Deranged [1974]

Director: Alan Ormsby, Jeff Gillen
Stars: Roberts Blossom, Cosette Lee, Leslie Carlson, Robert Warner, Marcia Diamond
Genre: Crime, Horror, Thriller
Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 83 minutes

A double bill of rural schlock, with both entries gruesome but somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Deranged was inspired by the unsavory saga of Ed Gein, whose isolated madness oiled the gears of both Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This is a low-rent production all the way, but its shabby locations have a certain eerie authenticity, and it benefits greatly from the casting of the reliable character actor Roberts Blossom--a scarecrow in the American Gothic mold--in the lead role. Now and again a somber but vaguely amusing narrator wanders into the frame to remind us that we are watching the tale of "a necromaniac, a defiler of the dead," as though we could forget. Serial-killer completists should check it out. Motel Hell is slicker but less effective. Former Western star Rory Calhoun plays Farmer Vincent, a country hotel keeper (free samples of jerky at the front desk) whose line of smoked meats turns his customers into unwitting cannibals. The movie's got some genuinely creeped-out ideas (a backyard garden of victims, buried up to their necks?), but the execution is pedestrian and the humor pretty square. Onetime cultural icon Wolfman Jack has a few scenes as a TV preacher, for no apparent reason. --Robert Horton

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