Monday, May 21, 2012

Deranged (1974)

   As the days pass, people begin to worry about Ezra Cobb (Roberts Blossom), who lives all alone in that big Wisconsin farmhouse. After his overbearing mother (Cosette Lee) dies, Ezra doesn't know quite what to do with himself, and a local family takes them under their wing.

    Deranged, a 1974 shocker starring character actor Roberts Blossom as the immeasurably crazy mama's boy Ezra Cobb, recreates the story of Ed Gein, the "Butcher of Plainfield." Norman Bates in Psycho was based on Gein, as was James "Buffalo Bill" in Thomas Harris's novel and Jonathan Demme's adaptation The Silence of the Lambs.

    As you may know, Ed Gein was a Wisconsiner whose mother was a a religious fanatic who provided him with an unstable living environment, to say the least. He had a preference for wearing human skin, and "unclean" women were the target of his rage. Between the years 1954 and 1957, he murdered two women, possibly his brother, and dug up various others from the local graveyard. Ezra Cobb does much more than this.

   First off, and I must say this right now, I HATED the guy who narrated the film, and would frequently appear on screen, fracturing Ezra's isolation, to keep us up to date in a flat, unconfiding voice. He had a parasitic effect on the film, and I hated him. Hated him.

    On the other hand, Roberts Blossom (yes, as in plural) is quite good, although I'm not at all sure what he was doing with the frequent jutting out of his lower lip, like a petulant child. He is campy (in a good way), scary, and completely maniacal as a Freudian madman.

   The film doesn't go overboard in guts and killings, and I like how the women Cobb kills are given distinct personalities and not just created for slaughter, like so many horror victims.

   And it's funny. I feel kind of sick for saying this, but the black comedy runs deep, and I found myself laughing frequently, as well as being caught up in the what-ifs. I was surprised several times, and although some of the effects seemed a little, well... fake, it was quite gruesome as well.

   If you have a pitch-black sense of humor and don't mind a little camp, this may be your third Gein-related pick (I bank on you having seen Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs already.) It's grisly, funny, and scary, and has a nice, subtle plot twist concerning the wrongdoings of "normal" people.

1 comment:

  1. "Freudian madman" is a terrific phrase. I'm just sayin'


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