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DERANGED (1974) ****

This film is great and should be as well known as the other, more famous movies based partially on the life of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, (Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was released the same year as Deranged). It’s more faithful to Gein’s real life and features a wonderful performance by Roberts Blossom.

An onscreen narrator (who pops up now and then when you least expect him) tells us the story of Ezra Cobb (Blossoms), a simple farmer with a domineering woman-hating mother. On her deathbed, she tells him, “The wages of sin are gonorrhea, syphilis, and death!” She pukes blood into her pea soup and dies. At the funeral Ezra tells everyone, “She’s not dead, she’s resting.” A year later, after months of hearing her nagging voice, he digs up her rotted corpse. It’s not in great shape, so he digs up newer fresher corpses for spare parts. Later he decides that living flesh works better. He kills a fat woman (“If I get caught up in all that fat, I’ll cut my way out!”), then a waitress.

The scene where the waitress finds Ezra sitting in the living room playing a phonograph and dressed in his mother’s skin is pretty freaky. He ties her to a chair and forces her to have dinner with him and Mama. She tries to escape, and he kills her with a leg bone. In the end, he hunts, catches, and guts a teen girl like a deer, before being caught.

The great make-up effects were done by a young Tom Savani. Deranged is funny, scary and surprising, usually all at the same time. It was produced by Bob (Black Christmas) Clark, who had his name removed from the credits because he thought it was too violent. Directors Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen were both in Clark’s early movies (Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things and Deathdream). Gillen later went on to play Santa in A Christmas Story (also directed by Clark). Many may also recognize Blossom as Old Man Marley from the mega hit Home Alone.
Tags: d, horror
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