BLOOD DELIRIUM’S writer-director Sergio Bergonzelli specialized in over-the-top sexploiters like IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH (1970) and LOVES OF A NYMPHOMANIAC (1972). Things like style, refinement, originality (BLOOD DELIRIUM’S deranged artist concept owes more than a little to H.G. Lewis’ COLOR ME BLOOD RED) and coherency appear to be beyond this auteur’s grasp, but he really knows how to rivet one’s attention.
BLOOD DELIRIUM (DELIRIO DI SANGUE; 1988), like many Italian exploiters from the past couple decades, was headlined by slumming American movie stars, in this case John Philip Law and Gordon Mitchell, better known, respectively, for more distinguished fare like THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD and FELLINI SATYRICON. I hope they were well paid! Also like many Italian flicks, this one was released in several different versions over the years. At present the most complete version is said to be an out-of-print Greek VHS dubbed into English.
Christine, a young woman married to the famous artist San Simone, is assailed one day by the voice of her deceased mother. Christine goes into a swoon and dies, leaving behind a devastated husband. Over the following year the latter becomes a depressed wreck, and his paintings grow increasingly grim and macabre. He eventually snaps completely and places his wife’s maggot-ridden corpse next to his piano.
At an exhibition Simone meets Sybil, a young woman who resembles his wife–but he’s so far gone he believes she is his wife! He invites her to stay at the castle where he lives with his depraved butler Herman. Simone views Herman (originally taken in by Christine out of “sympathy”) as a thorn in his side, mainly due to Herman’s unfortunate penchant for raping and murdering young women! But when Herman kills a gal in the castle stables, Simone has an inspiration: he’ll use her blood as paint for his artwork. This reinvigorates him—for a while, at least. Herman, meanwhile, continues with his own handiwork, drugging Sybil and molesting her while she’s passed out.
Another woman is invited to the castle, and before long she gets an inkling of what’s happening and calls a friend. Herman kills her, thus providing Simone with more blood for his paintings.
The murdered woman’s friend calls the police, who dispatch a helicopter to circle Simone’s castle. Despite his madness, the latter knows full well that the end is near, and plans accordingly…
A few things this film isn’t: scary, suspenseful, intelligent, tasteful, coherent and emotionally resonant. One thing it definitely is, however, is completely and utterly crazy. One would have to go a LONG way to find a nuttier movie, which is why I enjoyed it in spite of my better judgment. Sure, it’s choppily edited, poorly lit, horrendously dubbed and saddled with a completely inappropriate synthesizer score, but it is entertaining in its own sleazy way. It even contains a memorable dream sequence in which snakes and maggots are viewed through distorted lenses.
I’d say jaw-dropping is the most appropriate reaction to the unflinching gore, leering nudity and spectral visitations that, in the outrageously sappy happy ending, show up in the form of bright balls of light that zip through the air and crash to earth like a low rent variant on CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. Bad movie buffs take note!
BLOOD DELIRIUM (DELIRIO DI SANGUE)
Director: Sergio Bergonzelli
Producer: Filippo Campus
Screenplay: Sergio Bergonzelli
Cinematography: Raffaele Mertes
Editing: Vincenzo Di Santo
Cast: John Philip Law, Gordon Mitchell, Brigitte Christensen, Marco Di Stefano, Olinka Hardiman