Delirium (1972)


Overall Rating:

Nastiness Rating:

Directed by: Renato Polselli
Written by: Renato Polselli

This movie is about rape. And it’s Italian. I think it’s a spaghetti rape movie.

This Nasty project is making me look like a real dirtbag to my roommate. I have to find a way to prove to her that I don’t just watch really creepy porn all the time.

This movie makes Law & Order: SVU look like Friends.

(Just wait. That becomes relevant.)

Delirium opens with a man picking up a young lady at a bar. Soon enough, he’s giving her a ride home, but she gets a bit more than she bargained for. Ok. A LOT more. He keeps trying to stick his hand up her incredibly tiny skirt. (Although, shots of him make it look like he’s calmly driving with both hands on the wheel.) She gets out of the car and starts running, taking her shoes off and throwing them away. He catches up to her in a waterfall, strips her and brutally beats her to death with a stick or a sponge or something. The cops say it’s the same technique as all the rest of the killings that they’re investigating. I say it’s not much of a “technique.”

It turns out that this man is Dr. Herbert Lyutak (Mickey Hargitay…see? I told you it would become relevant), who is helping the police find a killer. But, of course, he’s linked to the murders because he actually committed one of them…but not all of them. (One of the cops, by the way, looks like Disco Ringo Starr.)

His wife, Marzia (Rita Calderoni) is a horny virgin that he just can’t seem to get it up for. But he nearly strangles her in bed just before telling her that he wants to separate because he’s impotent. He doesn’t want to hurt her. She tells him that he can “do anything” to her. Then she quickly changes her mind when he pulls out what appears to be a large, vibrating tube that cuts her. Then she goes right back to “You can do anything you want to me.”

Most of the women in this movie, besides being weak little ninnies, are also shot like they’re in a Bergman film. A Bergman film with LOTS of sex and nudity. They’re expressionless (unless they’re being killed) and often silhouetted. I fully expected two of them to simultaneously say “Wheat.”

While all of this is going on, Marzia is having crazy sex dreams where Herbert is chained up and she’s rolling around with other naked women. She also has some pretty crazy flashbacks I guess of her and Herbert meeting…in Vietnam?

Meanwhile, there’s a cross between Luis Guzman and Ron Perlman who keeps referring to himself as “the source” running around trying to find the killer because he’s always in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s the comic relief who’s not very funny.

The rest of the film is lame cat and crippled mouse game between the killer, the doctor, the cops and Ron Guzman. And, of course, a lot of nudity that Poselli disturbingly inserts into terrible situations.

At some point, yet another character is introduced (Herbert’s niece?) who is either on Herbert’s side or Marzia’s. It’s incredibly hard to tell.

Of course, she’s the crazy one. By the end of the movie, we find out that – SURPRISE! – no one is innocent! Marzia is insane and has been killing women to protect Herbert. Herbert has been killing women because he’s compelled to. The new character started going crazy because she wanted Marzia for herself? Hell, I don’t know. Either way, they all kill each other while Ron Guzman shows up after being killed to bring the police to the real killer.

Then the movie ends with the cops bringing a barely alive Marzia down the stairs. (“She might be dying of asphyxiation! Quick, make her head flop around backwards while we awkwardly carry her down some stairs!”) She dies, movie’s over. Then we get some really weird stills from the rest of the film like a sado-masochistic version of a 70s tv show.

After all of that, this was not the worst Nasty of the bunch. Not by a long shot. It’s still not very good, though. There’s not a whole lot of sense going on and all of the “sex” scenes are thoroughly ridiculous. Polselli said in an interview on the disc that he never allowed anyone to joke about the nude scenes because they were such an integral part of the story and were never meant to be jokey. He said that he would actually become violent about it. Well, guess what, buddy. You’re ridiculous because you don’t think that two women rolling around on the floor with goofy-ass smiles on their faces isn’t kinda silly. It was incredibly weird and non-sensical. Why was Marzia having dreams about other women? She never seemed to have any lesbian inclinations? And why was Herbert chained up? Why was she chained up sometimes? What was up with the sadism? Yes, yes, repressed sexuality and all that. But does it need to be this…weird and idiotic?

Would I watch it again? I dunno? Would I recommend it to anyone? Not really. Too much attempted rape to get a recommendation for anyone.

As for how much this really amounts to being a Nasty…my guess is that’s the violence to women that got it on the list. Honestly, it’s no more violent than a normal giallo of the time. (In fact, that’s what I would classify it as, if I was to give it a genre.) There’s some blood, yes, but it’s not THAT much. That being said, MOST of the violence is perpetrated against women. The women are beaten, stabbed, punched, strangled and generally abused throughout the film. It…just…never…stops. It’s never glorified, but it’s pretty hard to watch. So, if that’s a trigger, avoid at all costs.

The big question is this: Will I look for more Polselli movies in the future? Sure. They might be fun to dissect. And it will help if Rita Calderoni is in them. She’s one of the few reasons to watch this one. (She’s in three or four of his films, so it could happen.)

The American version of the film, by the way, is completely different. Not only is it about 15 minutes shorter, but it includes an intro that explains that Herbert is a Vietnam vet (he and Marzia met over there…she was a nurse) and an extra kill where Herbert holds a plastic bag over a woman’s head. (This is probably the most violent of the kills, strangely enough.) They probably cut out all of the weird sexual dreams. Like, all of them. Too bad. That’s half the fun of the movie right there. (I know, I should have watched the American version. But I really just wanted to get the disc back to the movie place in the sky. Sorry. I am remiss.)

LOW POINT: A young lady in phone booth calls a random man because she’s being chased by the killer. “Try to scare him, Miss!” is his suggestion. Erm. WHAT?!

Or maybe…

A woman who is helping Herbert is killed by the other killer. She very thoughtfully slips off her robe while he’s killing her. It doesn’t fall off. She deliberately takes it off. While defending herself.

Goddam these movies.

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