Peter Maris’ Delirium was part of the video nasty era of censorship, receiving a very minor edit to remove some of its gore footage. Interestingly, though, the film isn’t particularly violent and in fact the censorship feels rather foolish in the face of the movie’s themes about war veterans’ longstanding PTSD and urban vigilantism of the ’70s. By 1979 when this film released, vigilantism had already been covered in depth by various genre offerings, particularly the slew of Death Wish movies and Dirty Harry. However, Delirium imagines something a bit different: here, a group of high-ranking men in St. Louis enlist the help of a Vietnam general named Stern (Barron Winchester) to clean up the streets from criminals who have eluded the strong arm of the law. Unfortunately, Stern hires a lot of his Vietnam vets including Charlie (Nick Panouzis), whose reckless behavior murdering innocent women draws the attention of cops Larry (Terry TenBroek) and Paul (Turk Cekovsky) as they get involved in Susan’s (Debi Chaney) near-miss experience.
As stated previously, it’s not like Delirium‘s story hadn’t been done before. But ultimately the vigilante theme focuses less on one harrowed person than on the presence of a cabal of men making decisions about the fate of criminals who have technically already had their day in court. There are two throughlines in the story: one follows Charlie on his misogynistic journey to murder any woman he comes across due to his impotence fueled by PTSD, and the other is a standard cop drama as Larry and Paul uncover the clues to Stern’s powerful council.
Neither are particularly strong metaphors. Delirium remarks on the problems of PTSD, but it doesn’t give Charlie much backstory or complexity except for small snippets of flashbacks. On the other hand, Delirium doesn’t clearly specify what side of the fence it lands on with vigilantism; parts of it seem to condemn the actions because of the clearly demented person ordering the hits, but it also condones the violence in a scene where Larry and Paul react to the fact that a rapist walked off free after a judge ruled the case closed due to illegal search and seizure. There’s just not a lot to glean about what the filmmakers’ intentions are here, which is possibly why the violent misogyny didn’t sit well with censors.
But Delirium is entertaining enough with its procedural format and occasional bursts of violence to recommend for at least one watch. Winchester exudes a hokey menace with his iconic sunglasses and the opening gore effects (the 16 seconds removed for UK release) are well-done. Delirium doesn’t offer a whole lot more to say than other vigilante films of the time, yet it’s reasonably executed and gritty enough to fit the cult film bill for a watch party of like titles.
Severin Films has released Delirium on Blu-ray, the first time in this format, with a new transfer from a 35mm print that is the only known version in existence. Let me start off by being brutally honest: this transfer is probably not going to wow most viewers. The print seems to be in rough shape, with lines and some blemishes cropping up consistently throughout the release. Overall grain is quite heavy and this generally leaves Delirium looking soft without much fine detail. Even relatively large elements like license plates are difficult to make out, with a bleariness that can sometimes remind of VHS-level rips. However, it’s unlikely we’ll get a better-quality release of Delirium considering its lost source material, so Severin does what it can to mitigate the harsh deterioration time has had on whatever print they utilized. Color timing is kept consistent and luckily the film does not make use of too many low-light sequences that would further obstruct with heavy grain scale. Overall, Delirium doesn’t look anywhere close to pristine, but for those that want to check out this video nasty, it is what it is.
Audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track that sounds strong with no noticeable drops or dialogue volume dips. This gets a fine audio treatment with the soundtrack nicely enunciated and a clear central presentation. English subtitles are also included.
Extras include a new interview with director Peter Maris, who discusses the making of the film and its relatively low budget. This runs for about 20 minutes. Also new to this release is an interview with special effects artist Bob Shelley, who discusses how they accomplished some of bloody squibs and gore effects from the infamous opening penetration scene. This one runs about 16 minutes. Finally, a trailer is also included on the disc.
- NEW Restored from 35mm print
- NEW Directing DELIRIUM: Interview With Director Peter Maris (HD; 20:24)
- NEW Monster Is Man: Interview With Special Effects Artist Bob Shelley (HD; 16:34)
- Trailer (HD; 1:48)
Delirium is a video nasty that should be watched at least once to check out its variation on the vigilante theme. Severin provides a way to do this with a new Blu-ray release that is admittedly rough around the edges but sourced from a problematic print, along with new extras that add context to the film’s history.