Director Ruggero Deodato made a name for himself when he unleashed the infamous and unforgettable Cannibal Holocaust in 1980. That same year he accepted a job on House on the Edge of the Park solely for financial reasons. He shot the film in two weeks and probably forgot about it. Yet it remains one of his finest films and probably one of the best rape/revenge flicks in the pantheons of exploitation.
An offbeat mixture of Straw Dogs and Of Mice and Men, Retro-Slashers fave, David Hess (Hitch-Hike) plays Alex, a cold-blooded rapist who also likes to boogie! His idiot man-child pal, Ricky (Giovanni Lombardo Radice from The Gates of Hell) is bit kinder but is so under Alex’s spell, he’d do just about anything for him. About a year after Alex brutally raped and strangled a pretty blonde, he’s working at his car shop and is approached by two yuppie types. Not only are they having car troubles but they also appear to suffer from being very rich and very bored. Beautiful Lisa (Annie Belle) gets the bright idea to invite the two bohemians to a small party. What starts out as some rich brats toying with their new lower class buddies becomes a night of terror as Alex turns the table on the partygoers and holds them hostage in their home.
What stands out most about Edge Of The Park is that though it’s quite brutal, it very seldom crosses the line of bad taste. Sure, women are objectified left and right and there a few gruesome moments, but except for the scene with a nubile virgin and a razor, the proceedings are actually sort of fun.
This is thanks to the two leads. David Hess is the master of sleaze. A hulking presence in this and Last House on the Left, he’s the quintessential rapist. I mean that in a good way. Another actor might take a role like this and not try to inject any fun into it (he is a rapist after all), but Hess approaches his bad guys from a different angle and brings a sort of sinister charisma that’s difficult to duplicate. Giovanni Lombardo Radice is the standout of this movie. His pathetic yet lovable take on Ricky is nothing short of amazing. Check out his mind-blowing disco number that is both hilarious and sad. You want him to exact revenge on his teasers. He manages to take out a fairly sympathetic character and makes the perfect companion piece for Alex. The rest of the cast is full of Italian exploitation faves. Annie Bell (Tiger Joe), Christian Borromeo (Tenebre) and Lorainne Del Selle (Cannibal Ferox) are very good in their respective roles and guide this crazy film with ease.
Deodato, a king of exploitation, throws everything into the pot. There’s plenty of choice nudity and lots of nasty dialog that you’ll be quoting later (“Shut up or I’ll make your chest look like a checkerboard” is a favorite line of mine). Deodato may have thought he was making another throwaway horror movie, but Edge Of The Park remains one of the least offensive and most entertaining movies featuring wall to wall rape. Well done Ruggero!