As they say (or at least they should), there's always room for giallo. No, it's not a gelatinous dessert, but an Italian film genre generally identified by its use of gory murders, mystery/police procedural elements and strong sexuality. "Giallo" is Italian for yellow, and the genre draws its name from a series of lurid murder mystery novels that sported yellow covers. Delirium (Delirio caldo), which was recently released by Blue Underground, is a modestly interesting example of the form made downright fascinating by presenting the drastically different Italian and U.S. cuts on the same disk.
Starting with the Italian version, this 1972 film stars Mickey Hargitay, former Mr. Universe, ex-husband of Jayne Mansfield and father of actress Mariska Hargitay. Hargitay plays Professor Herbert Lyutak, a psychologist aiding the police in their investigation of a serial killer who has strangled several women, or that's what Lyutak wants people to think. In reality he is the killer, with his violence against women serving as an outlet for his rage and frustration over his sexual impotence. His wife Marcia is played by the stunning Rita Calderoni, an actress I've seen in a handful of films, though I'm just now noticing a striking resemblance to a slightly older Anne Hathaway. Marcia still loves her husband despite his sexual inadequacies. She offers to let him strangle her as a form of gratification and she is given to graphic sexual dreams/fantasies involving other women, her husband and a dungeon. Meanwhile, there's a copycat killer on the loose, murdering women in the same fashion as Lyutak. The story tosses us the usual red herrings, but by the time we learn who the other killer is it's really no surprise. The soundtrack features some trippy Euro-pop tunes, and holy jeez you need to see some of these fashions. Police Inspector Edwards wears one highly memorable shirt that is louder than a Slip Knot concert. The acting is really over the top, and Hargitay makes good use of the crazed wild-eyed look he perfected in Bloody Pit of Horror. Overall it's an enjoyable bit of sleaze that runs out of steam towards the end as Marcia's histrionics become quite unbearable.
The U.S. cut of the film opens in Vietnam, showing Lyutak being injured in battle and being carried to safety by Edwards (revealing that the two characters have a history) with Marcia present as a nurse tending to his wounds. The idea is that Lyutak's wartime experiences serve as a basis for his psychosis. This cut even goes so far as to imply that the film takes place in the U.S., which it clearly does not. Nearly all the scenes are cut together differently. The sex scenes, while still quite graphic, are noticeably toned down and an implied lesbian relationship between Marcia and her niece Joaquine is absent. One victim who escaped in the Italian version dies here, and an entirely new character named Bonita appears only in this cut and figures heavily in the climax of the film, which is also drastically different. I would have said this film swiped the ending of Jacob's Ladder, if Delirium hadn't been made 18 years earlier.
I have to wonder if there might be other cuts of the film that shed some light on the Joaquine character. She shows up briefly at the beginning of the film and appears in Marcia's fevered sex dreams, then turns up in the third act as if we're supposed to know who she is. We learn that she is Lyutak and Marcia's niece, though it's never said what side of the family she is related to. I wouldn't be surprised if there was another International version in which she gets more screen time.
The disk's only extra is an interesting featurette built around interviews with Hargitay (who has since passed away) and director Renato Polselli. Among other things, they explain how the Vietnam scenes were added to make the film more playable in the States. The disk makes for an impressive package and giallo and Euro-sleaze aficionados are going to want to check this out.