Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Deranged - Notes on the German DVD

This weekend I revisited Deranged, Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby's film about one of Wisconsin's most famous sons, Ed Gein. This is a film I waited years to see, I had only a tantalizing review of the film in the pages of Shock Xpress to tide me over. In 2002 I finally saw the film courtesy of the MGM Midnite Movies DVD, and it didn't disappoint. Deranged is quite simply one of the finest Horror films of the Seventies. The US MGM disc which is still in print over a decade later isn't a bad edition of the film - the film looks vibrant and sharp but ignominiously is double-billed with the 1980 cannibal comedy Motel Hell. More significantly, the MGM edition features the R-rated cut of the film, missing a short sequence excised from early unrated theatrical prints. Fortunately, in 2007 German label Universum Film/Legend put out their own edition of Deranged, similar to the MGM disc transfer-wise but crucially re-instates the missing sequence where Ezra Cobb plucks the eye out of a severed head, saws off the top of the skull and scoops the brain into a coffee cup. In addition the German DVD includes 80mins worth of extras among the must-see Deranged Chronicles: The Making of Deranged. Before we go any further I can confirm that this German DVD is English-friendly, containing the original English-language audio track and removable German subtitles (across the entire disc - film plus extras).

Deranged fans owe much thanks to producer/editor Michael D. Moore who was responsible for making the full uncut version of the film available. Moore, a huge fan of the film managed to track down the last surviving uncut print and after purchasing the worldwide rights to the film restored the film to its former glory. Or perhaps it should be ragged glory. The rescued footage is of very poor quality, dark and splicy but one should know that this is as good as it gets. The brain-scooping sequence itself is brief, less than a minute of screen time, but Tom Savini's effects are spectacularly visceral:




Moving on to the extras... Deranged Chronicles: The Making of Deranged is a 36min documentary directed by Michael D. Moore in 1993. The film features talking head interviews with Deranged's producer Tom Karr and co-director Jeff Gillen reminiscing about the film, how the project came together (originally called Necromaniac), their memories of the production, and Karr showcasing some of Savini's ghoulish props. The bulk of the documentary features Karr's remarkable 16mm footage filmed on set - we see Roberts Blossom quietly preparing for his scenes, the special effects team rigging gags and props, plus the cast and crew generally enjoying themselves amongst the body parts and putrefying sets. The footage itself includes a cheerful running commentary by Savini pointing out some of the faces on screen (including glimpses of Alan Ormsby) and confessing he had the hots for the actress who plays Ezra Cobb's barmaid victim. The 16mm footage itself is of variable quality, the colors have soured some what, and evidently the entire documentary has been culled from a dupey looking VHS tape. It's all very watchable, and the brain-scooping sequence actually looks a shade better than the same footage put back into the film.

Co-director Jeff Gillen mucking around on set with unnamed extra


Actor Roberts Blossom posing for a wardrobe test with wig and dead skin mask


The next set of extras concern Ed Gein. Tom Karr returns for the 20min Ed Gein Story, Producer Tom Karr On Location in which Karr recounts from a graveyard no less, the strange story of grave robber and murderer Ed Gein. Karr is also seen wandering around what is apparently the old Gein farm which was burned to the ground in the late Fifties by the locals of Plainfield, Wisconsin. It's a good piece overall, even if it does remind one of Robert Downey Jr's American Maniacs program from Natural Born Killers. This short film was made in 1993 and shot on video. Quality is decent enough. The next extra is preceded by a disclaimer about the picture quality, and is most likely included for historical value. Produced in 1981 (while Gein was still alive) by Michael D. Moore, Ed Gein American Maniac covers much of the same ground as the previous extra, supplemented with audio interviews with police officers involved in the Gein case, and narrated by Moore himself in the style of a hardboiled private eye, ("Ed Gein was a real piece of work"). This curious 24min featurette also appeared on an earlier US tape.

Tom Karr standing in what's left of the Gein farm in 1993


The remaining extras on the DVD are trailers. First up is a 3min promo-trailer for a 1995 shot-on-video atrocity Creep, it's inclusion here is I suspect that Tom Karr and Michael D. Moore are named on the credits as associate producers (and one of the actors in the film is wearing a Deranged t-shirt). The final extra on the disc are three different trailers for Deranged ("The nightmare of insane murder and lingering death"), one of which contains a few frames of the eyeball-plucking scene. Finally, worth mentioning that the German DVD comes with an excellent quality 23 page booklet about the film, sadly the text is in German only but the booklet features some very nice b/w production stills from the film. The German DVD is available from Amazon UK and Amazon Germany

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