DERANGED (1974) – The Dungeon Review!
Deranged was made the same year as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I mention this because both films were based on the infamous murderer and grave robber Ed Gein. The film opens with the following statement:
“The motion picture you are about to see is absolutely true. Only the names and the locations have been changed.”
I do know a few facts about the case of Ed Gein and a little more than just names and locations have been changed. “Absolutely true” is a bit strong but a healthy amount of Gein’s story does remain intact. Tom Sims (pictured above) is a newspaper columnist who covered Ezra Cobb’s story. Tom Sims narrates and adds his own commentary on Ezra Cobb; grave robber and murderer.
Ezra Cobb is a farmer caring for his fanatically religious bed-ridden mother. Ezra had always been close to his mother; when Amanda Cobb became paralyzed his devotion only increased. Ezra knows very little about the world outside of his mother’s home. “I’m not tired. I’m not hungry. I’m dying.” Amanda Cobb has a heart to heart talk with her son on her deathbed about money-stealing bitches, gonorrhea and death. She also requests that Ezra contact a woman she knows named Maureen Selby.
The camera lingers on the backs of Ezra and two neighbors at his mother’s funeral. Creepy organ music is played as the trio stare forward at the coffin in its symmetrical arrangement.
Ezra tries his best to adjust without mother but his loneliness pushes him over the edge. Ezra hears the voice of his mother who has been buried for a year. “If you miss me so much why don’t you come and bring me home?” Ezra always listens to his mother. Mom is not exactly fresh after a year in the ground; Ezra is going to have to do something about this.
Narrator Tom Sims walks right into scenes as they are happening. This is such an unnecessary element of the film. There really isn’t anything learned from the narration that we don’t see first hand. The spoken epilogue being the only real exception. Personally I think this narration business messes with the film’s mojo. Most of Deranged is a solid horror docudrama that is concrete enough to stand on its own.
Ezra eventually decides to contact Maureen Selby his mother’s friend. Maureen hadn’t spoken to Ezra’s mother for years. She misses her husband desperately and asks Ezra if he will hold a séance with her so she could contact him. She has an agenda however. She is really just using the séance as a way to get Ezra to have sex with her. She even goes so far as to pretend to be possessed by her husband who implores Ezra to have sex with his wife “Make love to her Ezra, she needs it!” Deranged is not without its dark humour. This scene was pretty amusing. At least until it wasn’t. The films lighter moments always turn to darkness. ***Spoiler*** There is no happy ending for Maureen Selby.
Naive Ezra learns about obituaries for the first time while eating with the neighbors. He digs up the freshly buried corpses of the townsfolk for skin to patch up mom. He is a good son. Ezra is quite delusional at this point; or Deranged if you prefer. Ezra is keeping the rotting corpses around the house, treating them like they are still alive. Apparently the ladies play bridge on the porch sometimes. In the picture above it appears the ladies are enjoying a cup of tea. I was pretty impressed with the rotting corpses and the various props made to look as though they were made from human skin. At one point in the film Ezra proudly shows off his skin and bone handiwork. Nothing goes to waste in the Cobb household.
A close up of one of Deranged’s corpses. Someone get this lady a glass of water!
Deranged has a largely Canadian cast. Anyone who grew up in the 80s in Ontario will likely recognize Micki Moore. Micki Moore plays bar waitress Mary. Moore hosted the CITY-TV talk show You’re Beautiful from 1977 to 1989. The picture above is Micki Moore on the cover of Star Week; the TV Guide that came with the Saturday Toronto Star newspaper.
Mary, a waitress at the local bar catches the eye of Ezra. Ezra tries to order milk but Mary insists he buy an alcoholic beverage. Ezra gets drunk for the first time in his life and Mary has to help him out of the bar. He becomes obsessed with Mary. Mary’s segment is my favourite bit of the film. I really enjoy Micki Moore’s tough and feisty Mary.
Ezra has regular mother flashbacks. Ezra really loves his mother and respects and believes everything she ever told him. I wouldn’t say Ezra is plagued by these moments but they certainly come on him hard and violently. Ezra’s mom was not a pleasant woman. Amanda Cobb was a bible-thumping hag and there is no question that Ezra’s behavior is a result of her guidance, Cosette Lee as Amanda “Ma” Cobb is an intimidating woman even on her deathbed.
Ezra peers through the window of the local hardware store and admires Sally. I love this shot of Ezra peering between the colored oil lamps. There are some clever shots scattered throughout that work extremely well. Deranged is a grungy looking film. It is hard to believe these pictures came from a DVD. It doesn’t look much better than the VHS version I had. The film has an intentional bleak and oppressive look anyway so the grunginess really rather suits it.
Ezra’s naivety, awkwardness and peculiar comments are at times amusing which brings a touch of empathy to the character. Just a touch though; his actions are pretty damn disturbing. Roberts Blossom gives a strong and memorable performance as Ezra Cobb; he really is the film’s best asset. Blossom brings the perfect level of crazy that is erratic yet calm and frighteningly believable.
There is not a large body count but the violence that is included in Deranged is well done. The above pictures are Ezra hanging and bleeding his final kill. Deranged is an efficient, nasty and at times darkly amusing horror docudrama hailing from the Motherland that comes highly recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby
Starring: Roberts Blossom, Cosette Lee, Leslie Carlson, Robert Warner, Marcia Diamond, Brian Smeagle, Arlene Gillen, Robert McHeady, Marian Waldman, Jack Mather, Micki Moore, Pat Orr