It’s only fitting that DERANGED, Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen’s southern Ontario-shot, 1974 account of the peculiar nocturnal habits of one Ezra Cobb (Roberts Blossom), was brought back from the dead twenty years ago. Because that’s what Ezra, and his notorious real-life inspiration Ed Gein, the “Butcher of Plainfield, Wisconsin”, liked to do for amusement: dig up dead bodies and put them to use as decorations, silent dinner guests, parlour conversation, and even cleverly re-purposed clothing. But Ezra’s story, as with so many stories produced on Canadian soil during the Tax Shelter era, quickly dropped into that vast post-release abyss after a modest and fleeting commercial release to grind houses and drive-ins. Unlike Norman Bates or the heebie-jeebie-inducing Leatherface — like Ezra, both fictional emanations of old Ed — Deranged’s twisted protagonist would not enter pop cultural mythology with quite the same impact. But that may change. Made on a tiny budget, and co-directed by screenwriter Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen after executive producer Bob Clark (whose Canuxploitation benchmark Black Christmas was released the same year, passed on making the movie due to the extreme bleakness of the material), Deranged is an odd and eccentric a film as its necrophiliac hero, but unlike any of its more famous fellow Gein-inspired movies, Ormsby and Gillen’s movie is as interested in the drab but illuminating details of Ezra’s life as it is the horrors he commits — because this movie regards them as inextricable. The nearly forgotten movie was the only leading role for the veteran character actor Roberts Blossom (whom you may recall as one of the cosmic faithful in Close Encounters of the Third Kind), and it now stands as one of the more distinctive, original and singularly unsettling movies of the Tax Shelter Era. As for the scene with he spoon and the brains, the less said the better. That you’ve got to see for yourself.
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