This odd little film from1974 is unlike almost anything else out there. A Canadian-American co-production filmed in Ontario, Deranged was co-produced by Bob Clark (Porky's , A Christmas Story), written and co-directed by Alan Ormsby (Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things,Deathdream) with early special effects work by the master Tom Savini (Maniac, Friday The 13th). It stars Roberts Blossom (Escape From Alcatraz) as Ezra Cobb, a thinly disguised retelling of the real life exploits of Ed Gein a notorious grave robber and cannibal who horrified Plainsfield Wisconsin in the late fifties (and was the inspiration for the Norman Bates character in Psycho). Blossoms is suitably anxious and awkward as the devoted son to an overbearing and cruel mother who passes away early in the movie. Cobb misses his deceased mother so much that a year after her death, he digs her up and takes her back home. He robs other graves too, looking for "parts" to be used in his amateur taxidermy restoration of Mama Cobb's decayed corpse. The film also has the unusual device of an onscreen narrator in the guise of a local newspaper reporter who shows up during scenes to act as a sort of Greek chorus. There's also some pretty dark elements of humour along the way although with this amount of exhumed bodies, there'll be no confusing Deranged with being a comedy (the oddly haunting funeral parlour organ music helps).
One of the most notorious scenes depicts Gein (I mean, Cobb!) in his kitchen scooping an eyeball out of the socket of a head then scalping it with a saw to remove the brain. The filmmakers took a little liberty with the story, making Cobb's final victim at least forty years younger than Gein's.
The movies availability on home video has always been problematic (a Criterion Edition has been long overdue for years in my opinion). Poor quality video tape dupes were traded among collectors willing to suffer through the subpar picture and sound. The initial official VHS release from Film Threat Video wasn't much better and to add insult to injury, fans were charged $39.95 for the pleasure.
In 2002 Deranged was released on DVD as part of MGM's Midnight Movies double feature series with the 1980 film Motel Hell. This version was of the "R" rated 1 hour 22 minute cut (missing the controversial "eyeball" scene) of the film and included only the original theatrical trailer as a bonus feature.
For 2013 Deranged makes it's debut on blu-ray courtesy of leading U.K. video company Arrow Films. First of all, the print has been beautifully remastered to present the absolute best quality that Deranged has ever had. The colours are more vibrant than ever and the important detailed set design on Cobb's macabre home are now sharper than anyone should ever expect for a low budget picture from 1974. Also there is no loss in picture quality at all to the deleted "eyeball" scene which is fully restored for this release.
The Arrow set also includes a thick 40 page booklet featuring liner notes by noted horror film author Stephen Thrower, an interview with producer Bob Clark and an article reprinted from Rue Morgue Magazine about the various Ed Gein inspired movies.
For bonus material, the Arrow release (which includes a DVD as well) does not disappoint at all. We have:
A Blossoming Brilliance which is a quick 10 minute featurette with film producer/writer Scott Spiegel (Evil Dead II) discussing working with Roberts Blossoms on The Quick And The Dead plus his thoughts on Deranged's place in American horror film history. Ed Gein: From Murderer To Movies is a 15 minute piece with actor Laurence R. Harvey (The Human Centipede II) talking about Blossoms, Gein and how Deranged compares to Psycho and other Gein inspired films. The 12 minute Wages Of Sin details the making of Deranged incorporating some of the rare on-set footage seen in the extras portion of the German DVD release but with additional on set photos and informative narration. There's also a brief recent introduction to the film by Tom Savini who also provides a great commentary on the feature film itself.
Other extras include: the original theatrical trailer (with introduction by Detroit Rock City director Adam Rifkin) and a good stills gallery.
The U.K. release also sports reversable cover artwork alternating between the original classic poster image and a new illustration by Nathanael Marsh specially commissioned for this edition.
What is not included is any of the bonus material found on the 2004 German DVD release. So that is yet to become redundant for now.
With greatly improved picture quality and a skull full of new special features, it looks like I can stop wishing for Criterion to tackle this title after all.
A 2004 German 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition offered up generous extras such as The Deranged Chronicles: The Making Of Deranged which is thirty-six minutes of silent 16MM footage shot behind the scenes with commentary from Savini, producer Tom Karr and co-director Jeff Gillen (all recorded separately), The Ed Gein Story has producer Tom Carr talking about the original "Butcher of Plainsfield" for about twenty minutes at the former location of Gein's farm, Ed Gein American Maniac is a decent twenty-three minutes documentary (originally on the VHS release of the feature film) on the Gein story using stills and a sometimes overly dramatic narration. There's also three different trailers: the original theatrical promo seen on the North American MGM DVD release plus a very different unrated trailer and a thirty second teaser clip.
The German DVD, being the "unrated" editon, also includes the controversial "eyeball" scene although the picture quality drops a bit for this segment. It also comes with a 24 page booklet featuring a lenghty essay about the film (written in German naturally) and many photos from the movie set.
In the summer of 2015 Kino-Lorber released Deranged on Blu-ray in North America for the first time. This consists of the uncut version of the film plus some exclusive bonus material. An audio commentary with writer/ co-director Alan Ormsby is easy going and filled with interesting anecdotes (like the fact that Christopher Walken auditioned for the lead role). A second commentary track is provided by film historian Richard Harlan Smith who adds Harvey Keitel's name to the short list of memorable actors who tried out for the Ezra Cobb role. He also offers extensive background information on each of the various cast members and many of the crew. Additionally, Smith discusses Ed Gein's story and various other films, including Psycho, either inspired by Gein specifically or cannibalism generally.
Another bonus feature is a fifteen minute interview with producer Tom Karr who discusses about his pre-Deranged career as a concert promoter, the making of Deranged and his other film (a concert documentary The Silver Fox about the great Charlie Rich). It's an informative interview although the cut-aways to the attractive "interviewer" nodding and taking notes are unnecessary and distracting.
The Kino-Lorber release is rounded up with the inclusion of one theatrical trailer.
While in no way as comprehensive as the Arrow Video edition, the Kino-Lorber Blu-ray still has enough exclusive material to make it worthwhile for Deranged completest.