro-sportin’ loony was at ease only when torturing and maiming innocent folk, and something in his manner was more frightening than Jason and Michael Myers. Years later, I saw House on the Edge of the Park and there was David Hess again, playing another mean-spirited, pissed-off nut with a straight-razor. Something about this dude weirds the piss out of me.
When I finally met him face-to-face, it was pretty surreal. I ran into him at a ’70s show and I was able to hit him with a few questions. I asked him what his mother thought of him raping and defiling all the women in his movies. When he got done laughing, he explained what a huge problem Last House was for his personal life. For a while, he couldn’t even ride the subway without people switching trains to escape him. Then he told me how he was planning to release the soundtrack CD from Last House. I didn’t realize it, but he has a degree in music and he wrote and performed all the tunes for the film. Quality stuff too, with lyrics like “Leaves turning… some of the leaves are turning brown… coming together you… gathering cherries off of the ground.” Classically inane prose like that made me murmur “Yes” when he asked if I’d like to throw him a couple of bucks as a down-payment for the disc. I was really thinking, “You can have my wallet and my shoes, just please don’t slash my jugular.”
After a few months, I realized I didn’t have the CD and I had no way of contacting Hess. I went to another convention in New York and heard he was up in one of the suites, so my pal and I went on a search. Then I heard, “Hey! There you are! I was hoping you would show up.” It was Hess and my blood ran cold. Was he going to command me to pee my pants? Was he going to rape my friend Mark while I whimpered? No, he merely wanted to give me the CD he owed me. Believe it or not, he’s quite the respectable guy, with a good memory to boot.
While chatting, Hess mentioned a film I’d never heard of called Hitch-hike. He said that it was another of his demented criminal roles that made him infamous. I, of course, had to have it. But like many a great film, it was nowhere to be had in this country, unless you wanted someone’s seventh-generation bootleg. I decided to wait, and now Anchor Bay has answered my prayers. The recent DVD release of this 1978 highly-entertaining film is uncut, unflinching, and in beautiful (1.85:1) widescreen quality. Apart from the theatrical trailer, you also get The Devil Thumbs a Ride, a short featurette that includes insightful interviews with stars Fanco Nero, Corrine Clery, and David Hess. These are great interviews that address all the sex and violence. They talk about a real damage-inflicting fistfight and whether or not Hess was really supposed to sex Corrine up on film. Funny stuff.
In Hitch-hike, Nero and the amazingly-beautiful Clery are on a cross-country drive in their motor home when they come across Hess broken down on the side of the road. They stupidly pick him up, only to find that he is a psychotic, murdering bank robber who has a suitcase filled with a heap o’ cash. Once Hess pulls his gun and takes control, he learns all about Nero and Cleary’s bizarre sexual marital relationship. As they travel around like some sick three-ring circus, they enter into some sort of twisted mutual-needs relationship. Hess’ psychosis needs his victims, and the married couple seems to be subconsciously enjoying the death-defying danger that he emanates. The real question always looms: Will Hess kill them or just use them and eventually let them go? Meanwhile, they’re tailed by Hess’ other bank-robbing buddies and the cops. Lots of bloody shoot-outs and twists and turns ensue. Hess finally decides to take Nero’s wife into his own hands and makes love to her by the fire. Nero stares on with red hate-filled eyes as his wife is slowly violated. Without giving away the terrific plot-twists, Nero and his wife escape their fate temporarily, only to spiral into a very surprising and tragic ending. This is a great little film that you should watch more than once to pick up on the subtleties of the acting.