Deranged (1974)
By: Mr Intolerance on September 17, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Universum Film (Germany). All Region, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English Dolby Digital 1.0, German Dolby Digital 1.0. German Subtitles. 80 minutes
The Movie
Director: Jeff Gillen, Alan Ormsby
Starring: Roberts Blossom, Cosette Lee, Leslie Carlson, Robert Warner, Marcia Diamond, Brian Smeagle, Arlene Gillen Screenplay: Alan Ormsby Music: Carl Zittrer
Tagline: "Pretty Sally Mae died a very unnatural death! … But the worst hasn't happened to her yet!"
Country: USA
AKA: Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile, Besessen, Deranged - Geständnisse eines Nekrophilen
Deranged - or, if you like, Ed Gein's life story. Considering the nature of this website, I probably don't need to go into too much detail about Ed Gein's extra-curricular fun and games – for the uninitiated, here's a brief checklist: wearing womens' skin, necrophilia, cannibalism, murder (obviously), grave-robbing – Ed was one sick fucker. And he was also the inspiration for Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Silence of the Lambs, und so weiter.

Alan Ormsby's original title for the script was "Necromania" – which is kind of cool, but not as cool as Deranged, which I think is a little more to the point, and which gives more of a sense of the character's explosive attacks of psychotic rage. While we don't get to see the belt of nipples, the box of noses or the vagina in the frying pan, Deranged still represents one of the closest pictures of the whole Ed Gein story on film (although Steve Railsback did a good job of portraying the character in the reasonably recent and astonishingly good – it wasn't a cinematic release - Ed Gein, AKA In the Light of the Moon). Plainfield, Wisconsin hosted a ghoul with no-one knowing it – despite the fact that he actually told and otherwise gave pretty fuckin' strong hints to loads of folks; he simply wasn't believed.

Well, anyway, this isn't a biography of Ed Gein, it's a review of Deranged. Ezra Cobb (read: Ed Gein), a simple soul, to put it mildly, lives with his paralysed mother on a farm somewhere outback of Bumfuck Wisconsin (it's actually called Woodside, I just couldn't resist amusing myself at the expense of rednecks). He's a devoted son, and when she dies, he loses what little part of the plot he might once have had. We watch Ezra descend into ever-increasing depths of insanity. First, he makes a kind of effigy of his mother, having imaginary conversations with her, then he goes and fetches her at her request, bringing Momma home, and then digging up fresh bodies to help patch her rotting carcass up. With Momma home, Ole Ez is happier than a pig in shit, despite being crazier than a shithouse rat, if I can mix my similes. But you see, Mrs Cobb needs a lot of body work, that's when he starts his campaign of slaughter on the living… And then, well – see above for details. The only noticeable parts of Gein's life left out would be the suspected (and highly likely) murder of his own brother (who doesn't feature in the film at all), and his fascination with Nazi war atrocities, which is vaguely hinted at through Ezra making household items out of flesh and bone ("It's a belly drum!").

Deranged is, at times, blackly hysterically funny. No, really. I realise that the subject matter isn't traditionally one associated with humour, but there are some moments where I caught myself laughing – don't think horror/comedy a la Return of the Living Dead or The Lost Boys, this is subtle (well, for the most part…) and actually quite witty at times, though always black, and occasionally quite absurd.

The actual film, and not just the events that inspired it, packs a wallop like, appropriately enough, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre; depicting evil in human form - the notorious (and often censored, or just plain excised from the film) head-scooping scene is a case in point, a banal little man removing brains from a skull with a large soup spoon, as if it was the most normal thing in the world to do. It's really quite chilling, and kind of sickening, in a way that those clowns at August Underground just can't seem to grasp, despite having much more realistic and brutal special effects. Basically, you need good acting, and Roberts Blossom, as Ezra Cobb, puts in a bravura performance, making the character more than a one-dimensional boogey-man. Ole Ez, is by turns pathetic and sad, or homicidally psychotic. You actually feel sorry for Ezra at times, and then he becomes scary as all hell. This works in a similar way to the film itself - at times, blackly humorous, at others, pure evil, and more than kinda disturbing.

Oh, and for completist fans of the film, Dark Ambient band Vond (a one-man project by Mortiis, ex-Emperor) have a record called "Green Eyed Demon", which substantially samples Deranged.
Generally speaking, the picture is amazing, with little more than the odd speck here and there – as crisp an image as you could ask for. The only section I found had any problems was the "brain-scooping" scene, which was re-inserted from inferior stock, like the evisceration scene in Last House on Dead End Street. Apart from that, Deranged looks as good as it ever will.
Also good. And again, only the re-inserted scene is of lower quality, but it's not that bad; it's only noticeable because of the high quality of the rest of the film. The score is quite good – when Ezra goes bat-shit there's an eerie sustained bass note that evokes an uneasiness mirrored in what you're watching.
Extra Features
Well, there's a behind the scenes featurette, voiced by Tom Savini (do I even have to tell you who he is?), Tom Karr (the producer), and Jeff Gillen (the director), with a whole bunch of interesting facts about the production of the film. Well worth a watch. A 24 page booklet, which is always a welcome addition, although I often find myself reading things like this while I should be watching the film, and a thankfully extremely brief "Making of" featurette for another director's (Tim Ritter) sequel to Deranged, called Creep, which frankly, looked awful – I won't be chasing that one up. Three different versions of the trailer also lurk in the special features: the teaser trailer, the general release trailer, and the uncut one, which shows the "eyeball-scoop" sequence normally deleted from releases of the film (although it's in this version!).There's also one featurette about Ed Gein which is kind of jokey (it includes props from the film itself), and one that definitely isn't and takes itself very seriously indeed. Despite one of them being a bit of a gag (I think it is anyway – it actually uses props from the film) both of them still contain some rough material, either in the descriptions which are graphic, or, in the case of the second one, the images, which are worse. You can't get past or even help being morbidly fascinated by the whole Gein phenomenon – he was just one horribly fucked up dude.
The Verdict
Get it. Now. If you are into serial killer films, you'll dig it. If you are into good 70s horror, you'll dig it. Matter of fact, if you're a fan of horror full-stop – you'll dig it. I really can't recommend Deranged highly enough. It's bloody enough, well scripted enough, well shot enough, funny enough (intentional humour, might I add, of the blackest or most absurd kind) and well, just plain weird enough, for real fans of horror to get a kick out of. If you're into teen-horror, or you're only in it for the gore, forget it, back to the nursery for you, you're too immature to appreciate the finer things.
Movie Score
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