Color, 1987, 93m.
Directed by Lamberto Bava
Starring Serena Grandi, Daria Nicolodi, Vanni Corbellini, David Brandon, George Eastman, Karl Zinny
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Some audiences and critics felt the gialli of the '60s and '70s were more than a little absurd, but nothing could have prepared them for the direction the Italian thriller took in the '80s. While Miami Vice and MTV swallowed up pop culture, directors scrambled to make their sexy murder mysteries more hip, more flashy, and more senseless, resulting in deranged concoctions like Al Festa's epic-length train wreck, Fatal Frames. Lamberto Bava helped with a few detours along the way such as the eccentric but lovable Body Puzzle and his utterly daffy Le foto di Gioia, released in English-speaking territories as Delirium.
Busty Tinto Brass starlet Serena Grandi (Miranda) stars as Gloria, a skin-flick star and model whose glossy Pussycat magazine business is disrupted by dirty prank calls from a wheelchair-bound teen fan (Demons' Zinny) and a series of mysterious killings involving her models. Blood and Black Lace this ain't, however. One of the models is stabbed, while another - in one of the oddest killings you'll ever see - is stung to death by a swarm of bees inside her house. The bodies are then arranged stylishly in front of - you guessed it - giant pictures of Gloria. Meanwhile we occasionally jump to the killer's perspective as each model assumes a psychotic appearance, ranging from a giant eyeball head to a big beehive accompanied by flashing red lights. Could the killer be Gloria's piggy former flame, Alex (Joe D'Amato favorite Eastman)? Or how about her impotent brother, Tony (Corbellini)? Or how about her sadistic lead photographer, Roberto (StageFright's Brandon)? Eventually she and her tormenter face off in a ridiculous finale best seen without any prior warning.
Despite his technical proficiency, Lamberto Bava seems to be aiming for a commercial project to satisfy audiences for both horror movies and softcore sex, which weren't exactly compatible in 1987. Instead what we have is a truly cockeyed mishmash of sexploitation and bloodshed, exemplified by the sight of a top-heavy model in a see-through wet dress spitting blood when she's stabbed with a pitchfork in a swimming pool. Devoid of the perverse sense of sadism which distinguishes Dario Argento's films, this is instead a strangely benign and cheerful film that feels far more dated far more than its predecessors, due in no small part to the parade of outrageously huge shoulder pads. That doesn't mean there isn't plenty of fun to be had, however; Grandi is always highly entertaining to watch as she and her breasts heave their way from scene to scene (apart from an incredibly unflattering final freeze frame), and the delicious supporting cast includes a number of familiar Italian horror vets such as Daria Nicolodi (in what amounts to a glorified cameo for a couple of scenes). Also on hand is composer Simon Boswell, coming off of Demons 2, who seems to be on autopilot here with a diverting but unremarkable synth score, and a surprise appearance by '60s movie glamour queen Capucine (The Pink Panther) just to keep things interesting.
Whatever one thinks of the actual film, it's certainly an eye-popping visual experience with some sparkling production design and enough pretty colors to keep your pupils occupied for an hour and a half. Delirium has been served pretty well on video over the years, starting with the red carpet treatment it received on DVD from Media Blasters in 2002. The transfer was fine for the time if unspectacular(especially compared to the gray market VHS bootlegs fans had to resort to before it), and the disc contains fine video interviews with Bava and Brandon (12 mins. each), both of whom put the film in perspective with their careers at the time and seem to have warm memories of working on the project. A more general 8-minute interview with Eastman is included in which he's much more complimentary of his director than the one conducted much later for Blastfighter. A very brief text essay by Scooter McCrae also extols the virtues of this film, and text bios are also included for Bava, Eastman, Grandi, Nicolodi, and Brandon, plus a gallery of photo shoot images. Though no trailer seems to be floating around, the disc does include promos for other Shriek Show Euro horror titles including Burial Ground, House of Clocks, Sweet House of Horrors, and Beyond the Darkness.
The 2017 Blu-ray edition from Code Red marks the finest release of the film to date, highlighted by a gorgeous HD transfer that wrings every bit of saturated color and crystalline detail out of the film with a fairly satisfying layer of film grain visible throughout. Black levels are nice and balanced, with a pleasing sense of depth. Unlike the Media Blasters release (from a PAL master), it also runs at the correct film speed and clocks in at 93 minutes versus the DVD's 90 minutes. There's quite a bit of additional image info visible as well with more spacious 1.85:1 framing, which also corrects some visible horizontal squeezing on the DVD. The English DTS-HD MA mono audio sounds satisfying enough if not terribly dynamic. (Curiously, the end credits boast a Dolby Stereo credit, but every video transfer has been in mono; if anyone caught the Italian version in theaters, perhaps they can attest whether a stereo version of this ever actually existed.) The previous Bava, Eastman, and Brandon interviews have been ported over, with a quartet of new video interviews by Freak-o-Rama added as well with Bava ("Snapshots of a Murder," 18 mins.), Eastman ("Stories from the Bathtub," 9 mins.), director of photography Gianlorenzo Battaglia ("Murders in Red and Blue," 8 mins.), and art director Massimo Antonello Geleg ("Inside Delirium," 13 mins.). Neither of the two new interviewees seems all that enthused about their work, and hilariously, both Bava and Eastman are far more negative about the film now, with Eastman in particular throwing out some memorable slams ("Honestly, this movie sucked! I only did it because they accepted the fee I asked for."). Some of Eastman's disses about Bava from his Blastfighter interview get repeated here; he also chats quite a bit about the original casting of Edwige Fenech in the lead, which should be enough to have classic giallo fans sighing at what could have been, and offers a different, goofier take on his story about the bathtub scene during which Grandi, "a pitiful actress," "squashed my nuts underwater and I was so pissed off!" Pure gold.
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