Deranged (1974)

DVD Cover (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
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Overall Rating 62%
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Ranked #3,209
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Roberts Blossom
Roberts Blossom
Cosette Lee
Cosette Lee
Leslie Carlson
Leslie Carlson
Robert Warner
Robert Warner
Marcia Diamond
Marcia Diamond
Review by Chad
Added: April 26, 2007
It's hard to believe that a man who never touched a video camera, never wrote a script, and who never once appeared in front of a camera could be so influential in the world of film. I'm referring to Ed Gein, an American serial killer who didn't just kill his victims, but actually went so far as to carve them up and fashion clothing out of their skin and create various other items from their sexual organs (a belt made out of female nipples, for example). Without this man, we never would have seen Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Silence of the Lambs, or the countless other films which were either directly based on Gein or based on the work which was inspired by his deeds. Deranged is another film which took inspiration from Gein, but unlike the other films which merely used pieces of his legacy as a starting point, this one serves as a fairly comprehensive and accurate biography of the man.

In this rendition of the story, we're quickly introduced to Ezra Cobb (Roberts Blossom) and his mother (Cosette Lee), who both live in a run-down farm out in the middle of nowhere. Ma is dying after having suffered a couple of strokes, and as she lays on her death bed, she drills a couple of valuable lessons into Ezra's head for the final time: women are whores, women want nothing more than to take your money, and to actually have sex with one of them will surely give you gonorrhea or syphilis. With that, she dies and leaves Ezra alone in the world after having sheltered him all his life.

The days turn into months and the months turn into a full year since her death, and suffering from extreme loneliness, poor Ezra starts to hear his mother's voice, scolding him for leaving her all alone in the ground. This leads him to the graveyard, where he digs up his mother's rotting corpse and brings her back home, where he holds daily conversations with her and goes through life as though she were amongst the living as well. Then, a problem occurs: Ezra realizes that his mother's corpse is falling apart. He needs to do something about that, and the best solution that he can come up with is to rob the graveyard of its fresher corpses and bring them home to mama. When stealing from the deceased is no longer sufficient, he turns to fresher victims...

Although the names have been changed to protect the "innocent" and a couple of events have been slightly altered, it should be pretty obvious to most who the real inspiration for this movie was, and surprisingly, it's pretty accurate for the most part. I expected things to be glamorized for the movie version, but with the exception of one kill (which Gein was suspected of doing anyway, though it was never proven), it seemed as though the script for this movie came straight out of a true-crime biography written about the man. Why is this fact so important? Well, to me, all of the Gein-inspired films are creepy enough due to the material involved, but when you're watching a film that closely mirrors the actual events in all of their gory details, that sort of ups the ante just a little bit in my humble opinion.

Gein's deeds set the blueprint for some rather disturbing imagery, and Deranged takes that ball and runs with it. There are so many scenes in here which would later be copied in more well-known films (the "dinner" scene from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre being the best example), and there are also a number of scenes which - even after thirty years - still seemed fresh and original. It was pretty gruesome when Leatherface hung that pretty little lady up on a meat hook, but when Ezra hangs his victim upside down and guts her like a deer, well... now that was horrific, and even more so when you realize that it actually happened like that all those years ago.

As far as true crime "biographies" go, Deranged is a cut above the rest. However, even if you simply look at it as just another horror flick, it still manages to satisfy the audience in a way that only those sleazy, grimy exploitation films from the seventies can. 9/10.
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