The Last House on the Beach (Italian: La settima donna, also known as Terror and The Seventh Woman) is a 1978 Italian revenge-thriller film directed by Franco Prosperi.
Although the title it is best known for in English-language territories borrows liberally from Wes Craven’s seminal 1972 effort, The Last House on the Left, there is no cross-over of characters, but it is similarly violent.
Following a bank heist in which the manager and a female bystander are shot and killed, the three men responsible flee the scene and set off in their car to seek refuge. Elsewhere (and you might spot where this is leading), a group of attractive, young bikini-clad girls are sunning themselves at a remote water-side retreat.
It transpires they are nuns and are being supervised by the kindly Sister Cristina (the always amazing Florinda Bolkan, seen in many Italian-made films of the 1970’s, including A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Don’t Torture a Duckling and Flavia the Heretic).
Alas, the hoodlum’s car breaks down and gang leader Aldo (Ray Lovelock, almost as omnipresent as Bolkan, seen in films such as Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Almost Human and Queens of Evil) leads his two stooges, Walter (Flavio Andreini, also in Inglorious Bastards) and Nino (Stefano Cedrati, Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century) to the sanctuary of the gated beach house.
What follows is an avalanche of depraved and lingering sexual violence and torture as the men brutalise the innocent nuns, revelling in the fact that they are supposed women of God.
Whilst the title and rape-revenge theme are extremely knock-off, this Last House is in many ways even grimier than Craven’s film, having more in common with the relentless nature of I Spit on Your Grave, with the camera focusing on the abuse of the girls whenever possible. The slow pace makes this even more harrowing and whilst of questionable morals, the film is certainly an affecting watch.
Director Franco Prosperi (not to be confused with the other Prosperi who helmed the likes of Mondo Cane and Wild Beasts) had a rather unremarkable career, assisting Mario Bava on Hercules in the Haunted World and Jess Franco on White Cannibal Queen but achieving little in his own right.
A rather heavier influence perhaps came from the writer of the original story, Ettore Sanzò, also responsible for no-holds barred treats such as What Have They Done to Your Daughters?, Night Train Murders and Lucio Fulci’s gore-soaked smuggler movie Contraband.
If there is one glaring connection between the Italian and American films, it’s that the music is at least partly created by the lead actors, Hess in the original and here by Lovelock. The composer of the soundtrack, Roberto Pregadio, was very much the second tier of Italian composers of music for film but forged a path through some of the murkier genre films of the period, scoring for White Cannibal Queen, SS Experiment Camp and Emmanuelle: Black and White.
There is certainly nowhere near subtlety, depth and skill of Hess here but we are treated to the vocal talents of Ray Lovelock who sings the hugely catchy “See The Place for the Landing”, which would be a classic, had it not been an outrageous theft of Bryan Ferry’s “Let’s Stick Together”. Lovelock was no stranger to music, having an amateur group with that great of Italian genre films, Tomas Milian (named, with typical modesty, The Tomas Milian Group).
Daz Lawrence, Horrorpedia
“Holy Beauty vs. The Evil Beasts” – Featurette with Ray Lovelock
Italian and German Theatrical Trailers