It is claimed that several films have borrowed details from the Ed Gein story Psycho (1960) with its transvestite killer overly attached to and dressing up as his mother and keeping her mummified body in the basement; while Tobe Hooper acknowledged childhood stories of Gein as an influence on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) with its backwoods family and their house of bones, even a killer wearing a mask of human skin; and of course the killer wearing his victims skins in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Deranged was the first film to actually attempt to depict Ed Geins life, although William Girdlers cheap Three on a Meathook (1972) had borrowed heavily from the Gein story to create a prototypical slasher film of sorts.
Alan Ormsbys screenplay follows the Ed Gein story in great detail. The names of Gein and the victims have been changed and the time period updated from the 1950s to the present but otherwise the film follows Geins exploits and the details of the two murders he was convicted of with an amazing degree of detail. About the only aspect of the story that the film does fictionalize is in having Gein dig his mothers body up from the grave and bring it home, which never happened in actuality. Deranged is worth comparing to Ed Gein (2000), a further film based on Geins exploits. Though Ed Gein is more technically accurate in the sense that it shoots period and has the freedom to name its character and victims, it has a crucial tameness at its heart that shies away from depicting Geins activities, something that Deranged does not. Even less can be said about the subsequent almost entirely fictionalized Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield (2007).
Deranged was co-directed by Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen. Alan Ormsby had gained modest attention as screenwriter of two films for Bob Clark, Children Shouldnt Play with Dead Things (1972) and Dead of Night/Deathdream (1972), both of which he had also conducted the makeup effects for. Ormsby would go onto write mainstream fare such as My Bodyguard (1980), the remake of Cat People (1982), Porkys II: The Next Day (1983), Popcorn (1991) and The Substitute (1996), although Deranged would be the only film he would ever direct. Jeff Gillen had acted in both Children Shouldnt Play with Dead Things and Dead of Night, as well as directed second-unit on Dead of Night, and like Ormsby Deranged would be the only film he would ever direct.
Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby do a superb job. For debuting directors operating on a low budget, their work is amazingly stylish. There is one superb shot that slowly circles Cobbs room as his mothers voice starts talking to him, before the camera finally returns a full 360 degrees to show that it is Roberts Blossom talking to himself. Unlike Ed Gein, Gillen and Ormsby do not stint when it comes to depicting Geins activities. There is a way out scene that was censored from many of the prints released in 1974, where Roberts Blossom returns from the graveside with a severed head and next we see him gouging out the eyeball and then cutting open the skull with a hacksaw and scooping the brains out with a spoon, before severing the face and finally taking the skull through to talk to the corpse of his mother.
The scenes with Micki Moore a prisoner in the house are fairly whacked out she stumbling into the living room to find it filled with a circle of desiccated corpses and then the utterly unearthly moment when one of the bodies starts moving and winds up a music box, which proves to be Roberts Blossom dressed in a blonde wig and face mask. The scenes where Blossom has her tied up have a creepy suspense her attempt to fool him into freeing her while he is caressing her, her escape shot in slow-motion, followed by the nasty scene where he beats her head in. There is a bizarrely spooky scene where Blossom demonstrates his musical instruments to her, holding up a drumstick: That comes from down there [indicating a thigh bone]. The drum thats a tummy drum. The scenes where Roberts Blossom lines Pat Orr up in the scope of a rifle and then hunts and pursues her through the woods, capturing her in a bear trap while her boyfriend and his father (Cobbs neighbours) are only a matter of metres away bear comparison to the pursuit through the woods that came in the same years The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. While Deranged is not directed with such a nightmarish intensity as Texas, the effect is every bit as harrowing, none more so than the final image of Pat Orrs body strung up naked as Roberts Blossom guts it.
The film alarmingly swings between horror and a considerable sense of black humour. There is the scene where Roberts Blossom talks to his mother before going off to Marion Waldman All that fat I have to take some protection with me, and produces his gun, and then whispers into his mothers ear I dont think shes alright. The scene where Marion Waldman attempts to seduce him, where he puzzles about her saying she needs carnal pleasures Carnal? Carnival? is absolutely hysterical. Ormsby and Gillen also adopt a technique that was way ahead of its time of having a narrator tell the story but also opening the fictionalised events out so that the narrator can walk into and around the sets.
Roberts Blossom is absolutely perfectly cast. It is hard to imagine of anybody else as Ed Gein Blossom is Gein. Blossom had previously only appeared in minor parts in The Hospital (1971) and Slaughterhouse Five (1972) and would go onto a modest career usually playing old timers in films such as Resurrection (1980), Christine (1983), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Home Alone (1990) and appearing several times for Steven Spielberg in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), an episode of Amazing Stories (1985-7) and Always (1989). Deranged was also notable for featuring the makeup effects work of Tom Savini who would go onto become a cult figure with his work on films like Dawn of the Dead (1979), Friday the 13th (1980), Day of the Dead (1985) and as director of the remake of Night of the Living Dead (1990).
Film online in several parts beginning here:-