Delirium (1972)

Article #1468 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-22-2005
Posting Date: 8-19-2005
Directed by Renato Polselli
Featuring Mickey Hargitay, Rita Caleroni, Raoul Rossi

An impotent doctor tries to make up for his inability to satisfy his wife by committing gruesome murders on beautiful women. When he tries to set himself to be caught by the police, though, his own attempt at murder is interrupted by another murder.

I must admit that I distrust the giallo subgenre; I’m never quite sure to what extent the extended, graphic murders of women common to that form are really examples of “violence as art” or just plain sadistic pandering. If the movies I’d seen had consisted of nothing more than stretches of sadistic violence, I would definitely opt for the latter; however, there always seemed to be something else going on as well, and it’s this extra layer that makes them somewhat more interesting and less offensive.

Still, I was tempted to forgo the more explicit international version of this movie with the shortened American version, and since the DVD jacket points out that the two versions have different subplots and develop in different ways, I could have made the argument that neither version was probably definitive (the American version apparently has a subplot about the Vietnam war). Nevertheless, I opted for the longer version as the more legitimate of the two (and I really didn’t feel up to watching both versions). The murders are pretty nasty, less for explicit gore and more for the sadistic sexuality behind them. It’s something of a mixed bag; it’s confusing at times, laughable at others (especially the silly fantasy sequences), and just because you’re watching the Italian version doesn’t mean you’re not going to be set upon by bad dubbing. Certain plot points are utterly predictable; though I was surprised when a second murderer came on the scene, it took me less than ten minutes to figure out who it would be. Some of the other touches make it intriguing, though; in particular, I found myself fascinated by a the character of the parking lot attendant who somehow ended up being on the scene for practically every murder and naturally becomes the main suspect. Of course he’s not guilty, but I found myself asking why he just happened to be there; was it bad luck? Sheer stupidity? Or was there some ulterior motive to it all? At any rate, his presence adds a bizarre comic touch to the proceedings, which is all to the good, especially since the somewhat outrageous, over-the-top ending has a comic tinge all its own, if for no other reason than it pushes the envelope as to just how many perverted psychos you can cram into one movie.

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