DERANGED. (1974) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

deranged mary table

DERANGED… THE CONFESSIONS OF A NECROPHILE. (1974) AN AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL FILM. DIRECTED BY JEFF GILLEN AND ALAN ORMSBY. WRITTEN BY ALAN ORMSBY. PRODUCED BY TOM KARR. SPECIAL EFFECTS BY TOM SAVINI.

STARRING ROBERTS BLOSSOM, COSETTE LEE, LESLIE CARLSON, MARIAN WALDMAN, MICKI MOORE, ROBERT WARNER, MARCIA DIAMOND, BRIAN SMEAGLE AND PAT ORR.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The wages of sin are gonorrhea, syphilis and death. Remember that, boy!’

Amanda Cobb, Ezra’s Mother.

This film is loosely based on the story of real-life American boogeyman and murderer Ed Gein (1906-1984), although in this film he’s called Ezra Cobb for some reason. Maybe because the real Ed Gein was still alive at this time, I don’t know what the deal is with that.

Ed Gein, known as the Butcher of Plainfield, was the Wisconsin farmer-cum-handyman who achieved permanent notoriety when he was found to have peopled his house with the mutilated corpses of women, and mostly elderly women at that, after his mother’s death in 1945 at the age of sixty-seven.

He was the inspiration for Robert Bloch’s horror novel PSYCHO, which in turn went on to become Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous movie PSYCHO in 1960. Iconic weirdo Norman Bates (‘A boy’s best friend is his mother’) was probably the first cinema character to portray what might happen when a fatherless boy with an uber-domineering mother who gives him some very messed-up ideas about women and sex is abandoned in death by that mother. Unable to cope with her very significant loss, his mind gives way and he devises a method that ensures that he can hold onto her forever. If a few other women are sacrificed along the way, well sure, what harm?

The bonkers Ed Gein was also the inspiration behind the character Leatherface in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and the character Buffalo Bill in the 1991 smash hit movie THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, which introduced the character of Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter to the world, played so immaculately and memorably by Anthony Hopkins.

The Ezra Cobb in DERANGED is heavily emotionally attached to his own extremely domineering, deeply religious mother, Amanda Cobb. She’s bedridden and about to die when we meet her, but her venomous mouth has lost none of its power to shock and scare the child of her loins.

With her last breath, she’s telling her virgin son Ezra, who’s fifty if he’s a day, to watch out for the filthy, disease-ridden gold-digging whores who will flock to him now he’s such an eligible bachelor, with his own farm and a house to go with it and no doubt a few bucks in the bank as well. She’s filled Ezra so full of misogynistic poison that it’s a wonder he’s not scared off women for life.

He misses his mother so much that, one night, he imagines that he hears her calling to him from the grave. ‘Bring me home, boy! It’s cold and dark down here! Bring me home, I tell you!’ It’s his own voice mouthing the words but he thinks it’s his mother talking to him. Off he drives to the cemetery to dig her up, as happy as Larry once he gets her home and back in her own nice warm bed.

Over the coming weeks and months, he tries to patch her up with bits and pieces of animal skin, but it’s not long before he realises that human skin would work so much better for this purpose. What to do, what to do…?

When he hears about the recent death of his old Sunday-School teacher Mrs. Johnson, he digs her up, decapitates her gruesomely and uses her ancient facial skin to patch up his old Ma’s disintegrating kisser. The results, hideous beyond belief to the viewer, are mighty pleasing to Ezra Cobb, whom we can already see is completely and utterly mad.

His meeting with the equally bonkers Maureen Selby- is this what it sounds like when doves cry…?- leads to death and horror for poor lonely Maureen. And in front of her Herbert’s lovely photo, too! What in the wide world are things coming to?

The fate of attractive barmaid Mary Ransom is much more frightening. Ezra meets her in a bar and begins immediately to fixate on her. He cunningly slashes Mary’s tyres in secret one night so that she’s obliged to take a lift home with him.

This proves that his abduction of Mary is no spur-of-the-moment action but very much a premeditated one. What it proves legally I don’t know, but the educationally backwards and even mentally retarded Ezra can be as sly as a fox when pursuing his own twisted ends.

When the stunning Mary, described unflatteringly by the narrative voice-over as ‘thirty-four and already over the hill,’ follows Ezra into his isolated farmhouse and sees the little gathering of ‘women’ waiting to receive her in the parlour, it’s like the scene in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE where the screaming girl meets Leatherface’s ‘family.’ It’s just horrible. Poor Mary, initially brought here to be Ezra’s ‘bride’ rather than just another ‘companion’ for Ma Cobb, goes into shock. 

