House On the Edge Of the Park (Shriek Show DVD/ Code Red Blu-ray Comparison)

I usually avoid looking at the stats and metrics of my site.  Because once I see that one post has more hits than another, it's an easy slope to slip down, constantly chasing the hints of popularity, forgoing what I want to write about or what I think would be best, caught up in an internet-driven numbers game.  But I looked, and here's what I now believe think people would like to see most from me: a limited edition Code Red blu-ray sleazy Italian horror movie compared to a more broadly released American DVD version.  Happily, that's exactly what I was going to write about today anyway, so here's House On the Edge Of the Park=)
House On the Edge is Italy's answer to Wes Craven's The Last House On the Left, even borrowing its notorious leading villain, David Hess.  I've been reading some debate recently, over which is the sleazier, least comfortable watch, and Craven's seemed to win out, but I definitely feel that dubious honor goes to Ruggero Deodato's flick.  I can see making a case for Last House.  For one, it came first, and it's the more famous, American film, so most horror fans probably saw it first.  And the first time you see something is always the most shocking.  Also, while Last has some unnatural elements, like the comic relief cops, the graphic scenes are very realistic.  Contrast that with the Italian glamour models sitting around in color-coordinated outfits, and it gives you a bit of an "out" in feeling staged and unrealistic.
Casey Scott's liner notes for Shriek Show's DVD insert says this film has,
"no flair present in cinematography," but I beg to differ.
But on the other hand, the root sadistically sexual violence feels just as genuine in both films, and in Last, those scenes really just happen in the second act, after which the film switches mode to a karmic revenge thriller, like its Virgin Spring inspiration.  But pretty much the entirety of Park just wallows in it.  It takes the typical Italian exploitation habit of finding the saleable element the original film had - in this case Hess abusing and terrorizing his victims with a knife - and making that the whole movie.  Also, everybody's despicable in this one; there are no decent characters to latch onto.  And its damned effective, if a bit ethereal and stagey at the same time.  Plus, it's got a great disco theme song and finishes up with a nice twist ending that I certainly didn't see coming, and won't spoil here.
You wouldn't find a scene like this being made in America
We originally only had House On the Edge of the Park on non-anamorphic DVD courtesy of those trashy budget packs from companies like Brentwood and Diamond, but in 2002, Shriek Show rescued it from obscurity with a widescreen special edition.  There have been UK editions, too, from Vipco and the more respectable Shameless Screen Entertainment, but outside of Shriek Show, almost all of those were edited versions.  The uncut DVD went out of print and started getting scarce.  But in 2016, Code Red came to the rescue with an uncut, limited edition (1500 copies) special edition blu-ray.
Shriek Show 2002 DVD on top; Code Red 2016 blu-ray on bottom.
Shriek Show 2002 DVD left; Code Red 2016 blu-ray right.
Where to begin?  The Code Red blu is pretty grainy and seems to have some of that infamous Italian scanner noise to boot.  But it's still a far superior image to the old Shriek Show DVD.  The 1.85:1 framing is only marginally different, with only slim slivers of differences all around the edges.  But the DVD is flatter, with more limited and less natural colors, some ugly interlacing (a regular issue with Shriek Show releases), and heavy edge enhancement (look at the cards on the table; it's like somebody traced them on the table with a thick sharpie).  The blu-ray's not perfect, but Code Red seems to've done the best they could with the Italian scan, and it certainly has a very noticeable jump up in quality from the DVD, which itself was a strong improvement over the old grey market junk.

Unfortunately, neither disc has the Italian audio or English subtitles, just the English audio.  However this is a case where the English is distinctly preferable, with Hess's real voice on the English track, as opposed to the poor dub on the Italian.  Both discs preserve the original mono audio in clear 2.0, and it's honestly the only way to watch the film, apart from checking out the foreign dubs for curiosity value.
Shriek Show did pulled together a pretty nice selection of extras.  They got lengthy interviews with the two most important people, Hess and Deodato, who answer just about all the questions you'd have after seeing this crazy picture.  Plus there's another good interview with Giovanni Lombardo Radice and a feature with Hess's family (watch his son play guitar and his wife refuse to talk about her role in the film).  On top of that, they included the original trailer, a stills gallery, some bonus trailers and an insert.  Code Red doesn't add anything new, but thankfully ports all of the Shriek Show stuff over except for the bonus trailers and the insert, so we can thankfully let go of our old DVDs when we upgrade.
Now, roughly the same transfer (the same scan, but not necessarily the same color correction or encoding) has been released on blu in other countries, but they're not all good.  The German discs have no English language options and the Japanese ones are reportedly censored.  The Italian blu doesn't have the English audio, but it does have English subtitles for the Italian audio.  Again, though, the English audio is much preferred on this title, so really the Code Red blu is the ideal way to go.  It may be imperfect, but it's still the best and highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice review! Just bought the Code Red disc to update my DVD and was looking for some insights. Your review was everything I wanted to know and more! I love the flick and also used to write a blog like yours where I reviewed the David Hess trilogy shortly after meeting him. Keep up the good work and I'll start reading through this list of great films. Take care!