June 11, 2008

Deranged (1974)

The Plainfield Ghoul, Ed Gein, has inspired many movies over the years, most notably Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, however this 1974 movie from writer and director Alan Ormsby probably comes closest to capturing the real story and events that occured in Wisconsin in the mid part of the twentieth century. Whereas other movies took elements, such as furniture made from human bones or Gein's relationship with his mother, and incorporated them into the story Ormsby has tried to paint a picture of this infamous killer as the facts were laid down. The movie even has a warning at the beginning claiming the events portrayed are true and only the names of people and places have been changed. Mind you, once we reach the end of the movie there is also the disclaimer that any similarity to real events is purely coincidental. Of course, this isn't a biography of Ed Gein, it's a movie about a character names Ezra Cobb, however, aside from the omission of certain facts and other cinematic license there is no denying the similarities between this movie and real events.

In Deranged itself we, the viewer, are introduced to loyal son Ezra Cobb, by way of a Reporter who incidentally pops up throughout to fill us in on certain facts. Ezra is tending to his sick mother out on their remote farm, she is bedridden due to a paralyzing illness and is not in good shape. Before she has time to finally shuffle of this mortal coil though she does find time to instill an intense distrust of women into Ezra. This is just the start of Ezra's downward spiral into the insanity that will follow, as when she does die he withdraws from the world, visiting only a family friend. Most of his time being spent keeping his mother's room just as it was whilst she was alive, and writing letters to her. That is until he is pursuaded, by his mother, or should I say the voices in his head, to dig her up and bring her home. This is just the catalyst of the events to come as Ezra takes to more graverobbing and eventually murder.

Deranged, despite or even because of, its low budget origins does truly manage to capture the decent into madness of the character Ezra Cobb, who was played quite wonderfully by Roberts Blossom. There are times though during the movie where certain elements seem a little over the top, not in the actions of the characters a such but more with the delivery and certain areas of the script. On the whole though the atmosphere throughout is decidedly macabre. The effects throughout are basic but effective, some of make-up being applied by a youthful Tom Savini no less in one of his first features. However, it is not the effects, or even necessarily the crimes, that raise Deranged up amongst the more superior serial killer movies; no, that would be down to Blossom's performance along with the wonderfully bleak and wintery locations that were used during the filming. Everything seems so isolated in Deranged, not least Ezra Cobb himself, and that is due to in part to some solid direction at the hands of the Ormsby and Jeff Gillen, who shared directing duties here. Deranged isn't a movie that gives you gory or flashy set-pieces, in fact some might find it a little dated, it is however a measured character study into the mind of one twisted character.

Rating 3 (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton


Sir Jorge Orduna said...

wow, this is awesome, i gotta see this one, i'm not sure how i missed it.

Unknown said...

I really need to check this one out. I've been meaning to for years.

Anonymous said...