Doctor Herbert Lyutak (Mickey Hargitay) is in a cafe when a young woman puts a record on the jukebox to listen to, immediately catching his attention. When she makes a telephone call to her friend to say she would like to meet him in a nightclub, Lyutak steps in to offer her a lift and soon they are driving through the evening in his car, but not long into the journey she notices something is wrong. They don't appear to be going the right way, in fact they're heading into the countryside and by the behaviour of the doctor she realises she is in danger as he begins to paw at her legs. The car stops and he chases her towards a river where all is revealed: the murderer who has been blighting the region is Lyutak himself!
Which sounds like the end of a giallo thriller, what with the killer unmasked, but in the case of Delirium it was only the beginning. Now we know psychologist Dr Lyutak is out of his mind, it should be a matter of how soon he is caught by the police on his trail, but director Renato Polselli was not going to play ball, preferring as the title suggested to craft a feverish yarn about which the audience was never one hundred percent sure of what was actually going on. There was an aspect which we were certain about, and that was the doc was crazy, and his wife was too: Marzia (her name is repeated fifteen billion times in case you didn't catch it initially) and he were a perfect couple.
But how much of a victim was the missus, was the question which should trouble you if you hoped to reach the end of the movie with some semblance of a notion of the finer points of the plot. It was true the home life of the Luytens appeared to be made up of her fretting and suffering bizarre, sexually-themed nightmares alternating with imagery of a medieval dungeon, then him apologising for being impotent and putting her through some ordeal or other, at one point including some arcane artefact he keeps locked up in a box and drags over Marzia's naked back hard enough to draw (unconvincing) blood. She seems to love him all the same, but does she actually know what he gets up to at night?
When he's not with her, that is? Marzia was played by Rita Calderoni who reteamed with Polselli and Hargitay for a more celebrated Italian horror flick, The Reincarnation of Isabel, the following year - many of the other cast and crew worked on both. This has left Delirium a little neglected, but the former Mr Universe and Mr Jayne Mansfield does attract attention for his somewhat campy status: imagine if Arnold Schwarzenegger (who owed a debt to Hargitay's career) had proceeded to star in a bunch of trashy European movies instead of pursuing his ambition for superstardom on the silver screen. Hargitay was a lot more modest, glad to help out but never really aiming for the front rank of acting celebrity, and when you watched efforts like this you wouldn't be surprised.
The irony is that as a psychologist, Lyutak is called in to assist the police with their enquiries, not because they suspect him of the crimes but because they believe he has the insight to capture the madman. Oddly enough, the murders carry on even when the doc isn't committing them, which shouldn't take too much deduction on the part of the viewer to twig that there's someone else involved, someone Lyutak has no idea about. Delirum was nutty enough to offer amusement to the seasoned giallo fan, but for all its frequent interludes into utter lunacy (not least those orgiastic visions Marzia endures/enjoys) but there was a distinctly miserable tone to the proceedings which worked against how enjoyable it was. Fair enough, murder is no laughing matter, but no matter how lurid and debauched it became the sense that you were not meant to be enjoying it at all dominated. For seekers of the, shall we say, out of the ordinary and over the top, outright sadistic even, Polselli provided what they were after, yet it was rarely as engrossing as it should have been. Music by Gianfranco Reverberi.