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The Toolbox Murders (1978)
Terrible, but true-to-life.
Cameron Mitchell stars as Vance Kingsley, the owner of an apartment building who kills "sinful" women (using assorted tools, of course) who commit "unatural acts." He then kidnaps a teenaged girl (Pamelyn Ferdin, who's wonderful) to replace his own deceased daughter.
What a mess! The character motivations are muddled and the plot is inconsistent in the extreme. Vance claims that he's a "humane and compassionate" killer because he killed the women as quickly as he could to avoid suffering. But during the murder sequences, he clearly takes his time and seems undisturbed by his actions as they scream in agonizing pain (who wrote this?). But this is probably what makes the film so compelling to watch, as well. We've all heard of murders that seem to have had no logical motive and killers who claim that they are doing the work of God by murdering "sinful" people (while they themselves have commited the ultimate sin by killing). All of Vance's inconsistencies are true-to-life; many killers kill because they are simply crazy. And because of this, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS is more than just a bad film, it's a realistic one (but probably by accident).
Daddy's Deadly Darling (1973)
Toni Lawrence stars as a psychotic young woman who kills her father after he rapes her.
This film is pretty bad; many scenes just don't make sense and some of them seem to come out of nowhere. On the plus side, a lot of the dopey characters are fun to watch (especially Zambrini), and the movie has a bizarre, dreamy (and sometimes nightmarish) quality throughout. The scene where Toni Lawrence hears loud pig squeals and then runs screaming through a field for what seems like an eternity is probably the best example of the weird, out-of-nowhere sequences that continuously crop up. Unprofessional filmaking at its best!
Criminally Insane (1975)
A gem of a bad movie.
Made in 1973 but not released until a couple of years later, CRIMINALLY INSANE is probably the most famous movie made and released by IRMI Films of Pacifica, California. The film stars Bay Area actress Priscilla Alden as Ethel Janowski, an immensely obese misanthrope who is prematurely released from a mental institution and sent to live with her grandmother. Ethel's insatiable appetite for food causes problems for her grandmother, who promptly restricts her granddaughter's feeding habits. Big mistake! Ethel does away with granny and any other visitor that enters the house. Unforgettable ending.
This is probably the cheapest film I've ever seen (and believe me, I know cheap): the entire film has a grainy "home movie" quality, the music sounds like two musicians constantly tuning their instruments, negative printing is used for a dream sequence, and the acting is pitiful, except Alden, who gives a wonderfully demented and memorable performance as Ethel. This picture is extremely pathetic and even though I've never had the nerve to tell anyone else that I own the film (much less played it for anyone), I still find it very compelling viewing. There's some "other worldly" quality to it that makes it quite unique (and satisfying, if you've got really low standards like me). Don't say you weren't warned!
The exact same cast and crew returned for CRAZY FAT ETHEL II, and a loosely related film called DEATH NURSE (both released in 1987 and both starring Alden).
Scary, funny, and sad.
Roberts Blossom plays Ezra Cobb, a middle-aged mama's boy who learns, through his mother's religious teachings, to distrust all women. A year after her death, Ezra digs her up, brings her home and stuffs her body. He kills any women that cross his path and then brings them home to provide company for his mother.
DERANGED is extremely low-budget, but excellent. The movie is filled with wonderful ironies, a sick sense of humour, and an unshakably bleak atmosphere. All of the actors give terrific performances, especially Blossom, who is brilliant as Ezra. We can't help but feel sympathy for Ezra when he loses his beloved mother, but, just like Norman Bates, we feel even more sorry for him when he goes insane as a result of his loss. Tom Savini worked on the cheap but grisly makeup effects (this was his second horror film). Of interest to fans, there is a videotape available called "The Making of Deranged," which includes behind-the-scenes footage of the film.
This movie is loosely based on the real-life story of Ed Gein, a Wisconsin maniac whose bizarre crimes were discovered in 1957. PSYCHO, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and THREE ON A MEATHOOK were also inspired by Gein's crimes, but DERANGED comes the closest to portraying many of the actual facts of the case. I could probably best describe DERANGED as a perfect blending of PSYCHO and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. If you are a fan of one or both of these titles, you must see DERANGED. It's worth it.