My notes on the video nasty Delirium.Among the most obscure (and tame) items on the DPP’s ‘video nasties’ list, this is an odd conflation of red herring psycho ‘Nam vet business with a conspiracy/vigilante plot rendered hilarious for UK viewers by a stock music choice.
In St Louis, Mo., traumatised, impotent, maniacal Charlie Gunther (Nick Panouzis), who has no dialogue though no one ever suggests he’s mute, is on the run after shoving a spear through a door (and, not incidentally, a girl), which prompts the lead cops (Turk Cekovsky, Terry TenBroek) to hang out with the victim’s room-mate Susan (Debi Chaney), who reveals that the killer came to her boss’s office for a job interview recently and left looking happy. It turns out that Charlie was recruited by a cabal, run by another mad military man Eric Stern (Barron Winchester), who avenge injustices by kidnapping crooks who have got away with it and then staging their suicides. Susan’s boss, whose daughter’s killer was one of the suicides, is in the cabal, but wavery about their methods. Charlie (too unstable for vigilante work) gets killed (after a few more murders) an hour in, so the cops get on with the business of tracking Stern, a bald dude in sunglasses, and shooting it out with him (prompting more flashbacks to Vietnam as Stern sees the police as VC). The cabal’s theme tune, played during their meetings and over the end credits, is a library track called ‘Approaching Menace’ by Neil Richardson, which is instantly recognisable in Britain as the signature tune for the quiz show Mastermind – US viewers, imagine if the theme from Jeopardy were to play during a tense scene in, say, Eden Lake. It’s hard to see why anyone got worked up about the levels of gore here, when far meaner films weren’t flagged: it seems one or two complaints were enough to land some titles in hot water. The initial murder does feature blood on bare breasts, which was one of the BBFC’s no-nos for a while – though, and it bears repeating, the BBFC had nothing to do with what went on the nasties list.
Mostly, it’s a murkily-filmed regional runaround, with already-dated-by-1979 plaid fashions for the cops and acres of pretend tough-talk passed off as character stuff. If it had an inspiration, it was probably Magnum Force, though the workings of the vigilante group which becomes the focus of the plot are underdeveloped and there isn’t more than a token attempt to suggest they might have a worthy cause since it’s plain from the start that Stern is just as much of a madman as Gunther (note their evil German names). Vietnam is recreated with a few extras out in the boondocks, though a few snippets of news footage at least get a military helicopter on screen. Director Peter Maris, whose first feature this was, has followed up with a lot of fodder-type nonsense which used to go direct to video and now goes direct to cable: Viper, Ministry of Vengeance, Hangfire, The Killer Inside, Alien Species, Warpath, Zombie Hunters, etc. Just think, if someone hadn’t complained in the ‘80s, no one would have any interest in this now. As it is, completists track it down and shrug it off.