(1974; d- Jeff Gillen, Alan Ormsby)
There is a moment beginning near the halfway point in DERANGED in which the heretofore morbid (and often amusing) proceedings take a rather grim shift in tone. Up to this point, the specter of terror--the nature of Ezra Cobb’s macabre deeds--had been mostly implied, even taking on a certain perverse comic sensibility. The actual horror had yet to come. This probably wasn’t so much deliberate pacing as it was an earnest attempt to piece together the essence of the real Ed Gein case, the details of which I’ll spare you (the film takes plenty enough liberty, regardless). As in the case of Ed Gein, DERANGED begins with Ezra Cobb a slow-witted farmer, a doting man-child caring for his domineering (though invalid) mother. And as Ezra is completely reliant on his mother’s guidance--that of a fervently Old Testament-spouting tyrant--his fragile make-up is shattered when she dies.
“What seems to be the trouble?”
“Oh, hello Ez. Some goddamn punk slashed my goddamn tires -- that‘s the trouble!” Whoa...careful, Mary.
“Could you just give me a lift down to the filling station or something, huh?”
“Uh…why sure.” Stammering some with his reply, Mary grows flustered and impatient, cutting him off brusquely.
Searching for the words, he tells her of a couple of spares he’ll put on for free back at his remote farm. "Now why would you want to go to a mechanic when I'll do it for nothing?" Reluctantly, she agrees, “…you’re a nice guy and I like you, but don’t get any ideas; just keep your hands to yourself, OK?”
“Yes’m. Cross my heart.”
“How long do you plan to be?”
“Oh, just a minute or two.”
“I’ll wait here. Would you just hurry it up?”
The scene fades out, then back in, suggesting a considerable lapse in time.
It’s dead inside that old farmhouse.
No light, no sound, and no sign of Ezra.
Growing ever the more frustrated and indignant, she turns to notice the key still in the ignition. Mulling over the obvious for a second, then laying on the horn, she scrambles out of the truck and angrily towards the house. Mary still hasn’t considered the possibility of anything so awful from such a simple-minded old coot.
|Roberts Blossom, both a fine actor and a gaunt man with an unsettling pallor, perfectly embodies the ghoulish Ezra Cobb.|
The place is a shambles, abound in squalor and decay--not fit for anything living. Mary’s clearly repulsed, her nerves beginning to get to her. What kind of life do you lead, Ezra?
And she backs up…
Either too shocked to respond or unable to make any sense of what she sees, it’s as if she’s waiting to be pinched awake. Then…
In the grand scheme of things, in the pantheon of all those classic horrors that had gone before, it is but an easily forgotten moment. But it succeeds where so many others do not, reminding us once again the reason we strangely turn to horror. For me, at least, the reason is simple.