Dear Dead Delilah (1972)

R | 95 or 98 mins | Horror | June 1972

Director:

John Farris

Writer:

John Farris

Producer:

Jack Clement

Cinematographer:

William R. Johnson

Editor:

Ron Dorfman

Production Designer:

James Tilton

Production Company:

Jack Music, Inc.
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HISTORY

Although some contemporary and modern sources list the film's title as Dear, Dead Delilah , the opening title card does not include a comma. John Farris' onscreen credit reads, "written and directed by." According to a Mar 1972 HR news item, Dear Dead Delilah was originally rated X, but, following a successful appeal, the rating was changed to R prior to the picture's release. An Apr 1972 Var news item reported that the film was shot on location in Nashville, ... More Less

Although some contemporary and modern sources list the film's title as Dear, Dead Delilah , the opening title card does not include a comma. John Farris' onscreen credit reads, "written and directed by." According to a Mar 1972 HR news item, Dear Dead Delilah was originally rated X, but, following a successful appeal, the rating was changed to R prior to the picture's release. An Apr 1972 Var news item reported that the film was shot on location in Nashville, TN. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
4 Sep 1972.
---
Filmfacts
1972
p. 685.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 1972.
---
Variety
19 Apr 1972.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
Gaffer
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus coord
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Prod mgr
Asst to the prod
Scr cont
Casting asst
Tech adv
STAND INS
Stunt coord
DETAILS
Release Date:
June 1972
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Nashville, TN: 5 May 1972
Production Date:
in Nashville, TN
Copyright Claimant:
Jack Music, Inc.
Copyright Date:
5 May 1972
Copyright Number:
MP23087
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastman color
Duration(in mins):
95 or 98
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

One evening in 1943 Nashville, Luddy, an emotionally overwrought pregnant woman, murders her carping mother with an axe. Twenty-five years later, Luddy is released from prison and takes a bus to a nearby college town, where she is knocked down while watching a touch football game. When the responsible player, Richard, and his nurse wife, Ellen, insist on looking after the stunned Luddy, she agrees to accompany them to their home, South Hall, an aged plantation headed by Richard’s infirm elderly aunt, Delilah Charles. Later, after Luddy awakens from a nap in a guest room, Ellen confesses that she looked through Luddy’s meager belongings and discovered her prison release papers. Luddy acknowledges her crime, but Ellen assures her no one will think ill of her and offers her a job as a housekeeper. Meanwhile, Delilah meets with her longtime attorney and former beau, Ray Jurroe, who warns her against implementing a financial plan with her family, brothers Alonzo, Morgan and sister Grace. Ignoring the advice, Delilah warns Ray not to remain at South Hall. When Luddy complains of a headache, Ellen summons Alonzo, a retired physician, to whom Luddy confides that Ellen is probably the age of her own daughter, who was taken away from her immediately after birth. Alonzo then admits that when he was a teenager, he got his girl friend pregnant, but the girl died in childbirth and he never knew what became of the child. Plagued by guilt all his life, he has long nurtured a dream of starting a home for unwanted children. A few days later, while Ellen takes Delilah through the ... +


