Criminally Insane (1975)

VHS Cover (World Video)
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Overall Rating 54%
Overall Rating
Ranked #7,298
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Connections: Criminally Insane

After her doctors declare her ready to return to society, Ethel leaves the psychiatric hospital and goes to live with her grandmother. She soon develops a few odd habits, in particular an insatiable compulsion to eat massive amounts of food. When Grandma locks up the food supply out of fear for her granddaughter's health, Ethel kills her for the keys to the pantry. Left to her own devices, she now indulges her hunger non-stop, murdering anyone who dares to stand in her way. Will anyone be able to stop her? --IMDb
Review by Chad
Added: September 30, 2005
Ethel Janowski (Priscilla Alden) has just been released from a mental institution and is being sent to live with her grandmother (Jane Lambert). Why she was locked up in this institution is never revealed, but one gets a pretty good idea of the reasoning behind her imprisonment as the movie progresses. So, Ethel has been released to come home and live with her grandmother on two conditions: one being that she attend weekly electroshock therapy sessions, and the other condition being that she lose some weight. You see, Ethel is a hefty woman, clocking in at well over 250 pounds if the cover of the DVD is to be believed. Since she is so obese, her eating habits are insane; for example, she eats a pound of bacon and a dozen eggs for breakfast and continues this style of eating throughout the day. Needless to say, grandma is not very happy with this living situation. After all, Ethel is only bringing in a small unemployment check to support herself, and this check doesn't even come close to covering the weekly grocery bills. Grandma decides that the best way to solve this problem is to lock up all of the food in the house to ensure that Ethel doesn't eat her out of house and home... but when Ethel finds out about this plan, she picks up a butcher knife and stabs her grandmother to death. The rest of the movie covers Ethel trying to hide what she's done from the police and nosy neighbors, and she also manages to add a few more corpses to the upstairs pile.

This movie has been fondly referred to as a cult classic for years by numerous fans, and Retro-Shock-O-Rama has done these fans a favor by finally giving the movie a DVD release. While I had never had a chance to see this movie prior to receiving this DVD, I had heard the title mentioned numerous times, so it was good to finally sit down and give it a viewing. Did it live up to the hype? While it wasn't a perfect movie, I do indeed think that it was worth the wait.

The main strength behind the movie is the combination of simplicity and originality. On the one hand, everything is kept very simple; Ethel kills people and tries to hide this fact from the various people who come snooping around. There's no subplots and there's no complex hidden messages to decipher here... it's a straight-up slasher film. On the other hand, the movie is quite original; how many times has an obese female been the star of a slasher film with food as her motive? While I'll admit that this does seem a bit goofy when written, it's played out in all seriousness on screen and it actually works far better than one would expect. I was expecting something along the lines of a Troma release... plenty of violence and plenty of tongue-in-cheek style humor. No sir, that was not the case... and the way that director Nick Millard (aka Nick Phillips) chose to handle the script worked out very nicely.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the acting ability of this leading lady. She manages to pull a laugh out of the audience when needed (which isn't often), but she's also a very intimidating lady when it comes right down to it. The main reason behind this intimidation is her look; now, I'm not talking about her weight here, but more about her general look and the facial expressions that she uses. She truly looks like a psycho, and one starts to really believe that the lady on screen is a legit knife-wielding maniac instead of an actress playing a part. The rest of the cast ranges from average to pretty damned good, but since nobody else really gets a lot of time to shine, I'm not going to go into detail about these people. As a whole though, I was completely satisfied with the acting side of things from this movie.

Pick this disc up if you're a fan of old-school slasher films with a twist. Two other movies are included on the disc (Criminally Insane 2 and Satan's Black Wedding) along with director commentary and a number of other features, but honestly, this movie alone is worth the ten bucks that it's selling for on Amazon. As of this writing, I haven't even watched the other two movies on the disc and I can still easily recommend giving this one a purchase. 8/10.
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