Herb's got problems at home. He loves his wife and she loves him back, but he's been unable to perform his husbandly duties. It seems that he can't get aroused unless he's strangling somebody. Marzia Lyutak (Ria Calderoni) worries that hubby is holding something back and urges him to indulge any impulse he has, so long as he'll do it with her. It gets pretty hot for a while. Just the sight of the Lyutaks making out gets the maid to licking her shoulder and fondling her own breasts. But Herbert simply can't rise to the occasion unless he takes it, or her, by the neck. For all the Mrs. knows, this is just a game of erotic asphyxiation. She doesn't realize that this is a two-way street as far as pleasure goes, though she might not be coming back. But no: Herbert won't let himself do this to his beloved. He realizes he has gone too far. He must end his murderous career.
That should be simple enough. He can confess to his police pals, right? But they might not believe him if he tells them. He has to show them. So he calls them and explains that, thanks to his advanced "meteoropsychic" analysis, he can predict the time and location of the killer's next attack. The cops just need to stake the site out and set up a decoy to lure him. All is arranged as he wants, and on cue he arrives at the park and approaches the designated victim. But he can barely strike up a conversation with her when they hear a woman's scream. The killer has struck; a woman is dead. Lyutak's analysis was virtually perfect, the police admit, but the doctor himself is quite perplexed. After all, isn't he the killer?
Thus writer-director Renato Polselli drops us through the trapdoor into the utter wackness that is Delirio Caldo, one of the greatest love stories ever rendered on celluloid -- as long as you leave morality or sanity out of the equation. We're in the amour fou zone here with a lead couple each of whom looks to the other in vain as an anchor of normality in a turbulent sea of compulsions. Marzia, for instance, clings to Herbert while dreaming of lesbian romps with the maid and Marzia's own niece, Joaquine. The highlight of the film is a red-lit nightmare sequence in which Marzia envisions herself and Herbert writhing and shackled as Joaquine and the maid get it on on the floor. Joaquine frees Marzia while Herbert thrashes and grimaces as only Mickey Hargitay can, and the loyal wife descends for a female threesome, only to see the other girls laughing at her. Fighting these urges, Marzia will do anything to keep her husband, if you get my drift. But she isn't dreaming Joaquine's own urges, which make the niece just as determined to drive the couple apart. And all the while the bodies keep piling up. The dead ones, I mean.
Delirium is a film on the cheap. Our detectives operate out of a police headquarters which looks neither official or public and is pretty obviously somebody's house with a couple of guys dressed up as bobbies. And did I mention that this impoverished Italian film is supposed to be set in Britain? Polselli won't do anything so obvious as tell you this, but you can figure it out from the bobbies, the "TELEPHONE" booth one victim hides in, and the habit one comedy-relief murder suspect has of uttering an occasional English phrase.
This is Britain.
Polselli can't even be bothered with stock footage or anything that might slightly suspend your disbelief in the Englishness of it all. But he seems to have trouble with the basics of cheap cinema. In one scene, Hargitay is driving a car at night. You'd expect some kind of process shot to create the illusion of a moving background, but what you get looks for all the world like a pinwheel made of rocks that rotates counterclockwise rather than a scrolling image from right to left. At times the cheapness of Delirium is almost embarrassing, but at others it actually enhances the starkness of the situation. Hargitay's first murder scene is dark, clumsy and protracted, but the notion you get that it had to be an unpleasant experience for the actress playing the victim gives the scene a certain primitive power.
Let's face it, anyway. You don't need big or even plausible sets to convey Delirium. A film like this depends entirely on its actors, and that's where Mickey Hargitay comes in. Mariska's Dad earned his nutjob credentials for all time when he played Travis "Crimson Executioner" Anderson in Massimo Pupillo's Il boia scarlatta, better known in America as Bloody Pit of Horror. If anything, Hargitay is ever screwier here, where he has to play a conflicted antihero with a guilty conscience, than when he played that more famous narcissistic maniac. With his fevered expressions and his bad hair, he looks quite convincingly like someone at the end of his rope. For all I know, showing up in this project meant that he was at the end of his rope. I notice that he did only one more movie in Italy, again for Polselli (The Reincarnation of Isabel) before retiring. That's regrettable, though maybe not from his own standpoint, because he could have given many more crazy performances in the years that followed. But I guess that makes the few he actually did, like this one, more precious. His female colleagues aren't far behind, Calderoni keeping at a constant level of hysteria and Christa Barrymore as Joaquine exploding over the top late in the picture.
Rita Calderoni and Christa Barrymore play very rough in the last act of Delirium, but it leaves them very relaxed afterwards.
Objectively speaking, I'd probably have to call Delirium a bad movie, but it's bad in an entertaining way. As an exploitation film, it presses most of the right buttons, and I'd definitely recommend it to fans of female nudity and guileless overacting. At the very least, Delirium comes closer to truth in advertising than most movies do.
If there was an original trailer for Delirio Caldo it doesn't exist online, but GialloTrailers has uploaded an unofficial trailer featuring the movie music of Gianfranco Reverberi.