An appreciation by Bob Ignizio
This 1974 drive-in shocker DERANGED was until recently the most accurate account of the real life murder and grave robbing spree of Wisconsin nut job Ed Gein. The recent ED GEIN film starring Steve Railsback follows the events a little more closely, but DERANGED is far more enjoyable. Co-directors Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby had previously worked with Bob (A CHRISTMAS STORY, PORKY'S) Clark on his early horror films CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS and DEATHDREAM. While they make some missteps, the central performance by Roberts Blossom (probably best known as McCully Culkin’s creepy old neighbor in HOME ALONE) as “Ezra Cobb, the butcher of Woodside” keeps things from falling apart.
Poor old Ezra is the quintessential mama’s boy. When mother Cobb passes on, leaving him with a final warning to avoid those awful dirty girls, Ezra’s mind snaps. Before long, he digs up his mother’s body and takes it home. To keep Mrs. Cobb in good condition, Ez is soon digging up other corpses for “repairs”. Ezra also starts to crave the company of living women, but unable to overcome his twisted upbringing it’s not long before they join the collection of stiffs in his farm house.
While all this certainly sounds grim and depressing, DERANGED is lightened somewhat by the effective use of gallows humor. The quality of the supporting players varies, but none are so bad that they ruin the mood. The main thing that prevents this from being a classic is the boneheaded idea of using an onscreen narrator. Every time this guy shows up, it turns the film into cheap melodrama. Still, if you’re a fan of low budget 70’s horror you’ll want to check this out