What a difference a decade makes! Ex-English professor and Freddy Krueger creator Wes Craven's first film, Last House on the Left (1972), is an unremitting exercise in voyeuristic misogyny, typical of that era's low-budget excesses. In this pioneering splatter film, a group of drooling escaped psychos spend a punishing 84 minutes torturing then killing a pair of naked teenage hippie girls before they're dispatched with chain saws and a lethal blow job. Craven claims Bergman's The Virgin Spring as his inspiration, but a more obvious source is the Sharon Tate murders, with lots of drugs, mind games, and even Manson-esque folk music providing a creepy background.
A mere 10 years later, with Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (1982), teenage girls officially stopped taking shit. This rarely screened film, which is paired with Last House in the Yerba Buena "Cult Retro Classics"series, had a higher budget than Last House, and the polish of Paramount studios, but the execs were apparently so confused by what director Lou Adler gave them that they refused to release it. Too bad, because Adler's quirky musical satire is a wonderful antidote to all those fluffy John Hughes movies from the same period. Corinne Burns (Diane Lane) neutralizes her teenage angst by starting the talent-free title group (with lanky young Laura Dern). Despite sounding more like the Shaggs than the Go-Go's, they rise to fame in minutes, mainly because of their skunklike hairdos, black lace panties, and songs like "I'm a Waste of Time." The film has loads of attitude, punk music, and a fine period pedigree, with members of the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Tubes in both dramatic and musical roles. Best of all is Lane, intoxicating as a pre-Courtney Love riot grrrl.
Last House on the Left screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains screens at 8 and 10 p.m. Nov. 12 and 13. Last House is a rare uncut print, and grandly evil gang leader "Krug" (David Hess) will put in an appearance with David Szulkin, author of Last House on the Left: The Making of a Cult Classic. Both films screen at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $3-5; call 978-ARTS.