• Dear Dead Delilah (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: August 21st, 2018.
    Director: John Farris
    Cast: Agnes Moorehead, Patricia Carmichael, Will Geer, Michael Ansara, Dennis Patrick, Anne Meacham
    Year: 1972
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    Dear Dead Delilah - Movie Review:

    The single directorial effort of John Farris, who would write The Fury a few years later, 1972’s Dear Dead Delilah is a twisted low budget blend of soap opera melodrama and cheap exploitation/horror trappings that make it fit nicely alongside films made by the likes of S.F. Brownrigg and Andy Milligan (it would also play great alongside Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? and/or Strait-Jacket, but more on that in a little while). It’s interesting to note that the film was the only feature produced by ‘Cowboy’ Jack Clement (though he did work on soundtracks for plenty of film and television projects), the same man who wrote a few early hits for Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Jerry Lee Lewis and plenty more. Maybe not so surprisingly when armed with that information, the film was shot on location in Nashville, Tennessee where Clement lived at the time.

    The titular Delilah Charles (Agnes Moorehead in her final feature film appearance), is the matriarch of a large estate surrounded by scheming friends and family. Confined to a wheelchair, she knows she is not long for this world, as do those around her. At the same time, a guy named Richard (Robert Gentry) hits a woman named Luddy Dublin (awesome one and done actress Patricia Carmichael) in the face with a football. He feels bad so he and his wife Ellen (Elizabeth Eis) bring her back to the Charles plantation to help out as her housekeeper and caregiver. Luddy, however, has a past – thirty years prior, her own mother was found on the end of a sharp axe, an axe swung by young Luddy herself! A lengthy stint in the mental hospital seems to have cured her, but of course, after her arrival on the plantation, bodies start piling up.

    But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit here. Delilah’s three younger siblings - Morgan (Michael Ansara) and his floozy girlfriend Buffy (Ruth Baker), Alonzo (Dennis Patrick, of Dallas fame!) and Grace (Anne Meacham), all of whom have issues and problems of their own – are all salivating at the thought of getting in on what Delilah now controls: the family fortune! Oh, and then there’s the family lawyer, Roy Jurroe (Will Geer… yep, Grandpa Walton himself!). He seems trustworthy enough, right? And if that weren’t enough, there are rumors that Delilah’s dear, departed daddy did alright selling off some horses back in the thirties and as such, there’s been a cool six hundred grand buried somewhere on the property. When Delilah says that she’s planning to bequeath the plantation to the state, they’re quickly up in arms over this… leading to a plethora of suspects and a few fantastic murder-set-pieces.

    Yeah fine, this thing is really dialogue heavy but how can you not love a movie with not just axe murders, but axe foreplay as well? Throw in some genuinely gory – and surprising – death scenes, weird regional flavor and a cast best described as erratic and its hard to go wrong. Some might complain about the pacing, but the scenes of extended dialogue only serve to ramp up not only the character development but the film’s completely enjoyable goth soap opera elements. Farris, who also wrote the script, fills the picture with quirky, colorful characters and simply watching the cast inhabit these roles and interact with one another is satisfying enough. Consider the decapitations an added bonus.

    It’s hard not to think of Joan Crawford when evaluating Agnes Moorehead’s work in the picture. The elder actress probably best known for playing Endora for eight years on the popular TV sitcom Bewitched channels the same sort of haggish, bitchy vibe that Crawford (and Bette Davis) made trademarks of their later work in genre pictures. The film feels a bit like a low rent version of Strait-Jacket at times, but Farris is savvy enough to take things in their own direction before it is all over and done with. Despite some very familiar elements, the picture thankfully dances to the beat of its own drum often enough to stand out.

    Dear Dead Delilah – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome debuts Dear Dead Delilah on disc for the first time in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer “newly scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm vault elements.” The picture here isn’t as pristine as most of the label’s offerings tend to be but it sure as shit beats the VHS sourced DVD-R’s that have been making the rounds over the years into the dirt. The image is quite stable, showing some minor print damage here and there but nothing so serious as to take you out of the movie at all. Colors are generally solid, though some scenes look a tad uneven – likely due to the original photography. Skin tones look just fine and the transfer is nice and film-like, showing plenty of fine grain and along with that, frequently impressive detail and texture, even in the film’s many darker, nighttime scenes.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD Mono track. Some of the dialogue is occasionally a bit muffled but it seems like this stems back to the original recording rather than an issue with the disc. Otherwise, no issues here. Most of the dialogue is pretty clear and the score sounds good. Optional English SDH subtitles are included and can be selected by using your remote (but not from the main men).

    The main extra on the disc is a twenty-minute interview with director John Farris entitled Family Secrets: The Making Of Dear Dead Delilah. He speaks quite candidly about making his directorial debut, the involvement of infamous producer Jack Clement, his work in the live theater scene and how that affected the casting of the film, working with Moorehead, the locations used for the feature and quite a bit more. It’s a very interesting piece and sheds some welcome light on the history of the film.

    A still gallery, menus and chapter selection round out the extras on the disc, though it does come packaged with some reversible cover art (featuring the more infamous headless corpse/torso-face image on the reverse!). As this is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version of the movie featuring the same extras and taken from the same transfer.

    Wonder Women – The Final Word:

    Dear Dead Delilah is a blast. Those who appreciate a healthy dose of melodrama with their axe murdering will absolutely get a kick out of this low budget regional oddity. Vinegar Syndrome’s disc isn’t stacked with extras but it presents the film in nice shape and the interview with Farris definitely adds some value to the package. All in all, a really entertaining picture finally given its due on home video.

    Click on the images below for full sized Dear Dead Delilah Blu-ray review screen captures!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Maureen Champ's Avatar
      Maureen Champ -
      Why this BD-cover has came from Beleth The Demon of Incest?
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      What the hell is that on Michael Ansara's head? A dead squirrel?

      This is another one I've wanted to see.
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      Quote Originally Posted by Maureen Champ View Post
      Why this BD-cover has came from Beleth The Demon of Incest?
      It's original foreign artwork, so someone else stole it.