Major spoiler alert here now, folks. If she’d known as she clocked in for work at the bar that night that, before the night was over, she’d be beaten to death with a human thigh-bone that she’d earlier seen being used as a drum stick by a transvestite freak wearing a titty-vest made of human skin and real titties, she might well have called in sick.

It’s funny when Ezra admits openly to his one friend, Harlan Kootz, that he’s got all the missing women up at his place. Harlan, who’s known Ezra since they were schoolboys together and who regards him as a harmless simpleton who does a bit of work around his- Harlan’s- place, just laughs and then berates Ezra for telling fairy stories. Well, he can’t say he wasn’t forewarned.

What happens to pretty little Sally-Mae, the high school girlfriend of Harlan’s son Brad, mirrors closely the fate of the real-life victim of Ed Gein’s, poor old Beatrice Wordern, whose naked body was found hanging upside-down in the Gein barn, gutted like a deer. Jesus wept.

It’s apparently the closest the film gets to reflecting the real-life murderous career of Ed Gein, who’s today known as a serial killer and serial defiler of the dead. Ezra doesn’t have sex with any of the corpses in DERANGED although Ed Gein is very much known as a man who liked a nice bit of necrophilia.

Still, we must remember that the word ‘necrophilia’ can have two meanings. Yes, it means having sex with corpses (Ted Bundy definitely did this, until the corpses became too discomposed for comfort), but it can also mean someone who is obsessed with death, corpses and cemeteries. Both Ed Gein and Ezra Cobb fit this bill.

Apparently, Ed Gein denied having sex with any of his corpses but only because they ‘smelled too bad.’ Would he have had sex with them then if they’d smelled as fragrant as a lily-of-the-valley Christmas bath-set? Is that what he’s saying?

I read in a biography of Ed Gein’s that he was as happy as a sandboy to be carted off to a state mental institution for the remainder of his life for his crimes. He never gave the authorities there a lick of trouble. I can kind of understand why.

He had company there and people who spoke kindly to him, it was clean and presumably warm and he would have been given three square meals a day. A far cry from the cold, dirty, cluttered isolated charnel-house where he lived alone with his ‘Mother’ and her ‘friends.’ I can’t say I really blame him. Anything’s better than that, even for a man like Ed Gein.

What a kick in the knickers Ed must have been for the Plainfield Tourist Board all the same. They can have as much good hunting (for shame!) and lovely picturesque snow there as they please, but will Plainfield ever be known for anything but being the home of the man who, by digging up his dead mother and preserving her corpse, simultaneously dug his way right into the annals of crime history and also into the very pysche of the American people?

You know what, I bet there are mothers in Plainfield today who still use old Ed as the boogeyman to fractious children. ‘Hush up now and get to sleep, you pesky young’uns, or Ed Gein will come and cart you away and make a lampshade out of you!’ Aw. It’s good to know he’s useful for something.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG. (1927) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

lodger scarf

THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG. (1927) DIRECTED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK.

BASED ON THE NOVEL BY MARIE BELLOC LOWNDES AND THE PLAY CO-WRITTEN BY MARIE BELLOC LOWNDES.

STARRING IVOR NOVELLO, MALCOLM KEEN, JUNE TRIPP, MARIE AULT AND ARTHUR CHESNEY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This fog-wreathed silent movie has the distinction of being the first real thriller ever directed by a certain Alfred Hitchcock, and the distinction also of being a bloody good film as well.

It already bears some of the future hallmarks of the great man’s directing and, in fact, it’s a jolly polished product for a first-timer. Not many thriller directors could have achieved such perfection on a first try.

Thirty-eight years have elapsed since Jack The Ripper held the city of London to ransom in the infamous ‘Autumn of Terror’ in 1888, and here now we have Alfred Hitchcock presenting us with this spooky tale in which a serial killer of women murders an attractive blonde female every Tuesday, regular as clockwork. Well, it’s good to be regular, lol. There’s a whole branch of the pharmaceutical industry devoted to that very end, after all. (Excuse the pun…!)

This is probably one of the first ever films to make reference to Jack The Ripper or be based on him. The man who savagely slaughtered Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly in the Autumn of Terror in 1888 gave rise to an absolute plethora of books, films, magazine articles and word-of-mouth stories all detailing his horrific crimes for the reading public who, seemingly, couldn’t get enough of him. We could be looking here at one of the first few films based on his infamous career of butchery and hate.

