Deranged (1974)

“I apologize for calling you a hog, mama.”

Synopsis:
A deranged farmer (Roberts Blossom) goes off the deep end when his overly religious mother (Cosette Lee) dies, recovering her body from its grave a year later, and murdering local women to help restore her decaying corpse.

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Review:
Essentially a thinly veiled biopic about “Mad Butcher” Ed Gein, Deranged remains a gruesome but surprisingly effective low-budget slasher flick. Most definitely not for the faint of heart, Deranged — filled with a healthy dose of black humor — spares no details in presenting the travails of its increasingly unhinged anti-hero, as it tracks his descent from dutifully compliant grown son to psychotic necrophiliac. Blossoms is well-cast in the central role, doing a fine job with an undeniably tricky character; we never doubt either his sincerity or his derangement for a single second. Co-directors Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby set up many tension-filled scenes (viz. barmaid Micki Moore’s introduction to Blossoms’ household existence!), which are all nicely paced and include a decent number of shocks and thrills; meanwhile, Carl Zittrer’s score (based thematically upon the hymn “Old Rugged Cross”) serves as an effective reminder about the religiosity behind Blossoms’ mental disturbance. I’m astonished to find myself recommending this one as must-see, but it’s good enough at what it sets out to do that I think it’s worth a look by all film fanatics.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Roberts Blossom as Ezra
  • Many genuinely creepy moments
  • Jack McGowan’s cinematography
  • An effectively disturbing score

Must See?
Yes, simply as a well-crafted, low-budget genre flick — but be forewarned that it’s utterly gruesome. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Deranged (1974)”

  1. A must.

    ‘Deranged’ is, of course, a better movie than it has any right to be – considering the source material. But its approach is not cheap or exploitative – what it most certainly is is unique.

    It does not shy from the black humor that can easily be found in the relationship between Ed and his mother. (Something that borderline-incestuous and sick is bound to be unintentionally funny on some level.) And said humor follows by way of the only woman Ed’s mother claims to trust – Maureen Selby (the pivotal seance scene that follows Ed’s intro to Maureen is a film highlight; savagely funny, until…). It’s interesting to note that whatever dark humor may have been culled from the situation does disappear as the film progresses. The darker things get, the more bluntly realistic the film becomes.

    It’s apparent that the filmmakers were serious about telling a gripping story. Did they adhere to the facts? Probably a lot more closely than the other films based on the Gein case. How odd, then, that those other films are so readily recognizable (by title) by other film buffs while ‘Deranged’ remains somewhat obscure. It’s equally as compelling. On a very small budget (used very resourcefully), it does not waste a second of its 82 minutes. A lot happens in this film.

    The cast is quite good but Blossom’s performance is key. Talk about layered. Blossom certainly understands subtext.

    This is one that ffs will want to revisit – less out of morbid interest in the details of the story (one hopes) than in how the story is told. It’s a remarkable piece of independent cinema.

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