Friday, January 20, 2017


PHENOMENALITY: *naturalistic*

I hadn't seen DERANGED in many years, so I wasn't sure whether or not it qualified for the uncanny version of the "perilous psycho" trope. As I re-watched the film-- which starts out touting the narrative's status as a real story, complete with knowledgeable narrator-- I found that it was rather in the naturalistic domain, for essentially the same reasons I cited in the 2000 film ED GEIN:

...ED GEIN pursues the approach I called "fictionalized-reality" above, meaning that Gein is rendered with a pathetic, no-larger-than-life treatment... Thus I judge that this version of Gein, unlike Norman Bates and other fictional icons spawned by Gein, to be purely "naturalistic."

DERANGED is much in the same mode, though its estimated budget was no more than $200,000. I can't find a budget for ED GEIN, but I assume that it was considerably higher based on its general look and the greater care taken shooting the scenes. That said, writer-director Alan Ormsby does a fine job with the "thriller" aspects of his imitiation Gein-tale. Additonally, star Roberts Blossom, playing the main character of "Ezra Cobb," may not be as facile an actor as Steve Railsback, but he's a lot more convincing as a dim-seeming, delusional old hermit.

I rate the mythicity of DERANGED as "poor" because I don't think it does very much with the psychological material. A good thrill-ride, but nothing more.

The TV-movie PRAYING MANTIS wasn't based on any real psycho, but was probably strongly influenced by 1987's BLACK WIDOW.  The earlier film dealt with a "black widow" murderess whose main motivation, as I remember, was nothing but money. In contrast, though the script for this telefilm doesn't really dwell on the "mantis metaphor"-- i.e., the popular tale that mantises like black widows slay their mates-- it does make serial killer Linda Crandell (Jane Seymour) a psychotic type.

There aren't, however, any attempts to make Linda especially strange. She starts out by killing the man she's just married with poison, after which she flees town, leaving the cops to pick up the pieces. One witness, remembering the runaway bride, tells the police that he found Linda "eerie," but that's as weird as this psycho gets. The story by one William Delligan-- whose three IMDB-cited scripts all involve violent or ambivalent women-- refuses to reveal exactly what past event traumatized Linda, but the fact that she cuts herself and threatens a woman with an unruly child make it pretty likely that someone, most likely her father, abused Linda as a child. It's surely no coincidence that the only conquests we see are men older than Linda. Even when one scene sets up the lady psycho to dance with her handsome future son-in-law, Linda shows no interest in the younger version of her current beau.

Despite the script's reticence about the psycho's origins-- which is somewhat preferable to the more mechanical Lifetime movies on the same subject-- the only thing to see here is Jane Seymour's good looks and performance.

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