After recently viewing the stellar "Trees Lounge," a film written, directed, and starring veteran character actor Steve Buscemi, my mind conjured forth dim recollections of the classic 1993 film "Ed and His Dead Mother." I say classic here because this movie, starring Steve Buscemi, should easily fall into that category. That people do not consider this film a must see production is a shame of epic proportions. Its obscurity is sort of a mystery to me, since I first saw the film when it received a wide showing on cable television back in the early to mid 1990s. I know if I saw it and remembered it, masses of other people must have had a similar experience, but apparently not if the dearth of reviews here is any indication. Viewers who adore the blackest of comedies really ought to give this one a shot because few films attain this level of laugh out loud hilarity while making you feel terrible for finding such material amusing. Even if you aren't a fan of black comedy, you should still watch "Ed and His Dead Mother" for the stand out performances from Buscemi, Ned Beatty, John Glover, and Miriam Margolyes.
Ed Chilton (Steve Buscemi) has a bit of a problem. He's a huge momma's boy whose mother recently passed on. Since Ed's father died years ago, this calamity means Ed got his mother's house, the family hardware store, and a huge check from the insurance company. The only real family Chilton has left is his Uncle Benny (Ned Beatty), an aging miscreant who likes to scan neighborhood windows with a telescope. The days pass slowly without his mother around, but Ed copes as best he can down at the hardware store where he occasionally encounters the local preacher looking for a bear trap big enough so he can catch his wife cheating on him (!). A weird town filled with strange people gets stranger still when A.J. Pattle (John Glover), crack salesman for Happy People, Ltd, arrives in town with an offer Ed Chilton would be hard pressed to pass up. For a measly one thousand dollars, Pattle promises to raise Ed's mother from her resting place. Moreover, the verbose salesman assures Ed that anyone who contracts with Happy People is sure to find full satisfaction with this seemingly shocking procedure. Heck, Pattle's company has resurrected some important people over the years, as evidenced by the pictures of such well known customers as Nancy Reagan seen hanging on the walls at the company headquarters. Ed quickly folds under the relentless assault of Pattle's pitch and coughs up a check. After the two haggle over a few pesky problems (Ed's mother did not receive the best attention from the undertaker), it isn't any time before mom shows up at the house just like she's never been away.
Sounds great, doesn't it? Well, Ed soon faces a whole host of unforeseen problems. A sexy number, named Storm of all things, moves in across the street and soon fixes her eyes on our hapless hero. Uncle Benny is less than happy about the reemergence of mom, too, since he can no longer live the type of life he finally achieved with the death of his overbearing sister. Moreover, a former store employee sent away for stealing by Chilton's mum just got out of prison and decides to seek revenge against the family. To top it all off, the reanimation procedure requires Mother Chilton to eat a daily allotment of huge roaches to stay alive. When she doesn't follow her dietary regimen to a T, weird things start to happen in the Chilton household. Mom might bake hundreds of pies in a few hours, or chase pets with power tools through the neighborhood streets, or dress in provocative clothing and prance about on her bed. She might even go after human beings with riding lawn mowers. Recently reanimated mothers with access to a hardware store spell trouble. Ed ultimately must make difficult decisions about his mom, but they are choices that hold the key to letting go and moving on with life. Maybe.
It is the performances that really make "Ed and His Dead Mother" such a hilarious romp through the realms of black comedy. Ned Beatty deserves some sort of award for his turn as the side splittingly funny Uncle Benny. The star of "Deliverance" plays his role here with stone faced deliberateness, with most of the funniest lines in the entire movie coming right from his character's mouth. I will never forget his response to Ed's inquiry as to the whereabouts of mother one morning after her return to the house: "Your mother is in the refrigerator," delivered with perfect comic timing. Buscemi and Margolyes are always good no matter what the role and both do an excellent job here. John Glover is perfectly cast as the slick A.J. Pattle, a man willing to seal the deal no matter what it takes. You almost need to rewatch the film in order to catch everything his character says because he says it so fast and so smoothly, just as a door-to-door salesman should.
"Ed and His Dead Mother," despite its black humor, is really a film about dealing with loss, and how a person must learn to cope with that loss and live their own lives to the fullest. It is great to see this get a DVD release, with a great picture transfer and plenty of extras. A commentary from director Jonathan Wacks graces this disc, along with a trailer and alternate beginning and ending sequences. A cult classic that never became cult or classic, "Ed and His Dead Mother" is required viewing for fans of twisted black comedy.