A maniac is murdering the models for Pussycat magazine and sending snapshots of his/her handiwork to its editor / proprietor Gloria (Serena Grandi); the character is named Gioia – i.e. Joy – in the Italian, thus giving a double meaning to the title Le Foto di Gioia, depending on whether one reads Gioia with or without an initial capital.
Serena Grandi as Serena Grandi or Gioia?
Who could it be? The procession of usual suspects facing Inspector Corsi (Lino Salemme; you'll know his face if not his name as he's cast against type and ironically remarks on how he is often mistaken for a thug on account of his distinctive physiognomy) is a long one.
There's Mark (Karl Zinny), the wheelchair-bound peeping tom who lives opposite Gioia, watches her every move from his rear window; makes obscene phonecalls and suffers from a paralysis that is, according to his doctor, entirely psychosomatic.
The film is replete with phallic imagery, if one wants to look for that sort of thing; note also Mark's yellow room
There's rival publisher Flora (Capucine), who would seemingly stop at nothing to be top dog – or is that bitch – once more and happily tries to turn the situation to her advantage.
There's Roberto (David Brandon), the gay photographer who has conveniently managed to misplace some compromising photos from Gloria's modelling days, and Eveline (Daria Nicolodi), the devoted personal assistant who always seems to be on hand to receive the maniac's latest package.
And then there's the Gloria's own dubious past, before her husband died in a speedboat accident to leave her the magazine...
One of the killer's still lifes
The obligatory black gloves and mannequins
Gioia wakes up to find a crowd standing over her, much like Nora Davis in Mario Bava's The Girl Who Knew too Much, but without the same visual flair
Lamberto Bava seems forever doomed to be compared to his father Mario and mentor Dario Argento and found wanting. While his work sometimes warrants more recognition in its own right, with A Blade in the Dark serving as a textbook example of how to make a low-budget giallo, Delirium: Photos of Gioia is not such a work, instead operating at the trashier end of the spectrum.
Admittedly some aspects of the piece cannot be helped. Whereas the styles and technology of a 60s or 70s gialli now have that retro aspect to them, the 80s – big hair, shoulder pads, pastels and patterns etc – still emerges as too close in time for such a re-evaluation to take place, while Serena Grandi compares unfavourably to the likes of Edwige Fenech in the woman-in-peril stakes and, on this showing at least, as an actress.
Elsewhere, however, Bava and his collaborators do themselves few favours in borrowing liberally from the Argento playbook in choreographing murder-as-spectacle to a propulsive rock soundtrack – Simon Boswell in Goblin / Simonetti mode – but rarely manages to quite push things into the same delirious, absolute territory.
When Bava does introduce some ideas of his own, most notably the horror masks worn by the victims during the stalk and slash sequences and intended, along with the use of Suspiria-like colour filters, to convey the killer's warped perspective, the results are as much laughable as anything else.
Some of the killer's subjective visions
A macabre bathroom death by bee-stings recalls Phenomena and some of the more inventive murder methods seen in the likes of Crimes of the Black Cat and The Black Belly of the Tarantula. “Murder considered as one of the fine arts,” indeed.