Deranged/Motel Hell
Review by: Drexl on February 21, 2003  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
MGM (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Deranged English mono. Motel Hell English 2.0, French Mono, Spanish 2.0 English, French, Spanish Subtitles. Deranged 82 minutes Motel Hell 101 minutes
The Movie


Directors: Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby
Starring: Roberts Blossom, Cosette Lee, Micki Moore, Robert Warner
Screenplay: Alan Ormsby
Tagline: 'Pretty Sally Mae died a very unnatural death....but the worst hasn't happened to her yet!
Country: USA
Year: 1974
AKA: Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile

Motel Hell

Director: Kevin Connor
Starring: Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke, Nancy Parsons, 'Wolfman Jack'
Screenplay: Robert Jaffe and Steven-Charles Jaffe
Tagline: It takes all kind of critters to make Farmer Vincent Fritters
Country: USA
Year: 1980
First up - a confession. I'm a nostalgia freak when it comes to movies. Sorry, I can't help it. Back in the early eighties, when this new invention called VHS (remember that?) was just taking off, video rental shops were jam-packed full of cheapo gore flicks from small independent distributors, all of them demanding my pocket money. Fast-forward nearly twenty years and many of the films I remember from my youth are now showing up on DVD, once again demanding my hard-earned cash. The sad thing is I find it hard to resist. So is it all a pointless, money-wasting nostalgia trip or a rediscovering of cinematic gems? Well, maybe a bit of both...

Motel Hell

Farmer Vincent and his butt-ugly sister Ida, played by Nancy Parsons (Beulah in Porkys), have quite a little business empire going. Firstly, they run a quaint little motel stuck out in the middle of nowhere - not exactly good for business I suspect but they still seem to get their fair share of customers. Secondly, they also run a cured meat business which is famous for the distinctive flavour of it's produce. Err, this is a cheesy horror movie right? So you would be forgiven for suspecting that Vincent's methods aren't exactly the Colonel Sanders way, and what's more, you would be damn right. Vincent has a 'special' garden in the grounds of the motel where unsuspecting travellers and motel guests are buried, neck-deep, in the soil until they are ready to be sliced, diced, smoked and packaged for sale to the unwary customers. Why don't the victims just scream for help, you may well ask. Well I suppose they would do but good old Vincent has already thought of that and, thanks to a quick bit of amateur hour surgery, has relieved the victims of their vocal chords. So there they remain, gurgling away, until Vince and Ida put them out of their misery by slipping a noose around their necks, hitching the rope to a tractor and snapping their necks, (it must help the flavour I guess.) One day, Vincent snags a young couple for the pot, courtesy of the fiendish traps he has set on a nearby road. The unfortunate chap soon finds himself planted but Vince takes a bit of a shine to the young girl traveller and spares her life. Unbelievably, the girl also takes a shine to our Vincent and agrees to marry him, (yeah, right), much to the disgust of a dim-witted cop who had also fancied his chances with her. Determined to prove that she has made a bad choice, our boy in blue does a bit of snooping around and discovers that there is more to Vincent's little empire than he ever imagined. All this leads up to a climactic scrap in the meat factory - with both characters wielding chainsaws, no less.

Motel Hell has all the ingredients of a cheese classic - goofy dialogue, scenery-chewing performances, chainsaws and a heavy dose of black humour but it somehow didn't quite hit the spot for me. Rory Calhoun is watchable enough in the lead role, the final chainsaw duel, (with one of the characters sporting a rather nifty pig mask), is a hoot and the images of the gurgling victims planted neck-deep in the soil are quite striking but, other than that, the film just bored me. The goofy humour started to wear thin after the first half-an-hour or so and some of the characters were just plain annoying. A bit of gore might have helped things along a bit but it's all rather tame and lacking in the red stuff. A lot of horror fans were looking forward to this release after it was first announced, so it's safe to say that Motel Hell does have it's fair share of supporters - unfortunately, I can't count myself amongst them. I feared that yet another fruitless nostalgia trip has, once again, robbed me of my money but, as this is a double-feature release, maybe all is not lost. Therefore a quick flip over of the disc leads us on to...


