This was GOING to be a torch piece on the shear audacity of MGM to besmirch the cannibal classick Motel Hell (1980, 101 minutes) by cramming it onto a disc with the obscure-by-comparison Deranged (1974, 82 minutes). Turns out it's a case of BOTH films being grossly shortchanged. But it's danged difficult to muster much venom when such a memorable double feature is readily available for under TEN BUCKS as part of the CineSchlocker fave "Midnight Movies" series. However, had even a fraction of the attention lavished on Killer Klowns From Outer Space been paid to Motel Hell, there'd be zero doubt of a DVD Talk Collector Series rating.
Motel Hell: This early foray into comedic horror finds Farmer Vincent (Rory Calhoun) dividing his time as a backwoods innkeeper and a regionally famous purveyor of smoked meats. Things have been going just dandy for years until one fateful night when he falls for one of his secret ingredients. See, for years, Vincent's made a cottage industry of ambushing passing motorists and turning their corpses into jerky. That's until a biker bunny named Debbie (Monique St. Pierre) happens his way and unknowingly threatens to betray Vincent's long-kept secret by her stirring of his loins. When she isn't nosing around, Vincent continues to spend his nights clobbering folks like Ivan and the Terribles (featuring Cliff Clavin of "Cheers"), boring huge holes in a hidden garden where he then PLANTS them feet first with nothing more than their heads twitching above ground. Thankfully, his rotund sis (Nancy Parsons) has a ghastly gift for keeping these future fritters quiet. Through it all it's Calhoun's charm that really makes this a winner. Especially following the climatic double-chainsaw duel when he utters one of the funniest final lines in cinematic history. CineSchlockers should note that when German-born Ms. St. Pierre made this flick she was the reigning Playboy Playmate of the Year and, curiously, listed her favorite foods as "Escargots, trout cooked on a campfire, watermelon, carrots, jalapeno peppers, which I eat till I perspire."
Motel Hell Notables: Four breasts. Eight corpses. Pig calling. One untethered wangdoodle. Fainting. Chest shaving. Bullwhip cracking. Gratuitous "Damsel Strapped to Conveyor Belt" scene. Tubing. Multiple shotgun blasts. Cork popping. Psychedelic hypnosis. Gratuitous "Swingers."
Motel Hell Quotables: He may be a homicidal maniac, but Vincent is certainly a thoughtful man, "Sometimes I wonder about the karmic implications of [my] acts." Even cannibals need catchy slogans, "It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent's Fritters!" and "Meat's meat and a man's gotta eat!"
Motel Hell Time codes: Plaintive strains of Kregg Nance's "You're Eating Out My Heart and Soul" (5:44). The Monster that Challenged the World was also featured in Piranha (40:27). The great Wolfman Jack pastors the Crainville Eurekaistic Church (51:55). Monique enters a one-woman wet T-shirt contest (58:32). Vincent sends rockers on a neck-snapping trip to Mars (1:09:55). Attack of the Gurgling Dead (1:22:50). Here comes Porky! (1:31:06).
Deranged: Norman Bates. Leatherface. Buffalo Bill. They all trace back to Plainfield, Wisconsin's Ed Gein who got himself caught with a farmhouse full of mutilated corpses back in '57. And this flick is pretty much Ed's story, but with foxier victims and told in a pseudo-documentary style with a "journalist" (Leslie Carlson) who periodically steps into frame to prod the gruesome tale along. When his Bible-clutchin' mother croaks before his eyes, dim-bulb'd Ezra Cobb (Roberts Blossom) snaps immediately into total denial. The middle-aged bachelor keeps her room exactly as she left it, but after a year, he's so distraught that he decides he'll just head on down to the cemetary and bring mama home. Only she don't look (or smell) so good, so he takes to scavenging replacement parts. Along the way, his repressed sexual urges commingle with his human arts 'n' crafts projects into full blown necrophilia. But he's such a NICE guy otherwise! Blossom's performance is both amusingly quirky and -- in an instant -- astonishingly chilling. Especially in the final reel, given that comely Pat Orr's slaughterhouse fate is straight from Gein's real-life atrocities. CineSchlockers will revel in the grim sight of some of FX guru Tom Savini's earliest work. Incidently, just months BEFORE the immortal Texas Chainsaw Massacre hit drive-ins.
Deranged Notables: Two breasts. Eight corpses. Forced feeding. Erotic seance. Corpse flinging. Gratuitous slow mo. Peanut-buttered chicken. Fondling. Drunken serenade. The ol' leg caught in a steel trap gag. Bloody cleavage. Tummy tom-tom drum.
Deranged Quotables: Mama loves her boy, "I just know some money-stealing bitch is gonna come along and try and take advantage of you!" This rummy knows how to sweet-talk a lady, "Look at them t@#s. Both of 'em. I seen t@#s and I've seen t@#s from Portugal to Yokohama. Let me tell ya. Those are t@#s with a capital T!!!"
Deranged Time codes: Ezra does Norman Bates' schtick of talking like his mother (12:22). Wacky photo of the dear-departed Herbert (29:32). Lusty bar babe meets Ezra's gal pals (51:44). Sally's shift at the hardware store ends EARLIER than expected (1:09:55).
Audio/Video: Both flicks are presented in their original widescreen (1.85:1), but are far from equal in transfer quality. Motel Hell borders on abysmal with constant grain not aided by mostly nighttime scenes, many with fog. While Deranged, the older of the two, is remarkably crisp and markedly free of such faults. However, its utilitarian mono track pales slightly to Motel Hell's Dolby Digital 2.0 track.
Extras: Trailers. No printed insert or liner notes.
Final thought: Though both films are sadly shorted of their digital due, their entertainment value ALONE make this disc a steal. Highly Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.