Ed Gein

Ed Gein

Prior to it's initial release I had the great privilege of checking out Chuck Parello's film adaptation of the infamous deviant killer Ed Gein's life story. I'll waste no time in saying that I loved it, but would my feelings be the same when I watched it again when it resurfaced on DVD? Before I get down to that, let's look again at the film and the man behind the story 'Ed Gein'.

The Man - The Movie*

The story of Ed Gein has been hugely influential on the genre scene, with a wide spread influence that has spawned a myriad of films and books. Everything from Alfred Hitchcock's seminal 'Psycho' to Tobe Hooper's 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' and even low budget fare like 'Three on a Meathook', the humorous 'Motel Hell' and the vastly underrated 'Deranged' (which until now has been the closest to the truth to date).

Born at the turn of the last century, Ed Gein was brought up in the small farming community of Plainfield, Wisconsin by parents with a strict and oppressive mentality. His mother more so, who with over zealous (and somewhat twisted) religious ideas that she preached sternly, which included the strong lecturing that women were sinful and thoughts of a sexual nature were paramount to evil itself.

Needless to say, Ed Gein grew up with a somewhat insular and perverse view of life (and death). More so as his main interests which began with the escapist adventures contained in pulp adventure novels grew into an unhealthy obsession with the more brutal side of things. Whether it be death and surgical anatomy mixed with the lavacious pornography that came from his pulp fiction interest.

Soon after his mothers death (his father and brother already gone), Gein found that although coping on his own was not that easy (his dependence on his mother so strong) but also he now had the freedom to commit himself fully to his deviant interests. Graveyards were his first port of call, where he could obtain human corpses to experiment on by dissecting and indulging in the female form - women being of some interest to him, not only because they had been instilled as an evil forbidden fruit (making them more so attractive) but he could get closer to them in this way (closer than any human really should) and practice his interests in both surgical anatomy (inspired by the Nazis) and reincarnation. Inevitably Gein's practices would soon be discovered and the full horrific details of his exploits would be known.

'Ed Gein' the movie - is Metro Tartan's first full film production and is an excellent debut into the genre movie scene. Director Chuck Parello, who many readers will know from his earlier work on the sequel to John McNaughton's Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer 'Henry 2', has done a splendid job on his rendition of the Ed Gein story. The script for this adaptation easily caters for both newcomers to the Gein story and old hats alike covering it solidly and simply, not shying away from the true bizarreness of Geins character defects and his twisted practices with some solid direction and great pacing too.

Steve Railsback (who should also be familiar to many readers in such fare as Charles Manson in the oft forgotten 'Helter Skelter' movie, 'Lifeforce' and 'Turkey Shoot') delivers one of his best performances to date in the role of Ed Gein. To date, this is definitely the best portrayal of Gein you will see. Railsback plays Gein (worryingly) convincingly - both when Gein is seen as a somewhat simple and amiable character but also when you see the more twisted side to his persona shine through with Railsback capturing perfectly the look and feel of a madman in a delivery that truly does steal the show. Mention should also be made though for the fine performance by Carrie Snodgrass as Gein's oppressive mother Augusta and there are also some good moments from the rest of the small ensemble cast throughout too.

Now, another inevitable key thing many horror fans will be curious about such a production as this will be the level of violence and gore. The subject matter of Ed Gein and the extreme nature of his practices were of such graphic detail many folk were concerned that any (more so a more mainstream) production nowadays would shy away from delivering the visual goods when it came to such perverse deviancy. Whilst 'Ed Gein' is at times restrained when it comes to the killing and dissecting by Ed of his victims, there are some shocking moments of graphic clarity (done with great skill by Dan Striepeke of 'Saving Private Ryan' fame) when we see exactly what Ed likes to do with the parts he has collected that will shock many viewers new to this story. As an old die hard horror fan with a great interest in the Gein history and mythology, I was pleasantly surprised by the honest and graphic nature that the movie delivered in getting across key elements to Geins practices and kudos is definitely due to all involved for this respectful handling of this subject matter.

So, after all the years of waiting we do eventually get an honest and atmospheric adaptation of the Ed Gein story, and an excellent production it is too. Hopefully this production will get the recognition that it deserves, but I have the uneasy feeling that it won't and will end up as yet another cinematic sleeper that will be acclaimed by film fans twenty or thirty years down the line (when in all honesty Steve Railsback should be collecting his best actor Oscar award now!)


I had been anticipating Tartan's DVD release for some time and was somewhat bewildered that although the film was a Tartan production there where other alternate region releases appearing before the eventual home grown product would appear (the main of these being the decent enough Spanish disc and the woeful avoid at all costs bare bones full screen US disc). Thankfully the Tartan disc was well worth the wait.

The film itself is presented in anarmorphic widescreen and the print looks fantastic, full of fine sharp detail and showing off the rich colours used brilliantly. The audio is a nice clear 2 channel stereo sound that does the job in a solid manner, which is fine considering the film in general has a very sedate ambient feel. But it's some of the limited extra features that will be of great interest to fans of the film - there's two deleted scenes segments that are in fact extended collages of shooting rushes of unused footage. The first of these being a scene where Ed and his mother visit a bullying neighbour and his battered wife, the second is some alternate unused scenes from when the two young boys go visit Ed to hang out with him. Both scenes are of interest not only in perspective of being missing scenes but for an insight into Parello's directing style. They're pretty much rough footage in widescreen format (complete with timecoding) but if you increase the screen ratio (on a widescreen TV) you can see exactly what the cut footage would have looked like (without the intrusive time bars).

Other than that, there's also the films original theatrical trailer (this film really should have had more theatrical respect), some filmography pages and the now standard Tartan Terror trailer reel. Also included in the package is a thoroughly enjoyable film notes booklet by Alan Jones who looks at the making of the film with interview pieces by all the main players involved.

'Ed Gein' is an essential addition to any horror fans collection as like myself you'll no doubt find that it has growing enjoyment from repeated viewings (more so from this lovely presentation). And if you're planning to pick it up then Tartan's disc is definitely the one to go for. A sleeper classic (in fact my favourite genre film of the year) and a damn fine disc to boot. Buy it!

*adapted from the SGM Spotlight piece

Review by Alan Simpson

Released by Tartan
Rated 15 - Region 0 (PAL)
Ratio - Anarmorphic Widescreen
Audio - Dolby digital
Extras :
Theatrical Trailer, Deleted Scenes, Tartan Trailer Reel, Filmographies, Production Notes (booklet).