Edward Theodore Gein is one of the United States most notorious killers and disturbed human beings. With an actual body count of only 2 people, Gein was known for digging up graves of recently deceased women to fashion keepsakes from their skin and bones. And it’s this level of depravity that has given rise to the notoriety of this sick puppy which has spawned many of our horror movie icons. Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Normal Bates from Pyscho and Jame Gumb in The Silence of the Lambs are all based in some form or fashion on mister Gein. However, the most accurate depiction of his crimes comes in the form of the 1974 film Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile, which was recently shown as our Terror Tuesday selection at the Alamo Drafthouse.
In the film, an amazing Roberts Blossom plays Ezra Cobb, a man who in a co-dependent relationship with his mother. He lived with her in her house and took care of her all the way up until her passing . Poor Ma Cobb leaves this mortal coil in her own bed, even as Ezra tries to shove pea soup in her mouth convinced that some hot soup will stave off the reaper’s cold hand. Her final words to Ezra are that he can only trust one woman, her friend Maureen, and that “the wages of sin is gonorrhea, syphilis, and death”; words that sear into his brain and add to his psychosis. Upon her death, unable to grasp the loss, Cobb decides to do what any man with crazy streak would do: dig up his mother and begin to patch her rotten flesh with that of other dead (or soon to be dead at his hands!) women’s skin and to surround himself with corpses for a little tea time. He’s only later stopped when people figure out he’s kidnapped a young lady to hang naked in his barn to skin her and they rush to stop this gruesome ending.
Deranged succeeds on many levels, much of which has to do with Blossom, who seizes the character of Cobb with an insane gusto and exudes an impressive level of creepiness with every look and with often hilarious, subtle lines directed at people around his character. The old coot even goes as far to tell people about what is going on in his house, but, like the backward yokels they are, they chock it up to Cobb just being that kooky old man joking around and laugh it off. There’s also a certain boost to movies like Deranged for being an early 70s film of this low a budget, which adds a crusty grime that only works to help the movie succeed in its story. It’s like looking backwards at a home movie. A crazy home movie to be sure, but that sense is there.
Another great intro this week from our host Zack Carlson, who emphasized how great Roberts Blossom was (he is!). The crowd seemed to enjoy the movie, laughing along with the antics of Cobb and the general buzz when the film was done seemed positive, with a general round of applause for the film when done.