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CRIMINALLY INSANE (CRAZY FAT ETHEL) (director/writer: Nick Millard; cinematographer: Karil Ostman; editor: John Lincoln; cast: Priscilla Alden (Ethel Janowski), Michael Flood (John), Jane Lambert(Mrs. Janowski), Lisa Farros (Rosalie Janowski), George “Buck” Flower (Detective McDonough), Cliff McDonald (Doctor Gerard); Runtime: 61; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Frances Millard; El Cinema (World); 1975)
“Can be irresistibly nutty.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An offbeat and obscure trashy comical horror thriller crudely helmed and written as camp by Nick Millard (“Roxanna”/”Doctor Bloodbath”/”Satan’s Black Wedding”). It’s bloody awful, but the low-budget curio, influenced by John Waters, can be irresistibly nutty. It’s produced by Frances Millard, Nick’s mom.

The obese, paranoid and bad-tempered Ethel Janowski (Priscilla Alden) is declared sane enough to leave the psychiatric hospital to live with her grandmother (Jane Lambert) in her San Francisco Victorian house. Her concerned doctor (Cliff McDonald), the only one at the loony bin against her release, leaves specific instructions with granny of how to make Ethel lose weight. This angers Ethel so much she murders granny to get the keys to the pantry. So much for her sanity. Adding a twist to the story, Ethel’s hooker nymphomaniac sister Rosalie (Lisa Farros) moves into granny’s and soon brings her abusive unfaithful pimp John (Michael Flood) to also stay there. John does his pimp thing, and without shame beats and screws Rosalie in front of Ethel.

Ethel’s uncontrollable hunger binges leads the dim-witted sicko into becoming a serial killer, as she kills anyone who tries to deter her from eating (like the delivery boy who takes back her order when she can’t pay for it). Ethel covers up her crimes by keeping the corpses in the bedroom. As the bodies pile up and leave a stink, Ethel eventually dismembers them and puts the body parts in a sack to toss out to sea. But that seemingly rational plan backfires because there are too many witnesses and she instead, to her detriment, brings the sacks back home in the open trunk of her car.

The cult film, despite its poor quality, had a small but loyal junk film following, which encouraged a poorer quality sequel to be made entitled Crazy Fat Ethel II (1985).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”