To the outsider Ezra Cobb must seem like a decent sort of chap, maybe a bit weird but harmless enough. Ezra spends all his time looking after his dying mother and generally playing the good son. Other than his Ma, female companionship isn't too high on Ezra's list of priorities - probably something to do with his mother's constant rants about the evil nature of the female of the species. One day things take a turn for the worse as Ma suddenly kicks the bucket right in front of Ezra - spewing blood into the pea soup he was trying to feed to her in the process. Nice. A few months later and Ezra is very rapidly losing his marbles. Chatting to his mother one night, (yep, he still talks to her), she begs him to bring her home, so he does just that - trotting off, shovel in hand, to dig up his Ma. Needless to say, she doesn't look exactly as he remembers her, so a quick crash course in taxidermy is required. Our boy soon discovers that fish skin doesn't patch Ma up too well but a quick scan of the local newspaper's obituary column soon solves that problem and out comes the trusty shovel again. Ezra's neighbours are as dumb as they come and are completely oblivious to our boy's increasingly bizarre behaviour, even when he goes into graphic detail about grave-robbing methods over lunch! After a while Ezra decides that rummaging around in damp, dark graveyards isn't so much fun after all and decides to look above ground level for his next victim. He soon has his eye on the flirty but attractive waitress from his local bar - it seems he didn't listen to his mothers preaching after all. The waitress leaves work one night to discover her car tyres have been slashed but, luckily for her, Ezra is on hand to give her a lift home (surprise, surprise...). Unluckily for her, he decides to make a detour via his farmhouse...

Deranged is inspired by the crimes Ed Gein and therefore rubs shoulders with, amongst others, Psycho and Texas Chain Saw Massacre, although it is probably closer in style to the later. It certainly doesn't have the thrills and shocks of Hitchcock's classic, nor the relentlessly macabre atmosphere of TCSM, but it is certainly not without merit. The first forty minutes or so play for laughs and it does so pretty well, appealing to my childish and sick sense of humour quite successfully. The second half of the movie is more twisted and shocking, containing some impressive scare scenes and a quite suspenseful chase scene. Roberts Blossom is impressive in the lead role, playing the comedy very effectively but showing just a hint of the evil beneath, waiting to erupt in the last half of the film. On the downside, the film uses an on-screen narrator to help fill in the plot, which is something I could have done without, and the music score isn't too good, but that's about it for nit-picking.

I really enjoyed Deranged. It's funny, shocking in places and an entertaining 80 minutes or so that I will quite happily re-visit. It doesn't come close to the two similar movies already mentioned above but I'm pretty happy to have it in my collection. Oh, one more thing....

Horror fans will probably be aware that this film showcases some early work from legendary FX/make-up artist Tom Savini - unfortunately this DVD doesn't. See that little 'R' on the sleeve? Yep, you guessed it - MGM have seen fit to provide us with a censored print for this release - Savini's gore effects have been left on the cutting room floor which is a shame. I would still recommend checking the film out, but if you are a Savini fan and thinking of buying this disc for that reason alone then you will be disappointed.
MGM have done a great job with the transfers for these two movies. Both prints are in excellent shape - free of damage, colourful, detailed and with only minor grain present. Motel Hell is a touch on the dark side which causes problems during the film's final scenes but, other than that, it looks great. Deranged looks excellent throughout, especially the final scenes in the snow covered forest. I certainly didn't expect either of these films to look this good, so the quality of these transfers came as a very pleasant surprise.
Both soundtracks are nice and clear and free from any unwelcome hisses and pops - another pat on the back for MGM. Both films also carry easy to read subtitles should they be required.
Extra Features
Just a trailer for each of the movies. Motel Hell's trailer is actually quite effective and almost convinced me to check the film out again, but not quite. That's it for extras unless of course you are buying this disc for one particular film, in which case you could, I suppose, consider the other movie as a bonus.
The Verdict
Very much a case of good and bad. I really enjoyed one of the films and was totally underwhelmed by the other but, considering the low price, I don't feel too hard done by. The transfers are of a high standard and the trailers are good fun. All of this adds up to a decent quality budget release, the one disappointment being that the print of Deranged is incomplete. As this was my favourite of the two, I now feel compelled to track down the uncut print. Any chance of an unrated Special Edition MGM?
Movie Score
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