Funny too, that Alfred Hitchcock should begin his illustrious career almost mythologising blondes, when we all know now that he had a big thing for them in his later works. Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren, Eva Marie Saint, Grace Kelly, even Doris Day, all gorgeous glamorous ice-cool blondes to set the pulses racing and the temperatures soaring. Someone had a definite fetish, heh-heh-heh.

Anyway, off we pop now back to London in the ‘Twenties, as fog-wreathed, dark and mysterious a city as it was in Saucy Jack’s time. A bevy of beautiful blondes are being done to death every week by a madman calling himself ‘The Avenger,’ leading blondes to wear dark wigs as a means of protecting themselves from the marauding murdering maniac.

We go now to the Buntings’ house. Ma and Pa Bunting, a traditional middle-aged English couple, have rooms to let. Pa Bunting sits at the kitchen table reading the newspaper in his shirt-sleeves while Ma Bunting cooks up the vittles.

Now meet Daisy Bunting, their ravishing blonde (yes, blonde!) daughter who works as a model or mannequin for a nearby fashion-house. She’s a thoroughly modern Millie, is Daisy, with her ‘golden curls’ cut short in the style of the time and her legs, shown off to perfection, encased in the hose and high-heeled shoes that were all the rage amongst the young women of the day. Long skirts and dresses were out. Showing off yer shapely pins was in, in in…!

She’s a proper little flapper, this one, with her smart little cloche hats hugging her neat little head, and of course she has a suitor. The Boyfriend is a tall strapping capable fellow, a police detective no less, and one who’s investigating the ‘Avenger’ murders to boot.

Daisy and The Boyfriend rub along together just fine, and no doubt the Buntings are thrilled skinny that a chap with such a good pensionable job is taking an interest in their Daisy, an interest which might very easily lead to matrimony. After all, doesn’t The Boyfriend himself remark to the Buntings:

‘As soon as I’ve put a rope around the Avenger’s neck, I’ll put a ring on Daisy’s finger!’

However, along comes the titular ‘Lodger’ to set the cat royally among the pigeons. One dark foggy night, Mrs. Bunting opens the door to a tall dark-haired young gentleman with a scarf wound round his face. He’s come about the room to let. As he’s willing to pay a month in advance, Mrs. Bunting is more than happy at first to accommodate the handsome stranger.

He’s a queer duck though, is this one. For a kick-off, he asks Mrs. Bunting to take away the pictures in his room, which are all of golden-haired young women. Hmmm. Very odd indeed, wouldn’t you say?

He’s certainly a bit of a rum cove and no mistake. When he meets the golden-haired Daisy, however, he demonstrates no such aversion to blonde females. The pair are instantly attracted to each other.

The Lodger, with his air of mystery and his chalk-white face painted to resemble a chorus girl’s, complete with Clara Bow lippie, is utterly enchanted by Daisy, much to The Boyfriend’s disgust.

How dare this poncy fly-by-night swoop down and take Daisy away from him? How dare he buy her an expensive dress from the fashion-house where she models? Such a gesture smacks rudely of an intimacy which disturbs The Boyfriend no end.

The Buntings are none too pleased either, especially when The Lodger’s mysterious nightly comings and goings seem to coincide with the movements of The Avenger, who’s continued to commit his ghastly murders even while we’ve all been caught up in the super-exciting love triangle between Daisy, The Boyfriend and The Lodger.

The Buntings and The Boyfriend all come to the same dreadful conclusion. If The Lodger is The Avenger, who signs his killings with his chosen moniker so we know whodunnit, then isn’t Daisy’s life in the most appalling danger? And hasn’t she this very night gone off into the fog with The Lodger without so much as a by-your-leave to the Buntings or The Boyfriend…?

The scenes near the end, that are not quite the end, resemble the grim finale of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA from 1925. I’ll say no more than that. The foggy gaslit streets of London deserve a credit all their own, and Alfred Hitchcock an even bigger credit for managing to make his debut thriller so marvellously, gothically atmospheric.

There’s a twist in the film- you know Uncle Alfred’s a big fan of a twist in the tale/tail- and to think that he made this film nearly a hundred years ago boggles the mind. I love that something so completely perfect and perfectly complete was made so long ago. It’s a must-see for Hitchcock fans. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR… THE NEW BOOK BY SANDRA HARRIS!!!

fifty really random horror film reviews to die for...

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