Color, 1987, 92 mins. / Directed by Lamberto Bava / Starring Serena Grandi, Daria Nicolodi, Vanni Corbellini, David Brandon, George Eastman, Karl Zinny / Music by Simon Boswell / Media Blasters (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Some audiences felt the giallo films of the '60s and '70s were more than a little absurd, but nothing could have prepared them for the direction the genre took in the '80s. While Miami Vice and MTV swallowed up pop culture, directors scrambled to make their sexy murder mysteries more hip, more flashy, and more senseless, resulting in the obvious conclusion of Al Festa's unbelievable train wreck, Fatal Frames. Lamberto Bava helped with a few detours along the way such as the eccentric Body Puzzle and his slaphappy Le Foto di Gioia, released on video and DVD as Delirium.

Busty Tinto Brass starlet Serena Grandi (Miranda) stars as Gloria, a skinflick star and model whose glossy porn magazine business is disrupted by dirty prank calls from a wheelchair-bound teen fan (Karl Zinny) and a series of mysterious killings involving her models. Blood and Black Lace this ain't, however. One of the models is stabbed, while another - in one of the oddest killings you'll ever see - is stung to death by a swarm of bees inside her house. The bodies are then arranged stylishly in front of - you guessed it - giant pictures of Gloria. Meanwhile we occasionally jump to the killer's psychotic perspective as each model assumes a surrealistic appearance, ranging from a giant eyeball head to a big beehive. Could the killer be Gloria's piggy former flame, Alex (Joe D'Amato favorite George Eastman)? Or how about her impotent brother, Tony (Vanni Corbellini)? Or how about her sadistic lead photographer, Roberto (Stage Fright's Tony Brandon)? Eventually she and her tormenter face off in a ridiculous finale best seen without any prior warning.

Despite his technical proficiency, Lamberto Bava seems unable here to generate the commercial project for which he was so clearly aiming. Instead what we have is a truly cockeyed mishmash of sexploitation and audience friendly horror; devoid of the perverse sense of sadism which distinguishes Dario Argento's gialli, this is instead a strangely benign and inoffensive film which has already dated far more than its predecessors. That doesn't mean there isn't plenty of fun to be had, however; Grandi is always highly entertaining to watch as she and her breasts heave their way from scene to scene, and the delicious supporting cast includes a number of familiar Italian horror vets such as Daria Nicolodi (in what amounts to a glorified cameo). On the other hand, you'd be hard pressed to nail the soundtrack as the work of Simon Boswell (Demons 2), who went on to great mainstream success but provides little more than suspenseful Muzak here.

Whatever dubious merits the film itself may possess, Delirium has been given the red carpet treatment on DVD. Along with a sparkling anamoprhic transfer (marred only by the annoying inherent fuzziness - oops, "stylishness" - of late '80s cinematography), the disc contains fine video interviews with Bava and Brandon, both of whom put the film in perspective with their careers at the time and seem to have warm memories of working on the project. Though no trailer for this film seems to be floating around, the disc does include promos for other Shriek Show Euro horror titles, all of them worth seeking out. Curiously, the theatrical prints carrying the Gioia title boasted a Dolby Stereo credit, but all video transfers - including this one - have been in mono.

Color, 1980, 90 mins. / Directed by Lamberto Bava / Starring Bernice Stegers, Stanko Molnar, Veronica Zinny, Roberto Posse, Fernandino Orlandi / Music by Ubaldo Continiello / Cinematography by Franco Delli Colli / Anchor Bay (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), EC Entertainment (Holland R0 NTSC), Vipco (UK R2 PAL) / WS (1.66:1)

After years of working as an assistant director on his father Mario’sfilms, Lamberto Bava finally went solo in 1980 with Macabre, anatmospheric psychological study which joins The Beyond andCannibal Apocalypse for the largest number of Italian actorsimpersonating American Southerners. The central gimmick of the film hasbeen spoiled by everything from reviewers to the U.S. video box cover,but for the uninitiated, we’ll leave it to the mysterious basics here.

Jane (City of Women’s Bernice Stegers), a wife and mother of two,relieves the tedium of her New Orleans social life by dallying on theside with her passionate lover, Fred, in a boarding house inhabited bythe blind and unfortunately named Robert Duval (Stanko Molnar) and hismother. One day Jane’s erotic idyll is interrupted when her psychoticdaughter, Lucy (Veronica Zinny, sister of horror actor UrbanoBarberini), calls up her mom and then drowns her little brother in ajealous snit. Jane and Fred leap into the car and tear across town whenthey hear the news, only to ram straight into a construction site whichleaves Fred mangled beyond repair.

One year later, Jane is released from a mental institution and takes aroom at Robert’s house. Lucy now lives only with her father butmaintains contact with her mother; however, Jane may not be quite allthere. Every night Robert hears his newest tenant engaging in hot andheavy sessions in her bedroom, always following the sound of somethingbeing unlocked from the refrigerator...

Based very loosely on a newspaper story discovered by co-producer PupiAvati, Macabre was originally written as a kind of joke butquickly developed into a serious gothic chamber piece. Apart from theoccasional New Orleans exterior shot, this is unmistakably the work ofBava blood, steeped in the same overripe visual decay which earmarkedsuch masterpieces as Lisa and the Devil (another European poem tonecrophilia, by the way). The badly dubbed Southern accents becomegrating rather quickly, but Bava’s steady visual sense carries the filmover its rough spots and really crackles to life for the finale, inwhich Stegers’ unnerving, fragile beauty finally tips over the cliffinto full blown psychotic mania. The influence of Avati is evident aswell, mainly in the deliberate, restrained pacing and the emphasis onpsychological rifts forming beneath the surface of normality;unfortunately, this is the only Lamberto film that could ever really betermed "subtle," as it plays for the most part like a particularlyskewed episode of Night Gallery instead of the splatter-heavycontemporaries of its time. Apart from the aforementioned accents, thefilm’s only major misstep is a terribly conceived shock ending whichends the film on a ridiculous illogical note and renders its origin as a"true story" highly dubious at best.

First released in the U.S. by Lightning Video as Frozen Terrorand in Canada by CIC under its original title, this sick little gem hassuffered from some awfully bland transfers over the years which sappedaway much of its visual allure. The Lightning tape in particularfeatured weak colors and made this look like an especially drytelevision movie. Anchor Bay’s DVD corrects much of the damage andrestores the intricate, colorful production design to its properoverripe splendor. The screen is frequently oversaturated with acres ofred velvet, gold décor trim, and shimmering silk sheets, all of whichadd considerably to the film’s potent atmosphere. The disc also includesa nice 8 minute interview with Lamberto (entitled "A Head for Horror"),in which he discusses the genesis of the story, his father’s reactionafter the premiere, and more. Other goodies include the Europeantheatrical trailer (which blows the entire ending, so be careful!), some solid (and unfortunately well hidden) liner notes by Travis Crawford, and aLamberto bio.

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