Color, 1979, 88 mins. 6 secs.
Directed by Peter Maris
Starring Turk Cekovsky, Debi Chaney, Terry TenBroek, Barron Winchester, Bob Winters, Nick Panouzis, Garrett Bergfeld
Severin Films (Blu-ray and DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Another one of those inscrutable sorta-horror movies that seemed to be in every mom and pop video store in the '80s, Delirium (also released as Psycho Puppet) screams regional American filmmaking from its opening frames. The Paragon VHS in the U.S. no doubt baffled more than a few horror fans expecting something straightforward and instead got a cross between a Vietnam vigilante action film and a tacky slasher, while the U.K. was less amused and banned the film as a video nasty back in the day before it was eventually reissued on tape with one scene snipped down. In its laudable quest to bring every video nasty-branded film from the era back to the public, Severin Films has dragged this one back into the sunlight with a Blu-ray crafted from what's touted as the last remaining 35mm print. Thankfully it's in very good shape and also makes for a fine way for newbies to discover a film that can still make your brain hurt.
A community is being terrorized by Charlie (Panouzis), a maniac dubbed "the Spear Killer" by investigating cops Paul Dollinger (Cekovsky) and Larry Mead (Terry TenBroek) due to his nasty habit of impaling his victims even if there's a door in his way. The trail of clues including victim roommate and potential love interest Susan (Chaney) soon leads to an underground organization of disgruntled Vietnam vets led by the bald, snarling Eric Stern (Winchester) who have decided that society has gone so far down the toilet they have to dole out corporal punishment themselves. Unfortunately their decision to rope in the PTSD-addled Charlie is giving them far more attention than they'd like, so it's time to tie up any loose ends as violently as possible.
A St. Louis wonder laced with 'Nam flashbacks and rampant library music (some of which will sound very familiar to fans of Rabid and The Sweeney), Delirium is a very schizoid viewing experience -- which makes sense given that the whole enforcer organization plot was shot first as an unfinished film, with the more slasher-style Charlie interludes added later to have a releasable product. It's disjointed but definitely not dull, tossing in murder scenes for the first hour or so before morphing into a full-on action film complete with stunts, blood squibs, and explosions.
As mentioned above, the film's Blu-ray debut (with simultaneous DVD) comes from the sole extant print but looks colorful and detailed enough here with plenty of grungy film grain to remind you of its origins. It's obviously not demo material, but the presentation definitely suits the subject matter. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track also sounds fine throughout, with optional English SDH subtitles provided. In "Directing Delirium" (20m24s), director Peter Maris (who went on to helm films like Land of Doom, Diplomatic Immunity, and Terror Squad, and here wears a cap for his last film to date, Zombie Hunters) covers the advantage of hiring a guy born without a hand, the logistics of the war flashbacks, a fortuitous discovery of a big stash of marijuana plants that sidelined the crew the following day, and more stories from the set. Then in "Monster Is Man" (16m34s), special effects artist Bob Shelley covers his career leading to this film including an early gig on The Moonrunners and the living he got to make "blowing stuff up" on projects like The Dukes of Hazzard. Of course he also talks about his work on this film ranging from the prosthetic knife-through-door gag, the gunshot gags, and lessons he learned along the way. Finally the disc winds up with the excellent theatrical trailer, which probably would've packed 'em in had it played more widely.
Reviewed on February 14, 2022.