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  Criminally Insane Food Glorious Food
Year: 1975
Director: Nick Millard
Stars: Priscilla Alden, Michael Flood, Jane Lambert, Robert Copple, George 'Buck' Flower, Ginna Martine, Cliff MacDonald, Charles Egan, Sonny La Rocca, Sandra Shotwell, Lisa Farros
Genre: Horror, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ethel (Priscilla Alden) is admitted to a mental hospital very much against her will, and is subjected to shock treatment to iron out her personality disorder. Her grandmother (Jane Lambert) is trusted to look after Ethel, even though her doctor is strongly advising against her release, nevertheless she is returned to her grandmother's Victorian house. The first thing she wants to do, in fact the only thing she wants to do, is eat, despite being told to take care of her weight, and it's not long before Ethel is cooking two frying pans full of eggs and bacon for her breakfast, along with a dozen slices of white toast. She doesn't care about her enormous size, but what she really hates is anyone trying to get between her and her food... woe betide them...

When Robert de Niro put all that weight on to portray a deeply unlikeable character in Raging Bull, he won an Oscar for his trouble. Priscilla Alden, however, was already pretty heavy for her villainous role in the sensitively titled Criminally Insane, and did she receive any plaudits or awards? No, she did not, although you can see she is just as committed to her film as de Niro as she wolfs down platefuls of cakes and gulps milk straight from the carton. Scripted by the director Nick Millard, here using the alias Nick Philips, the film won nothing but the attention of those horror fans who had heard of it - until it was released on DVD it was fairly obscure, and even then didn't exactly hit the headlines.

One of the comparitively few horrors with a female serial killer at its heart, Criminally Insane sees Ethel claim her first victim when her grandmother puts her foot down and locks up the food after Ethel eats her out of house and home. It's a childishly simple premise - fat woman kills anyone who dares get in the way of her ravenous appetite - and seems to have been mostly shot in one single house as the budget is plainly miniscule. It's almost like a home movie that somehow was released on the big screen (mainly drive-ins), and the acting lives up to that level.

Or down to that level. As the bodies begin to pile up, Ethel's prostitute sister arrives looking for a place to stay and bring back men, leading to complications for the sizeable psychopath. The sister also brings her pimp along, and they both begin to wonder at what that strange smell behind a bedroom door is - of course, that's where the corpses are being stored. Featuring a rip-roaring climax with Ethel trying and failing, very slowly, to dump the bodies she has amassed, it does feature a punchline that wraps things up in the only way possible, if you use the twisted logic of the film. Good for cheap laughs, the film isn't scary and at just over an hour doesn't outlast its welcome, although that will probably be more than enough for some viewers, but Alden's weird, unfriendly, obsessive performance (she gets a dream sequence too) sticks in the memory. Followed by a sequel that used most of this film in flashback.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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