In one of those bits of synchronicity that seem to happen now and again, two groups of horror filmmakers — one down in the sweat and heat of Texas, the other up in the chill and frost of Ontario, both around the same time — made movies inspired by the notorious Wisconsin psycho Ed Gein. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the better-known movie, mainly by virtue of being a far better film. But we shouldn’t ignore Deranged, which offers a top-drawer performance by Roberts Blossom as “Ezra Cobb,” the movie’s thinly-veiled version of Gein. Directorially it’s no great shakes, the corpse effects by a young Tom Savini are nowhere near up to what he would later accomplish, and even at 82 minutes it has slow spots. Still, the movie has an undeniably unique feel, subdued and (in the early scenes, when Ezra faces the death of his beloved, domineering mother) even fairly depressing. Much of what’s here can also be seen in the later Ed Gein, except for the sequence in which Ezra kidnaps a buxom barmaid and ties her down for a nice dinner with various corpses seated around the table.

The similarities between Chainsaw and Deranged — and between the marketing of the two — are often striking, but according to the IMDb, Deranged was released in February 1974, while Chainsaw debuted in October of that year. Clearly, neither ripped off the other. And Deranged has what Chainsaw, for all its fine naturalistic acting, didn’t: Roberts Blossom, who worked with Scorsese (Last Temptation of Christ), Spielberg (twice, in Close Encounters and Always), and John Carpenter (Christine). Like Steve Railsback 16 years later, he plays Ed/Ezra as a shy mama’s boy whose strangeness can easily be mistaken for backwoods taciturnity.

Deranged has been released on DVD as one of those MGM Midnite Movies Double Features, sharing a disc with 1980’s Motel Hell (the connection being weird business out in the boonies, I guess). It is not the uncut “restored” version (available on a German import disc) and does not include the scene wherein Ezra mutilates a Sunday-school teacher’s corpse. Those who care about such things will be incensed by the omission; those who don’t, won’t.

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