Agnes Moorehead appears in Dear Dead Delilah, one of those ‘old hag’ horror movies that were once popular. The film opens with a woman called Luddy (Patricia Carmichael), who is in her 30s and has killed her mother with an axe. She has just been released from the state mental hospital.
Luddy ends up having a chance encounter with the family of Delilah, an old woman who runs a plantation estate, bringing it into the Southern Gothic realm. She ends up becoming the housekeeper. Delilah knows she is about to die and there are issues over who she will leave her money to, plus rumours of hidden treasure on the estate. Grisly murders start happening, and Luddy can never remember where she as when these occur. But is someone else actually behind these murders?
It’s the only film directed by John Farris, a complete hack who also wrote the novel that Brian De Palma’s film The Fury was based on (not one of De Palma’s better horror films). He also wrote many other horror novels under several names, none of which are remembered. Somehow Farris talked his way into directing this film, even though his only previous credit was the Dick Clark film Because They’re Young! His other notable Hollywood claim to fame was working on a version of the script of Alfred Bester’s noir-tinged science-fiction/detective story The Demolished Man for De Palma. You can see why that might have interested De Palma, and although it was never made, De Palma was still talking about it as a possible project well into the late 1980s. Farris’s work can be mainly seen as an example of how bad horror fiction was before Stephen King came along and really shook up the genre.
The plot is all over the place, and it only holds together because Moorehead turns in a great performance as always, and Carmichael plays her role in quite a strange and compelling fashion (and never did anything else). The rest of the cast are a Who’s Who of 60s-70s actors, like Will Geer and Dennis Patrick. Narratively, it’s a complete mess. It was produced by country singer Jack Clement.
It’s a super high-quality transfer of course, a 2K restoration from 35mm vault elements. There aren’t loads of extras, but there is a stills gallery and an interview with John Farris.