Few films ever left a bigger impression on me after my initial viewing than Wes Craven’s 1972 horror classic, The Last House on the Left, and a lot of that was due to its main villain, Krug Stillo. I thought that Krug was one of the most evil, scummy characters I’d ever seen in a film and was convinced that that the guy they got to play him was some real-life psycho that had just escaped from the nearest maximum security prison. Well, it turns out he was a multi-talented actor/musician named David Hess, who sadly just passed away in his sleep on October 8, 2011 at the age of 69. Hess was so convincing as the psychotic Krug that most of the people he encountered after Last House on the Left came out were either completely terrified of him or wanted to kick his ass. Of course, Hess would soon find himself typecast playing the role of villains and psychopaths in grindhouse flicks and B-movies throughout the rest of his career. His death may not have made the news at any mainstream movie sites, but we here at The Back Row never miss a chance to pay tribute to the unsung B-movie heroes.
After Last House on the Left, my other favourite David Hess role came when he teamed up with Franco Nero to play another psycho in the underrated Italian thriller, Hitch-Hike. He re-teamed with Wes Craven to play a henchman in Swamp Thing and also played the villain in a couple of films with Cannibal Holocaust director Ruggero Deodato, including The House on the Edge of the Park and Body Count (where Hess acted alongside legendary character actor Charles Napier, who passed away just three days before him! Yikes!). Hess became a very popular cult figure amongst horror fans, and would send up his screen image in recent years by acting in such low-budget, tongue-in-cheek efforts as Smash Cut. However, it always surprised people to find out that David Hess had quite a distinguished career as a musician. He composed the entire soundtrack for Last House on the Left (of which I’m proud to own an autographed copy!), but before that, he started out his career by writing songs for the likes of Sal Mineo, Andy Williams and Elvis Presley! Would you believe that he wrote and composed Pat Boone’s hit single, “Speedy Gonzales”?! Hess also lent music from the Last House soundtrack to Eli Roth for his debut feature, Cabin Fever, and even had his two sons record a new modernized version of his song, “Wait for the Rain”, to be played over the film’s end credits. In closing, I think the best way to cap off my tribute to David Hess is by showing his death scene from House on the Edge of the Park, which is still one of the funniest damn things I’ve ever seen! R.I.P. Mr. Hess.