MGM serves up another delicious double dose of bargain priced madness. The pairing of Deranged and Motel Hell is both brilliant and unexpected. These are two films that I never would have guessed I'd be watching on DVD. Not only do I get 'em but also at 10 bucks for the set, I feel like I'm ripping MGM off! Not so fast there, as we have much to discuss. We need to talk about extras, quality, and mysteriously missing scenes? Read on for a full report, unfortunately you're not going to like everything you hear.
Deranged - Still one of the most unique visions of the Ed Gein story (next to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Psycho) Deranged still packs as much of a powerful punch today as it did years ago. Co-directed by Bob Clark (Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things, Black Christmas and A Christmas Story) the films bizarre mixture of unrelenting horror and disturbing black comedy gives Deranged a unique style all its own.
Ezra Cobb (long time character actor Roberts Blossom) spends each day by his mother's side as she lay in bed slowly dying. About a year after her death, Ezra decides to bring mother home so he digs up her remains and once again, makes mother's bed. Ezra gets the idea (during a dinner party scene that is just as funny as it is creepy) of taking freshly buried body parts and giving his mother a makeover. He uses the new found skin to give mother a fresh face, and props up skulls and bones to keep mother company. It isn't long before Ezra gets the thirst for blood and discovers the thrill of the actual hands on kill.
The good news here is that Deranged has surfaced on DVD (did we ever think this would happen?), the bad news is that this version is slightly edited (too good to be true). One scene that lasts about a minute has been mysteriously left on the cutting room floor. I'm gonna give you a brief rundown of what was left out along with 3 screenshots I grabbed from my old murky uncut bootleg. Keep in mind these pics are crappy quality, as I had to take shots of the TV with a digital camera. The images stand as a reference point only, and remember that the following 3 shots DO NOT appear on MGM's new DVD of Deranged.
Missing Scene: Once Ezra digs up dear old mom and brings her home, the first thing he does is scoop out her eyeball with a spoon. Next he starts to slice open her head (scalping style) with a small saw. Once he's cut far enough, he peels off the top of her head, and uses his spoon to scoop out her brains. That's about it folks, so little but oh so much at the same time. The scene only runs for about a minute and the quality of the effects are less than convincing. Although I can see why fans are in an uproar (I'm not too thrilled myself), I sill wouldn't allow the absence of this scene to make or break a purchase decision.
Motel Hell - Much less serious than Deranged in tone, Motel Hell solely strives to play off of horrific humor more so than anything else. Farmer Vincent (played by Rory Calhoun, that guy who's always standing and walking) and his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons, Ms Balbricker of Porky's) run the rural Motel Hello (the "o" seems to have trouble staying lit on the neon sign out front). In his down time Farmer Vincent sets up tourist traps for unsuspecting motorists. He then "plants" them in his secret garden and eventually grinds them down into his smoked meats that the townsfolk can't seem to get enough of. Vincent takes a liking to one of his would be victims Terry (Nina Axelrod), as does local Deputy Bruce (Paul Linke). Needless to say that the machismo levels flare (can you blame them, tubin' has never looked like so much
fun) as Terry chooses Vincent (who could very well be her grandfather) and Bruce sets out to rescue Terrry from eminent danger.
Only to be taken lightly and never serious Motel Hell can be great fun if you set yourself in the fright frame of mind. It's gory, gritty, sickly disturbing and at times quite funny. A clever (if not all too unbelievable) story and impressive performances certainly make Motel Hell a worthwhile endeavor. You're never quite sure where you're gonna be taken next and that's just part of the fun. Besides, who could forget the infamous chainsaw/pig head finale that made Motel Hell a late night favorite to begin with? In my humble opinion, when it comes to good fun and goofy horror, it doesn't get much better than this.
Both features are presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer and the overall result is quite pleasing. Deranged is the hands down winner here with little to no print damage, minimal amounts of grain and solid color definition. Deranged has never looked this good and probable never will again (if it weren't for the missing scene this presentation would be near perfection). Motel Hell doesn't fare quite as well as Deranged, but still looks pretty damn good. While print damage is minimal, Motel Hell suffers from higher levels of grain and a muted color scheme, unfortunately it still looks like a drive-in flick. I was expecting an overhaul, but aside from a slight improvement, it's still the same old Motel Hell (not that this is a bad thing mind you). The bulk of Motel Hell takes place during dimly lit nighttime scenes so I'm sure there's much that could have been done. I had the pleasure of seeing a 16mm projection of Motel Hell in my college days and it didn't look much different than this. The transfer is serviceable, but it certainly won't be winning any awards.
Audio is equally impressive for both features. Deranged features a mono track with nice clear dialogue and no distortion. Motel Hell is presented in a Dolby Surround mix and while the rears aren't really used too much (if I had a nickel for every time I heard that...) the separation of sound between the front 3 speakers is simply awesome, especially during the films frenetic chainsaw-wielding final.
Extras are limited to a theatrical trailer for each feature. Couldn't ask for much more considering the price point so I'll take what I can get.
This is a great double feature that should not be passed up for any reason. The missing scene from Deranged is certainly a shame, but don't let that derail you from a purchase. Motel Hell is as much fun today as it ever was, and although the transfer left me wanting a bit more, this is most likely the best we could expect this film to look. I guess it goes without saying this is one of my favorite MGM Midnite Movie discs to date and I'll be revisiting these gems quite often, I'm sure.