Deranged (1974) | The true story of Wisconsin ghoul Ed Gein gets a blackly comic twist in Alan Ormsby’s cult classic

Alan Ormsby's Deranged

Deranged is still as effective as anything that any of its big-budget, slicker contemporaries have to offer.

Alan Ormsby's Deranged

In this darkly comic retelling of the story of real-life Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, Roberts Blossom (of Home Alone fame) gives a career-defining performance as Ezra Cobb, a middle-aged loner who turns to grave robbing, murder and necrophilia following the death of his possessive mother, whose corpse he keeps preserved in his remote farmhouse along with his newly-acquired victims. Like Gein, Cobb gleefully boasts about his crimes, but nobody believes him, which only spells tragedy for the many young women who end up on the sharp end of his hunting knife.

Alan Ormsby's Deranged

If it weren’t for the sadistic, cannibalistic, necrophilic, skin-suit wearing, mother-obsessed psychopath Ed Gein (who was declared insane in 1957 and spent the next 27 years in a mental hospital until his death in 1984), we would never have had films like Psycho (1960) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) or popular fictional characters like Hannibal Lecter.

Gein’s transgressive, taboo-trouncing crimes inspired those horror classics, countless imitations, and this film, Deranged (1974), which has earned cult status for its blackly comic twist on Gein’s horrible life story. Filmed in 1974 by Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen (for just $200,000 from profits promoting Led Zepplin concerts), Deranged may not stick to the real-life facts, but it’s central theme of a necrophile who wears the flayed skin of his victims whose corpses he then uses to decorate his home stays chillingly true. And the film’s scenes involving Cobb’s final victim, Sally, draws directly from Gein’s last victim, Bernice Worden, by replicating the photos of her hung up and gutted like a deer.

Deranged could have been as vicious and visceral and as Tobe Hooper’s Chain Saw (which came out later the same year), but the film-makers tread a fine line between what is funny and what is horrible, and its Blossom’s goofy, off-kilter performance that brings it all together. As for gore factor, the infamous brain-scooping scene – a wonderful exercise in Grand Guignol excess – gets reinstated in this release. Another highlight are the mummified corpses that adorn Cobb’s farmhouse, and which are chillingly brought to life using just dowel rods, chicken wire, latex and by Tom Savini, here making his debut as chief make-up artist.

Alan Ormsby's Deranged

Arrow’s dual format B/2 release contains a high definition Blu-ray and standard definition DVD presentation of the unrated version, Tom Savini audio commentary and introduction, trailer and stills gallery. Three featurettes are also included, the best being The Wages of Sin, which includes some never-before-seen production footage, but I also liked Human Centipede II star Laurence R Harvey’s rather erudite analysis of Gein’s legacy. Caping off this must-have release, there’s a collector’s booklet featuring new writing from Nightmare USA’s Stephen Thrower and reversible sleeve featuring artwork from Nat Marsh.

A Must See and a Must Have for any modern classic horror collection.


About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on August 20, 2013, in Horror, Must See, Must-See and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I found this flick intriguing only because it was loosely on Ed Fein. Who really knows what was going on and that nut case mind of his. Anyway, it kept me amused for a couple hours on a boring Sunday afternoon. LOL

  2. Emmelina Ogilvy

    Was EdGein, strictly speaking, a sadist? He mainly robbed the dead….and when he did kill it was quick. ..Or have I missed some of the story???

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