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The stern matriarch of a family that lives in a creepy mansion finds that a killer is hiding in the house, searching for a $500,000 fortune rumored to be hidden there and chopping off the heads of anyone who gets in the way.Written by
Delilah Charles (Agnes Moorehead) has her family over to her estate when she informs them that she is dying. She isn't too fond of anyone in her family so she also announces that she will be giving the estate over to the state. One catch is that there's a large sum of money on the property somewhere and those who are getting nothing have a shot at finding it. Before long an axe murderer is killing people off.
This horror film also belongs to the "hag" sub-genre, which of course started with movies like WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? and HUSH...HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE, which this film owes a lot to. John Farris would make his directorial debut with this film and it would also be his last. He would eventually become better known for his screenplay for the Brian De Palma film THE FURY. With all of that being said, there are some very memorable moments in DEAR DEAD DELILAH but at the same time there are a lot of bland ones as well.
There are a few highlights scattered throughout the film and that includes the violence. The effects aren't ground-breaking as they were all done with a low-budget but there are some bloody deaths here, which pre-date the whole slasher craze. There is a decapitation that looks pretty good and there's also a shotgun blast to the face, which comes out of nowhere and really works thanks to the editing. I'd also argue that Moorehead was quite good in the lead role as was Patricia Carmichael who plays one of the many suspects.
The issues with the film? Well, the 97-minute running time certainly doesn't help and that's even more true because the film has a lot of dialogue scenes that just get dragged out to the point where you don't even care about what's happening. With so many of these scenes the running time feels twice as long, which really hurts the picture. Some of the direction was a bit stiff to say the least and many of the supporting performances were rather bad too.
DEAR DEAD DELILAH is still worth watching thanks to the violence, which was quite strong for its day.
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