“I warn you, the hate of a woman can be very bad!”
— Dialogue from Delirium (1987
The 1987 Italian film Delirium is an odd combination of soapy melodrama and giallo horror. Someone is murdering models and taking pictures of their corpses. Some other people are plotting to take over a magazine. Obscene phone calls are received. Recorded taunts are heard. Oh, and one unlucky model is attacked by a swarm of bees.
That’s right — Delirium is the first and probably the only giallo to feature bees used as a deadly weapon.
Gioia (Serena Grande) is a former prostitute-turned-model-turned-men’s-magazine-publisher. When we first meet Gioia, she’s sitting out at her pool and watching a photo shoot. Her neighbor — a teenage boy who is confined to a wheel chair — calls her.
“You make my member hard with desire!” he tells her, “It wants to penetrate your flower and explode!”
Gioia calmly tells him to stop bothering her and then hangs up on him. And really, this scene pretty much establishes everything that we need to know about Gioia. She is a successful businesswoman who is just as comfortable dealing with the pervert next door as she is making high power deals. You think Donald Trump’s ruthless? Well, he’s got nothing on Gioia!
The other thing that you notice about Gioia is that she has an extremely voluptuous figure. There’s not a single scene that isn’t shot to emphasize that fact and yet, the unapologetic pride that Gioia (and actress Serena Grande) took in her body was actually very empowering and one of the better aspects of the film. Far too often, movies associate being busty with either being stupid or slutty and women are told that they have to hide their figure to be taken seriously. (Traditionally, in horror films, it seems like the bigger an actress’s cup size, the less likely she is to survive until the end of the film.) Speaking as someone who shares Gioia’s struggle, I was happy to see a woman with big boobs being portrayed as both an intelligent businesswoman and a tough, strong survivor.
Gioia has more than just the pervert next door to deal with. There’s also the fact that her models are being murdered and she’s receiving photos of their dead bodies in the mail. Who is killing Gioia’s employees? Could it be a rival publisher (played by Capucine)? Could it be Gioia’s neurotic assistant (played by Daria Nicolodi)? Could it be George Eastman, who plays Gioia’s former lover? Actually, it’s made pretty clear that it’s not George Eastman, which is odd when you consider how many movies have featured Eastman as a killer. (Eastman and Grandi also co-starred in the infamous cannibal epic Anthropophagus, in which Eastman was the killer and Grandi was the center of one of the most infamous scenes in the history of Italian horror.) Or could the killer by the pervert next door?
As is typical of films in the giallo genre, most of the murders are filmed from the killer’s point of view. What’s interesting is that, when the killer looks at his victims, he literally sees them as twisted monsters. It’s a neat little technique that leads to scenes like this:
Delirium was directed by Lamberto Bava, who has never quite gotten the attention that he deserves. Despite the fact that he directed such classics as the two Demons films and A Blade In the Dark, I’ve always felt that Lamberto is often overshadowed by the achievements of his father, Mario Bava. However, Lamberto Bava’s films are almost always entertaining when taken on their own terms. Delirium may not reach the heights of A Blade In The Dark or even Demons but it’s still an entertaining giallo. It’s perhaps not the film to use to introduce a newcomer to the genre but, those of us who are familiar with giallo, Delirium is an enjoyably crazed offering.