Dear Dead Delilah (1972)

I swear to God I’m not purposely trying to be the most unhip horror fan in the universe. Baby I was born this way. I’ve already stated my affection for crusty mansions, blood-stained doilies and cracked doll heads and now I must salute the incredible joy that is Southern-fried sud-goth. 1972’s DEAR DEAD DELILAH is like a soap opera with axe murders rather than commercials and it’s my favorite thing I’ve seen since the last favorite thing I’ve seen. Some people think it’s boring and those people have no idea what they are talking about. Really, I’m beginning to think that “It’s boring” is code for “There’s dialogue.” How can anyone not enjoy this movie?

Like all great stories, we begin in the past. In this case, we meet Little Luddy who is opposing her mother and preparing for an unapproved of date. She explains her actions to her mom who does not respond, not because she doesn’t care but because she is chopped up with an axe. Years later an older, artsy Luddy (PATRICIA CARMICHAEL) is released from prison. She has nowhere to go but thanks to a fortuitous event (being hit in the head by a football!), she soon finds herself nursed back to heath and gainfully employed in a Tennessee mansion. The homestead is overseen by dying matriarch Deliah (AGNES MOOREHEAD) who has gathered her family together to divvy up the inheritance. Chaos, angry words and ultimately many an axe murder are the result when Delilah informs the congregated that the family fortune is hidden in the house and it’s finder’s keepers.

This being MOOREHEAD’s final film appearance, I was fully prepared for the phone-in routine. Oh, me of little faith. AGNES is as sharp as ever and devours every line with acidic relish and her southern accent adds an extra bite to her performance. Her mere presence is enough to satisfy but someone up there must like me because she is not only there but she is also there in a motorized wheelchair! There is one scene where Delilah wheels her chair into a mausoleum and then, after a momentary scream, the chair comes whizzing out by itself and that is when my couch officially turned into cloud nine. Sure, the plot and execution of D.D.D. dips into veritable camp at times but the shear darkness of its humor is too aggressive to dismiss. Just because the film is having some fun doesn’t mean it doesn’t take its horror seriously.

DEAR DEAD DELILAH was written by author JOHN FARRIS the mind behind THE FURY and it’s sadly the only film he ever directed. At times it has the cardboard drive-in vibe of S.F. BROWNRIGG (DON’T GO IN THE BASEMENT, DON’T OPEN THE DOOR!) but its flashes of dreamy surrealism, and taste for broad soap opera theatrics also brings DAVID LYNCH to mind. It is a bit rough around the edges (me likey) but it truly accomplishes some striking moments of eerie weirdness. Best of all, the various deaths of the conniving family members are as strong as anything in BAY OF BLOOD or FRIDAY THE 13TH. My life was a little bit more complete seeing Grandpa Walton (WILL GREER) stumble out of a smoke house carrying one hacked off hand in the other. I feel I was always meant to see that.

Like BLOOD AND LACE (1971) and MANSION OF THE DOOMED (1976) both of which I just discovered recently, I think D.D.D. is a sorely undervalued film. Why, even my trusted Encyclopedia of Horror is a naysayer! I even read one review that called it “typical.” C’mon, can you really use a word like “typical” to describe a movie that exhibits decapitations via horseback, a forced heroin overdose, unexplained random optical effects and an axe blade used for foreplay? I guess the inheritance gimmick is passé but that’s just a springboard. Truth told, I would have liked to have gotten to know Luddy a little better but the fact that she’s such a unique proto-final girl is ultimately enough for me. I couldn’t help but dig that her post incarceration experiences resemble those of dear Norman Bates in PSYCHO II. Anyway, don’t get fooled by the consensus and haters to the left, if you’re like me, a fuddy duddy who likes it bloody, give this often sneaky and slightly creaky crazy train a ride.

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cmcmcmcm
cmcmcmcm
9 years ago

I seriously loved this movie too. And even in the parts where the dialogue went on for an alarmingly long time I still dug it. I agree w/ your theory. Boring = dialogue and dialogue = interesting – in my book anyways. I was totally intrigued and amused the whole time. And I LOVED that end part where the football player guy was listing off all the names of the people who were dead and in the middle he’s all “and what’s her name.” That killed me. I loved that guy. I actually loved every character in that film. That drunk lady was hilarious. And that axe foreplay! OMG!

But I have one question. The young Luddy had, what looked like, an intentionally half closed eyelid on one eye and a giant fleshy mole over her lip – then suddenly when she got out of prison it was gone. Was that just the worst continuity job in the world of did she get complimentary plastic surgery while she was in the joint? I know you prob don’t have the answer – but I’m askin anyway.

Oh and I LOVED Grandpa Walton too!

Amanda By Night
9 years ago

Oh man, it’s been forever and a day since I’ve seen DDD. Thanks for the link to watch the movie online. It just may come in handy!

I LOVE Will Geer. What a treat he was in anything. Also, one of the Baldwin Sisters on the Waltons (Mary Jackson) starred in Terror at Red Wolf Inn. I won’t even go into Mary McDonough (sp?) Those Waltons got some horror roots!

cmcmcmcm
cmcmcmcm
9 years ago

I saw that he was in All My Children starting in ’83 or ’84 and couldn’t place him. I watched that obsessively through jr high and into high school but I don’t remember him.

And yeah – the dream sequences were pretty genuinely creepy – as was that dingy old apt in the beginning. Such a bonus!

cmcmcmcm
cmcmcmcm
9 years ago

I totally agree – in fact I have to say that I am just baffled as to why this movie is considered boring. It has so much.

RawhideAlmondMache
9 years ago

OK, I’ve heard about this movie before but your review just sold me on it. The name Agnes Moorehead and the phrase “foreplay with an axe blade” had me interested, but the name Will Geer just sold the deal. Count me in as another fan. Allow me to add The Mafu Cage (a.k.a. The Cage, a.k.a. My Sister/My Love) as a suggestion. There’s tragically little Geer in it but it makes up for it with lots and lots and LOTS of Carol Kane acting crazy.

Speaking of the Waltons, if it hasn’t been mentioned before (and I’m sorry if it has), You’ll Like My Mother is a must-see. Richard Thomas hams it up as a villainous creep that couldn’t be less John-Boy-like. He and the titular mother Rosemary Murphy run away screaming with this movie.

ChrisO
ChrisO
7 years ago

I fully agree: wonderful, low budget film! Definitely above average! Excellent acting: Moorehead (of course), but a special mention for Patricia Carmichael! The script is excellent. If there had been a bit more time and money, and better editing this might have received better recognition. As it is, it is more than good enough. As for the half closed eye on the younger, pregnant Luddy: she’d been beaten by her Mother! C’mon guys! 😉 It was swollen. Forget about the mole…it was removed in prison, ok? 😁 I would love a proper DVD release of this!

ChrisO
ChrisO
7 years ago

P.S. Happy Halloween!!!

ChrisO
ChrisO
7 years ago

P.P.S. Y’all do realize the “mole” was supposed to be swelling from the beating given by Mother…right? 😁

okcray
okcray
2 years ago

Great news! Vinegar Syndrome is releasing DEAR DEAD DELILAH on a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack on August 28, 2018! Didn’t think I’d ever see this one reissued and restored. From the looks of the promo trailer, I think they scored a source print in very fine condition!