Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Delirio caldo / Delirium

Dr Herbert Lyutak, criminal psychologist, has a problem: he is a compulsive killer. Determined to bring his crimes to an end, he sets himself up to be arrested, telling his police colleagues the time and place he believes the killer will next strike. Unfortunately another killer is at work and Lutyak's attempt to frame himself fails when - in a neat variation on the device first introduced to the form via Mario Bava in Blood and Black Lace, in that Lutyak does not know who his 'accomplice' is - a murder he couldn't have committed occurs...

This convoluted giallo wallows in sleaze and perversity and is all the better for it. Though released fully 20 years before Basic Instinct, Renato Polselli's film outdoes Paul Verhoeven's on all counts to more than live up to its title with sex, violence, killer lesbians, psychedelic orgies, sadomasochism, bad fashions and trashy garage/psychedelic rock - you name it, Delirio Caldo has it.

Mickey Hargitay, the Arnold Schwarzenegger of his day, gives an eyeball rolling, over-the top-performance to rival that of Bloody Pit of Horror as Lutyak.

Polselli, credited under his usual Ralph Brown pseudonym, throws in the zooms and wacky camera angles with abandon and draws uninhibited performances from his female leads, including favoured fetish star / muse Rita Calderoni as Lutyak's wife, Marcia.

In sum, they really don't make them like this anymore - more's the pity.

Delirio Caldo is also one of those gialli with an interesting production / distribution history, as made evident via Anchor Bay's highly recommended DVD.

The US, English-language version of the film as Delirium is shorter, running 85 minutes. In what seems a characteristic display of violence being deemed more acceptable than sex there, it removes much of the racier materiala but adds a couple of murders. In addition it attempts to contextualise Lutyak's condition as the consequence of his traumatic experiences in the Vietnam war. Unfortunately any political edge that might have emerged thereby, or from the character's positioning as a Hungarian emigre (much like Hargitay himself), is lost through a it-was-all-a-dream type resolution.

The Italian version, Delirio Caldo runs 102 minutes and unconvincingly locates events in London, with the inclusion of some bobbies in no way compensating for the all-too-Mediterranean environs.

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