Recorded on August 17, 1983 at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C., Eddie Murphy Delirious was a pretty big hit when it aired on television and an even bigger hit on VHS. Before he was content to make lame Disney movies, Murphy was a shockingly talented comedian who was not in the least bit afraid to push the envelope. He didn't care who he offended, using the word 'fuck' two hundred and thirty times in approximately seventy minutes and ripping on gays, sexually transmitted diseases, blacks, whites, Asians and pretty much everybody else. His star was very definitely on the rise in the early eighties thanks to his popular stint on Saturday Night Live but here, in Delirious, he's not so much a stand-up comedian as he is a rock star.
After some pre-show footage shows Eddie and his entourage preparing for their show, the concert begins with a musical number before Murphy walks out onto the stage in a red leather two piece suit. He wastes no time poking fun at homosexuals and doing some pretty off the wall impersonations of what it would be like it Mr. T and the Honeymooners were too 'pitch for the other team.' From there he moves on to some fantastic impersonations of James Brown, Elvis Presley, and Stevie Wonder before discussing the joys of bathing with your brother, a G.I. Joe toy and a big brown shark. Murphy talks about what it's like to be a poor kid and to not have any ice cream when the ice cream truck rolls around, what it was like growing up with the Clint Eastwood of shoe-throwers for a mother and the joys of playing the fart game, a tradition passed on from one generation of men to the next.
Murphy, obviously quite young here, delivers the performance with the type of self assuredness you'd only find in a young man on the peak of stardom - he truly doesn't care who he offends. That said, as raunchy and foul-mouthed as the whole affair may be, you never get the impression that Murphy's diatribes are mean spirited or hateful. It's all quite juvenile and at times rather stupid, but it's also an equal opportunist in who it targets, poking just as much fun at blacks as it does whites and at straight people as it does gay people.
Strutting about the stage like a peacock, Murphy channels the energy and zaniness of Richard Pryor's stand up but very definitely makes it his own. He does an amazingly enthusiastic job with the impressions, his take on James Brown in particular, and his obvious enthusiasm for the material is quite infectious. Murphy knows he's funny here, he's confident and cocky enough to pull it off and he does so in his own profane style.
A lot of what makes Delirious so funny isn't the obscenity or profanity so much as it is the fact that pretty much everyone out there can relate to part of it, particularly the bits that relate to family life and growing up. Everyone knew a kid whose parents let him swear around the house, everyone knew a kid whose family didn't have any money and who got made fun of for that very same reason and everyone can remember how important it was to get ice cream when the truck came around. Kids always have and hopefully always will fart on or around one another and because of that, Delirious will always be damned funny.
Delirious was shot on video and it shows. The fullframe interlaced transfer is soft throughout and lacks a lot of fine detail. It's watchable enough, and if you've seen it before then you know what to expect, but you can't really say that it looks 'good' by today's video quality standards because it doesn't. The image is clean enough and there aren't any edge enhancement issues and only really minor mpeg compression artifact problems worth reporting, but a flat looking video source is a flat looking video source no matter how you want to spin it and that's obviously what was used for this transfer and that's probably all that was available.
The only audio option on this disc is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track - no alternate language options are provided nor are there any subtitles or closed captions provided. That said, for a basic track, this one sounds fine. There aren't any problems with hiss or distortion and there are no problems with the levels at all. Eddie's lines come through clean and clear enough and the 2.0 track gets the job done quite nicely here. It won't blow you away, but it sounds alright for what it is.
The first disc is barebones, save for a chapter selection option, but the second disc does have a few goodies included, starting with The Making Of Delirious (28:11) which includes some modern day interviews with Eddie as well as input from Wayne Brady, Cedric The Entertainer, and host Byron Allen who interviews Murphy about this point in his life, and his infamous red leather suit. Keenon Ivory Wayans, Sinbad, David Allen Grier, John Witherspoon, Chris Rock, Arsenio Hall, Chris Tucker, Anthony Anderson, Earthquake, and others all talk about the impact that this movie had on them and how it influenced them while Eddie talks about how the red leather suit wound up coming to be by accident. Murphy talks about where his sense of humor came from and how he knew early on how to be funny but it wasn't until he was on the stage doing stand up that he knew he 'had something.' It's a decent enough retrospective look back at the comedian and this special but wow is it ever clip heavy.
From there, check out the Bonus Footage Of Delirious which includes two clips, the first of which is Buckwheat Request (1:01, Eddie responds to some audience members wanting to see Buckwheat) and the second of which his Cursing Through Can't Fight (3:40, more of Murphy going back and forth with the audience). Both of these are pretty funny and worth checking out, though they're presented in pretty rough shape with time code over top of them.
Last but not least is the Uncut Interview With Byron Allen (34:24). Obviously shot at the same time that the interview clips from The Making Of Delirious were shot (some of the footage is repeated), this is a longer, more in-depth conversation where Murphy talks about how he got into comedy, how Richard Pryor was a huge influence on him, some of the pressures involved in doing stand-up comedy, how Delirious was received when it was shown on the then fledgling HBO, the political incorrectness of the comedy and how its aged, the controversy around the movie, and more. It's a pretty interesting interview and it's got a whole lot more substance to it than The Making Of Delirious does. Both the Bonus Footage and the Uncut Interview With Byron Allen appeared on the previous Anchor Bay DVD release.
If you don't already have Delirious, this is the version to get though the inclusion of the Making Of featurette doesn't warrant the double dip for those who've already got it. The feature itself is still funny, a quarter century later - gleefully offensive and politically incorrect to the nth power, it's a fantastic showcase for Murphy's considerable comedic skills and timing. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.