Delirio Caldo (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

If you ever hear some pedants rant on about how modern films are too sexy and violent and stupid, refer them to this 1972 film, which shows that modern films seem to be gentle, chaste, logical, and lacking in sensationalism. Of course, compared to this film, Jerry Springer is gentle, chaste, logical, and lacking in sensationalism. Compared to this film, Springer's show looks like the McNeil-Lehrer report.

In the opening scene, a young woman plays the juke box in a local bar. As she wriggles seductively to the music, some hard eyes view her ominously. As we draw back to see that guy, we see the bartender's hard eyes viewing HIM ominously. When the girl goes to the phone to call her boyfriend, everyone eyes everyone else ominously in close ups and medium shots. You expect Lee van Cleef to draw at any minute.

The girl's phone call consists of her telling her boyfriend that she does not know where the club is. Mr. Ominous comes over to her and offers her a ride. He lives in the neighborhood, and he knows where the club is - just a few minutes away.

In the next scene, we see them driving through a remote, rugged countryside. They cross a lonely country bridge. No other cars are in sight as their headlights cut through the mist and darkness. The girl says "oh, you're so kind. My boyfriend will be so happy to see me at the club." It doesn't seem to dawn on her that they have not only left the neighborhood, but have left civilization. They drive through tundra and salt flats. They see those "poison" signs with dead cow heads attached. They spy the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the buttes of the western U.S. They take a few ferries. They pass first dog sled teams then camel caravans, and still she chats on as if the bar were coming up any minute. Finally, at Iguazu Falls, he pulls the car over and sticks his hand up her dress. She looks around, sees that they are beside the waterfall, and finally says ...

                                    "hey, this isn't the way to the club".

She then runs out of the car and up the river toward the falls. At first we think she may escape, because she has removed her shoes and is running full steam, while Mr Ominous is lumbering along at a Zombie-like pace. There is a major flaw in her plan, however. What the hell is she planning to do when she gets to the falls? Will she swim up like a salmon? No, she has a different plan, which is to be caught, stripped, and bludgeoned to death by Mr Ominous. Interestingly, although he rips off her clothes before killing her, and despite the fact that he was pawing her in the car, he does not molest her sexually or touch any of her naughty bits.

Cut to the police station, where our two investigators are wearing the exact same clothing and hair styles as the Festrunk Brothers on Saturday Night Live. They are two wild and crazy cops, with their ears hidden by gigantic 70's sideburns and their hairy chests peeking out from underneath their groovy, unbuttoned, loud polyester shirts.


To make a long story a bit shorter, it turns out that the killer is the police psychologist. He isn't just Mr Ominous, but Dr Ominous. As Mike Myers would point out, Dr Ominous didn't spend all those years in Ominous Medical School just so I could call him Mr. All the clues point to him immediately, but every time the police have a clue that he is the murderer, they concoct an elaborate scheme to blame someone else. Apparently, they are not up on the Occam's Razor theory. For example, when a later murder is committed with his knife in his house, and he also has to kill a witness on the site, and the knife also proves to have killed several earlier victims, the cops conclude that the witness was the murderer, and that he stole the knife, used it to commit the murders, and got caught returning the knife to the doctor's house. Case closed. Of course, their theory collapsed faster than Phil Mickelson in a major, but they devised plenty more ludicrous explanations when that one failed.

To offer a bit of defense for the Festrunk Cops' stupidity, it did turn out that one of the murders was a copycat crime, committed by the psychologist's devoted wife while Dr Ominous was talking to the cops. You see, she loves him and she knows he's the murderer, so she tried to trick the police. Given the policemen's own lack of native intellect when faced with the clues, her trickery wasn't really necessary. You'd think she could have determined that from their wardrobe.

In addition to its sheer tastelessness and density, Delirium delivers some of the strangest, most consistently demented and sadistic slasher action I've seen. I kept looking at the DVD box and thinking, "they couldn't do this stuff in 1972, could they?" I never saw anything this graphic in murder mysteries back then. If you like sex with your violence, it is kind of a full service film, because he not only chooses to strip his victims for no apparent purpose, but when he falls asleep, he dreams of torturing three women, including his wife and some household servants. These three women also have three-way lesbian sex in his dreams, which we see in fairly graphic detail.


Lots of nudity, and I could have figured out who they all were, because I knew their character names -  if only the film had credits, which it didn't!

Rita Calderoni was topless as the killer's wife.

Christa Barrymore was topless as the killer's maid.

Three victims showed some flesh, including frontals. The other woman in the lesbian threesome showed her breasts and butt.

There are more nudes of Calderoni from other movies in the 14 minute DVD feature.

The DVD includes an uncut international version and a somewhat different US version. The USA version is 17 minutes shorter, but about 25 minutes have been cut, some of it replaced by a prologue which takes place in Vietnam and shows how that conflict caused Dr Ominous to become so sadistic and just so gosh darn ominous. The Vietnam section consists of stock footage, followed by a facial shot of the Doc (practicing his ominousity), followed by more stock footage, followed by a facial shot of his wife, etc. There was no available negative of the Vietnam scene, and the only print they could find was Danish, so the beginning of the American cut has Danish subtitles!

The Italian version is supposed to take place in England, but is in Italian, with English subtitles. As you may know, Italian directors just about never recorded live sound. The Italians were the first truly global film entrepreneurs, shooting the footage, then adding sound later in many, many languages. My Russian wife and I have seen many of the same Italian movies before we met - me in English or German, she in Russian. Shooting without sound is very efficient, since a crew can be hammering away on a set being constructed two feet away from a tender love scene, while the director supervises both.

In this film we hear the actors speaking in Italian with English subtitles, but when we see written notes on screen, they are in English!

By the way, worst ... fight scenes ... ever. When people fight, they simply grip each other tightly and try to break each other's grip in front of a stationary camera.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen format, 1.85:1

  • The 102 minute international version is pretty good quality, and appears to have been mastered from a negative

  • 14 minute  interview with Polselli and Hargitay

  • The 85 minute American version was obviously mastered from several different prints, none of them especially good, some very bad.

The director, Renato Polselli, alias Ralph Brown, is a cult figure in the world of demented low budget films, sort of an Italian Jess Franco. Although he was a Doctor of Philosophy, he found the cinema world more alluring than the academic. A biographer wrote that he was fond of many eccentric devices, like the "cinematic non sequitur," or the "wander off and see what's happening over here" sequence. Here is virtually everything you'd ever want to know about Polselli

By the way, Mickey Hargitay (Dr Ominous), star of many of Polselli's films, is the body-builder who was married to Jayne Mansfield. A couple of their kids are currently active in showbiz in some way.  Their daughter Mariska is a fairly recognizable actress.  (Jayne Marie Mansfield is not Hargitay's daughter, but Jayne's daughter from another marriage). Mariska and her brothers were actually in the car crash that killed Jayne, but were not seriously harmed. 

The Critics Vote

  • no reviews online


The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 8.0/10, based on the votes of eight people not in touch with reality. The correct score is about 3 or 4
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-, I suppose. You could argue for a lower score, and I couldn't dispute it, but it's very interesting in two respects (1) a restored historical record of a forgotten genre of grade-b giallo movies (2) so bad it's good in some scenes, therefore fun to laugh at. If the summary doesn't appeal to you, however, stay away, because it is a deeply disturbed and completely illogical film.

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