Criminally Insane 1 & 2 (1975/1987) – By Brian Morton

Every once in a while I see a movie that makes me nostalgic. When I was a kid, I used to pore through the newspaper’s movie guide looking for those movies that I knew I was too young to see…exploitation movies! It was back in the 70s, when I was just a young lad, but I knew there was something going on that I really wanted to be a part of. Movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and It’s Alive were playing at Drive-Ins around my area, and there I was just a damn kid, not old enough to see anything good!

But, now, thanks to the gift of DVD, all those movies that I wasn’t allowed to see because I was too young are back! And I have to tell you, Criminally Insane is that kind of movie, I almost wept at my lost youth watching it.

Criminally Insane is the story of Ethel Janowski, now Ethel isn’t your ordinary girl, unless ordinary for you is an overweight, insane murderer…and if it is, you might want to seriously rethink your idea of normal! Ethel suffers from two afflictions, her appetite and her temper. When we first see Ethel she’s being released from the asylum after extensive electro-shock therapy and she’s pronounced fit for society again, although the doctor tells Ethel’s mother that she should lose some weight for her health. Well, once safely back at home Ethel resumes her habit of eating in immense volumes! Her first meal is a pound of bacon, about a dozen eggs and two pieces of toast…I guess Ethel was on a low carb diet. Well, after a day or two, Ethel’s mother decides that the only way to keep Ethel on a diet is to lock up the food, and she does. The problem with that is that Ethel is one hungry girl and she’s willing to work a little bit for her meals. And by work, I really don’t mean a 9 to 5 job, I mean stabbing mommy and locking her body into an upstairs bedroom.

Criminally Insane is one of the best exploitation movies from the 70s that I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a low budget wonder. The acting is strong, the special effects are exactly what you’d expect from this kind of movie. The disc also included 1987’s sequel, which is so far inferior to the original and it’s almost not worth mentioning, but since that’s what I do here, I’m compelled to. Part 2 takes place 13 years after the first and Ethel is being released from the asylum due to Reagan era budget cuts. She’s put in a halfway house and the mayhem begins again. The problem with the sequel is that it spends more time re-hashing the original that it does telling it’s own story. The couple murders that Ethel commits in the sequel are pretty obvious and not as inspired as in the original. Is it worth seeing? Yes, but only to say that you’ve seen both, the original is far superior.

They’re called Criminally Insane and Criminally Insane 2 and they’re a welcome blast from the past. And the DVD includes a current interview with the writer/director and the actress who played Ethel, which is pretty interesting, but the really gem of the extras here is the trailers. These are exploitation fare at it’s best and it’ll make you pine for the days when you could head on down to your local Drive-In and enjoy a great double feature like this on any given weekend, but to see these you’ll have to head on over to Shock-O-Rama.Com. So until the next time when I’ll wax nostalgic about cereals I used to eat when I was a kid…Quisp anyone?…remember, the best movies are bad movies!