Friday, February 19, 2016

Past Misdeeds: Blood Delirium (1988)

Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.

Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.

One evening, while she is bare-naked and preparing dinner for soon-to-be-arriving boyfriend Gregory, French concert pianist Sybille (Brigitte Christensen) is suddenly accosted by some of those pesky interior winds, blue light and a female voice from nowhere. The voice tells her that she has come to warn Sybille, and that she is Sybille, yet not Sybille, "like two flames coming together" and that she comes from the future. Too bad the ghostly voice never does bother to utter a somewhat more detailed or practical warning. This way, Sybille is just a little out of it, frightened and bewildered. Later a mysterious gust of wind blows an invitation to the art exhibition of the paintings of a certain Charles Saint Simon (John Philip Law) into the room, which Sybille now plans on visiting.

In something that must be a very long flashback or the film's chronology would break down, which would however make a lot more sense if the voice had said it came from the past, we see the source of Sybille's ghostly voice. Christine (also Brigitte Christensen), the muse and wife of Charles Saint Simon and a pianist like Sybille, is dying, very much to the dismay of the Maestro (as everyone calls him). He seems mostly pissed that she won't be able to inspire him to more art, though, and less by the "his beloved dying" thing.

And look there, he really isn't able to paint without her, leading to wonderful moments of insane rambling and ranting in front of his servant Hermann (Gordon Mitchell). Hermann can't complain about his boss too much, though, since Charles caught him trying to have his way with Christine's corpse. I'd like to know what the servants union has to say to that one.

Be that as it may, even snatching Christine's maggoty yet also already skeletal corpse out of her grave, putting a rubber mask on her head and draping her skeletal hands on a piano can't awaken the Maestro's talents again.

Fortunately, he meets Sybille at his art exhibition and - after some mad rambling about her sharing a soul with his dead wife that would send most women not the pianist running - convinces her to spend some time in his castle as his model.

Once there, even someone as thick as Sybille soon understands that her host is a raving lunatic, what with his insistence on being the reincarnation of Van Gogh, the room with the electrified lash and his ranting breakdown when he still isn't able to paint again although she is modelling for him. It's really the fault of his dead wife's ghost mocking him with laughter and glowing globes.

It turns out that what our Maestro also needs to paint is fresh blood. What luck that Hermann isn't only a necrophiliac but also a hobby rapist who prefers his women unconscious or better dead, and so able to deliver a bit of blood by way of his victims. The corpses are either taxidermied and put in the cellar or just fed to the dogs and dissolved in one of those useful acid vats every good castle has.

When Sybille witnesses Hermann getting rid of a corpse, she makes a half-hearted escape attempt, but soon finds herself drugged to sleep, put into a bridal gown and laid out in a glass coffin, with regular visits from dear sleeping women loving Hermann.

From time to time I still find a film so batshit crazy that I'm not too sure what to say about it, because writing sensibly about it would be an experiment in applied paradoxicology much too difficult for a simple man like me. Blood Delirium truly is such a film.

The above plot synopsis does make a lot more sense than the film makes when you are actually watching it. Out of a sense of responsibility for other people's sanity I have been trying very hard to make life easier for those of my readers who aren't permanently touched in the head by Italian horror like me. The trick is to just leave out some of the absurd details the film piles on and on and on and not to mention the glorious and idiotic way Charles gets his final comeuppance. Yes, the film truly makes even less sense.

You might know Blood Delirium's director Sergio Bergonzelli from his utterly puzzling, yet stylish giallo In the Folds of the Flesh. The difference between the two films is probably mostly down to the different decades in which they were made, with the stylish one being made in the 70s and the visually decidedly bland Blood Delirium in the far less stylish 80s - and surely on a comparatively small budget. However, what Bergonzelli's work has lost in visual inventiveness in the years between, it has won in insanity. While In the Folds never actually did make a lot of sense in the way we usually understand the word, it was still trying for something vaguely resembling a narrative and characters with human psychology. Blood Delirium has given up on silliness like this and does only exist to do three things: being sleazy, being tasteless and being as bafflingly insane as its main character. It succeeds admirably on all three counts.

As I said, visually the film is mostly ugly and non-descript in a "we couldn't even afford coloured lights, but look at the impressive castle ruin we are not going to use as it deserves!" way, however it is too mad a work for this to truly matter.

On the acting side, there is at least John Philip Law to mention. I suppose he must have been in dire need of money to stoop as low as appearing in this one, but like the true professional he was, he does some wonderful shouting, ranting and bug-eyeing and also does his best in trying to look like Van Gogh. Brigitte Christensen doesn't truly register beside him and Gordon Mitchell just has to do the silent straight-man lunatic next to Law's raving one.

As is so often the case with the films I might make sound sort of enticing, Blood Delirium is only recommended to the advanced viewer of cult cinema. So, if you think Black Magic Rites is one of the greatest achievement in the history of the cinematic arts (and golly, do I think that), this is one for you, if you are still at a point in your cinematic life where you'd rather watch films with some redeeming qualities, it probably isn't.

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