Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Criminally Insane (1975)

Directed by Nick Philips
Starring Priscilla Alden, Michael Flood, Jane Lambert
Rated R

"My heart is just fine as long as my stomach is not empty."

When a movie has a tagline like "250 pounds of maniacal fury!", one tends to expect something a little out of the ordinary - and for the most part, Criminally Insane (AKA Crazy Fat Ethel) delivers. Running at an easily digestible 61 minutes, sexploitation auteur Nick Philips' (AKA Nick Millard) second foray into the horror genre (the Satanic vampire flick, Satan's Black Wedding being his first) takes quite an interesting twist on terror; that of food addiction and the lengths one will go to satisfy their cravings.

Ethel Janowski (Priscilla Alden) has just been released from an insane asylum where she endured such cruel treatments as electro-shock therapy and forced food withdrawal. Upon her arrival home, Ethel's grandmother, played by Jane Lambert, decides to continue implementing the dietary measures suggested by the doctor at the asylum. Ethel understandably has a problem with this, as food is the only solace she has in her lonely world.

After a few days of misery, Ethel has been driven to the brink of sanity - once again. After her grandmother puts locks on all the cupboards and empties the refrigerator of temptations, Ethel's world spirals out of control as the only thing she truly loves seems to be no more than a distant memory. While arguing with her grandmother, Ethel feels compelled to do whatever is necessary to get access to her precious foodstuffs - which entails stabbing granny to death in order for her to relinquish her grasp of the cupboard key.

With her grandmother now out of the way, Ethel has free access to her gluttonous pleasures. When the food runs low, Ethel takes it upon herself to place the weekly food order from the local grocery. Once the delivery boy shows up and demands payment, of which she cannot make, Ethel has no choice but to stab him to death with a broken bottle so that he won't leave with her box of groceries.

Before the delivery boy's body is even cold, a knock is heard at the front door. As luck would have it, Ethel's prostitute sister has shown up for a visit, leaving Ethel with little choice but to concoct a story of grandma being on vacation. With granny now "gone", Ethel uses her bedroom as a storage room for the rotting corpses that are quickly piling up - using spray air freshener in an attempt to cover up the ever sickening scent of decay.

Who will be the next victim of Ethel's rage, and what will become of their corpses? The only way you'll receive those answers is to get a hold of this puppy yourself for a quick hour of 70's horror goodness.

Retro Shock-O-Rama Cinema brings Criminally Insane, along with it's atrocious sequel, and Satan's Black Wedding to one convenient DVD for your viewing pleasure. The prints are pretty scuffed, but as with most of this type of cinema, it really doesn't matter. The main thing to be thankful for is that these films are even available on DVD at all, and I for one am quite appreciative.

- Jeremy Vaca

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