One evening in 1943 Nashville, Luddy, an emotionally overwrought pregnant woman, murders her carping mother with an axe. Twenty-five years later, Luddy is released from prison and takes a bus to a nearby college town, where she is knocked down while watching a touch football game. When the responsible player, Richard, and his nurse wife, Ellen, insist on looking after the stunned Luddy, she agrees to accompany them to their home, South Hall, an aged plantation headed by Richard’s infirm elderly aunt, Delilah Charles. Later, after Luddy awakens from a nap in a guest room, Ellen confesses that she looked through Luddy’s meager belongings and discovered her prison release papers. Luddy acknowledges her crime, but Ellen assures her no one will think ill of her and offers her a job as a housekeeper. Meanwhile, Delilah meets with her longtime attorney and former beau, Ray Jurroe, who warns her against implementing a financial plan with her family, brothers Alonzo, Morgan and sister Grace. Ignoring the advice, Delilah warns Ray not to remain at South Hall. When Luddy complains of a headache, Ellen summons Alonzo, a retired physician, to whom Luddy confides that Ellen is probably the age of her own daughter, who was taken away from her immediately after birth. Alonzo then admits that when he was a teenager, he got his girl friend pregnant, but the girl died in childbirth and he never knew what became of the child. Plagued by guilt all his life, he has long nurtured a dream of starting a home for unwanted children. A few days later, while Ellen takes Delilah through the grounds in her wheelchair, Richard spends an afternoon having sex with chronic drinker Grace and relates his frustration with Delilah’s control of the family fortune left to her by the family patriarch, Bailey Charles. A few days later, Morgan arrives with his married, flighty girl friend Buffy, at Delilah’s invitation. Alonzo, who is secretly battling a heroin addiction encouraged and abetted by Richard, joins the family at dinner to hear Delilah’s announcement. After detailing the difficulties of maintaining South Hall solely on the income generated by the family trust, Delilah admits that she has decided to will the property to the state. When the family expresses dismay, Delilah points out that each of them will receive $5,000. Delilah then displays a packet of money that she passes around and which Grace remarks smells moldy. As the others listen in amazement, Delilah reveals that she has found their father’s legendary “horse money,” which Ellen explains to Luddy was acquired during the Depression, when Bailey was forced to put his valuable racehorses up for sale. The night before the sale, a mysterious fire broke out at the stables, killing many of the animals, for which his insurance partially compensated him. Delilah states that Bailey had smuggled the horses out and sold them across the border before purposely setting the fire. The sale, along with the insurance money, amounted to $600,000, which Bailey hid on the plantation in the event of another financial crisis. Declaring that her own death is imminent, Delilah relinquishes her claim to the “horse” money and declares that whoever can find the money can have it. After Delilah retires, Alonzo, Morgan, Grace and Ray meet privately. Alonzo and Grace remain skeptical about the entire story, but Morgan wonders how the nearly immobile Delilah could have located the hidden money. That night, Luddy awakens from a dream in which she relives slaying her mother and is horrified to find a bloody axe on the pillow beside her. Stunned, she hears a woman’s voice calling her and, taking the axe, follows the voice outside to the stable, where she finds a bloody handprint on the wall. Moments later, Ray, with one hand cut off and a deep wound in his chest, falls down dead in the doorway. When Alonzo abruptly appears and finds Luddy clutching the axe, he accuses her of the murder, but she insists that she was not involved. Accepting her explanation, Alonzo declares that he must find the hidden money in order to build his children’s home and asks Luddy for her help in hiding Ray’s body so that the police will not be summoned. The next morning, Morgan meets privately with Delilah to confess that he has embezzled $40,000 of his own business’ money and must repay it before an upcoming audit. When Delilah refuses to give him the money and recommends that he face his crime, Morgan is outraged. Later, galvanized by Buffy’s report of freshly dug up earth nearby and the confirmation by Marshall, the house servant, that a new septic tank was recently installed under Delilah’s supervision, Morgan is certain he has located the money. As Luddy heads off Marshall from visiting the smokehouse where she and Alonzo have hidden Ray’s body, Grace finds Morgan and Buffy digging and mocks them, insisting that Bailey’s “horse money” is a family fiction. That evening, Morgan continues digging frantically, while Buffy has several glasses of gin. At the house, Grace also becomes inebriated and asks Ellen to help her to bed. Alone in her room sketching, Luddy hears a noise outside and goes to investigate. Meanwhile, frustrated by coming up empty-handed, Morgan angrily stalks off into the forest, and when Buffy drunkenly rises to follow him, someone attacks her with an axe. Moments later, Morgan returns and, spotting Buffy’s body in the hole he has been digging, looks up just as a hurled axe strikes him in the chest. A little while later, Luddy discovers the bodies and, fearing Alonzo is responsible, spends the rest of the night burying the couple. The next morning, Richard informs the hungover Grace that Marshall has departed, Morgan and Buffy cannot be located and Luddy is oddly exhausted. Upstairs, Ellen helps Delilah dress, but grows angry when the older woman tells her to abandon the chronically unfaithful Richard. Disappointed by Ellen’s response, Delilah guides her motorized wheelchair alone to Bailey’s mausoleum, where she sees a figure she believes is her dead father. Delilah hurries into the crypt and shrieks, after which the empty wheelchair drifts outside. That evening, the drunken Grace finds the house empty and stumbling out onto the lawn, comes upon Delilah’s empty wheelchair. Piloting the chair around in circles while giggling, Grace barely glimpses a strange, silver-faced, axe-welding figure before she is decapitated. The figure removes the mask to reveal himself to be Richard, who returns to the house bearing the pile of money. He meets Ellen, who has injected the jittery Alonzo with a heroin overdose, and happily reveals that the money was in Bailey’s tomb. The couple celebrates by having sex, but at dawn, Richard turns the axe on his wife. Meanwhile, Alonzo's call for help awakens Luddy, but she fearfully runs from the house, where she finds the axe by the pool. A shotgun-carrying Richard then approaches her and confesses to murdering the entire family, although he plans to blame her and claim that he has killed her in “self defense.” Luddy flees, but Richard catches her by the pool and attempts to drown her until Delilah, still alive, crawls from the mausoleum and shoots Richard in the face with his gun before dying herself. Several days later, the lone survivor, Alonzo, and the recovering Luddy celebrate ending up with the money, which, after taxes and a brief vacation, will allow them to open a home for unwanted children. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.