David Alexander Hess (September 19, 1936 – October 7, 2011) was an American actor, singer, songwriter, and director. He came to prominence for his portrayals of murderous villains and in several films in the 1970s and 1980s. Hess originally worked as a songwriter in the 1950s, co-writing songs recorded by Elvis Presley and Pat Boone, but garnered international attention for his feature film debut portraying Krug Stillo in Wes Craven's exploitation horror film The Last House on the Left (1972).
Hess would go on to play several hard-edged roles as criminals in the Italian films Hitch-Hike (1977) and The House on the Edge of the Park (1980) before having a supporting role in Craven's Swamp Thing (1982). He made his directorial debut with the slasher film To All a Goodnight (1980). In his later life, he was affiliated with the California Film Institute, where he taught improvisational theater in the institute's youth programs.Contents
Hess was born David Alexander Hess on September 19, 1936 in New York City. His mother, Marjory, was an opera singer.Career 1956–1971: Songwriting and music
In 1956, Hess recorded the original version of the Otis Blackwell composition "All Shook Up" under the stage name David Hill. The next year the song became a #1 hit single for Elvis Presley.
He began his professional career as a songwriter for Shalimar Music in 1957. He composed "Start Movin' (In My Direction)" for Sal Mineo and "Rockin' Shoes" for the Ames Brothers. In 1959 he recorded a cover version of Cliff Richard's "Living Doll" for Kapp Records and it became a mild placed charter for him on the US Billboard charts. He wrote songs for Elvis Presley throughout the 1950s and 1960s, which include "I Got Stung", "Come Along", and "Sand Castles". "Your Hand, Your Heart, Your Love" became a 1960s hit when it was performed by Andy Williams. In 1962, Hess wrote and recorded "Speedy Gonzales", (as David Dante) which became a #6 single for Pat Boone in the US and a #2 in the UK, selling more than eight million copies worldwide. Hess then recorded two solo albums for Kapp Records, again topping the charts, this time with a Top Ten folk hit called "Two Brothers."
In 1969, he became head of A&R at Mercury Records in New York. There he linked up with Western classical composer John Corigliano, and together they wrote the Grammy award-winning rock opera The Naked Carmen, which became a big hit of the Berlin Ballet Week in 1970. His work with Mercury also included And the Children Toll the Passing of the Day, a 1969 album he wrote for Irish actor Malachy McCourt.1972–2011: Acting and film
In 1972, his career split off into several new directions with his starring role in the Wes Craven horror classic Last House on the Left, for which he also composed the soundtrack. In that movie, he was noted to have been a reckless, merciless character. He went on to score Buck at the Edge of Heaven (it), a children's film based on a collection of Jack London stories. The film won the top prize for film and direction at the Giffoni Film Festival. He also had roles in Hitchhike and The House on the Edge of the Park.
A subsequent job offer from PolyGram's German affiliate gave Hess the opportunity to move to Munich, Germany, and a multilingual career in film dubbing from 1972 to 1976 which in turn led him to writing the English language shooting scripts for such German directors as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Reinhard Hauff, and his present collaborator, Peter Schamoni.
In 1980, he directed his first American feature film, To All a Good Night, for Media Home Entertainment in 1980. He also appeared in two horror films directed by Ruggero Deodato, La Casa sperduta nel parco (1980) and Camping del terrore (1987). He appeared as a villain in Wes Craven's Swamp Thing in 1982.
In 1991, he played the part of the American in Peter Schamoni's Max Ernst—My Wanderings, My Unrest (1991). From 1993 to 1995 he produced Niki de Saint Phalle: Wer ist das Monster - du oder ich? (1996).
In later years, he released two albums, Caught Up In The Moment and Live & Unplugged in Hollywood, 2002. He worked on several tracks for the horror film Cabin Fever (2003), directed by Eli Roth, and also worked as an improv acting teacher at the California Film Institute's Young Critics' Jury Training program.
In 2013, One Way Static Records released the soundtrack to Last House on the Left on vinyl, compact disc, cassette and digital download. This was intended as a posthumous tribute and the liner notes on the release include extensive writings by David's family, colleagues and friends. This edition was repressed on a limited, hand numbered picture disc for Record Store Day 2014.Personal life
Hess married his wife, Regina Mardek, in 1978, and had four children. He was a longtime resident of Corte Madera, California.Death
Hess died from a heart attack on October 7, 2011 in Tiburon, California while leaving a concert he had just attended. He was 75 years old.Filmography Film Year Title Role Notes 1970 Cold Sweat Vermont aka Whitey Voice 1972 The Last House on the Left Krug Stillo 1976 Potato Fritz Sleeve 1976 The Swiss Conspiracy Sando 1977 Goodbye Bruce Lee: His Last Game of Death Voice 1977 Hitch-Hike Adam Konitz 1979 Avalanche Express Geiger 1980 The House on the Edge of the Park Alex 1982 Swamp Thing Ferret 1983 White Star Frank 1986 Armed and Dangerous Gunman #4 1986 Let's Get Harry Mercenary 1987 Body Count Robert Ritchie also known as Camping del Terrore 1989 Sindrome veneziana 1991 Omicidio a luci blu Sergeant Flanagan 1991 Buck ai confini del cielo Dan 1995 Jonathan degli orsi Maddock 2001 Nutcracker John Gard/Clyde Fairfax 2004 Zombie Nation Aaron Singer III 2005 Zodiac Killer Mel Navokov 2006 The Absence of Light Whiplash 2006 Fallen Angels Kajal 2007 Used Aldo Modisco 2007 Go Together Aldo Modisco 2009 Smash Cut Able Whitman 2011 The Steppes Oleg Television Year Title Role Notes 1976 21 Hours at Munich Berger Television film 1977 Baretta Bosco Episode: "All That Shatters" 1981 Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls Robaire Television film 1983 Knight Rider Donny Episode: "Short Notice" 1983 Manimal William Episode: "Illusion" 1985 Sadat Israeli Soldier Television film 1985 The Fall Guy Episode: "Reel Trouble" 1986 The A-Team Episode: "Dishpan Man" 1989 Oceano Kruger Television mini-series 1991 Die Kaltenbach-Papiere Television mini-series 1997 Noi siamo angeli Manuel Delgado Episodes: "Due facce da galera", "La fortuna piove dal cielo" 2010 Royal Pains Bob Ambrose Episode: "In Vino Veritas" Crew Year Title Role Notes 1980 To All a Goodnight Director 1996 Niki de Saint Phalle: Wer ist das Monster - du oder ich? Producer Documentary 1999 The Green Monster Producer Television documentary 2004 Zombie Nation Production executive 2010 Steel Drums, No Guns Director, producer Short documentary 2011 Sketchy House Executive Producer Soundtrack/music Year Title Notes 1964 The Ed Sullivan Show Soundtrack writer: "Speedy Gonzalez"; episode: season 17, episode 21; uncredited 1966 Frankie and Johnny Soundtrack writer: "Come Along"; uncredited 1966 Paradise, Hawaiian Style Soundtrack writer: "Sand Castles" 1972 Last House on the Left Soundtrack writer, performer, lyrics, music composer 1989 Cold Justice Composer 1989 Roger & Me Composer 1993 Lo Kolel Sherut Soundtrack writer; episode: season 3, episode 8 2002 Cabin Fever Soundtrack writer, performer: various 2003 Celluloid Crime of the Century video documentary short 2008 Manhunt Soundtrack writer, performer 2009 Melancholie der Engel Composer 2011 Sketchy House Composer, performer References