Running Delilah

      Comments Off on Running Delilah

After directing such acclaimed cult classics as Link (1986) and Roadgames (1981), Richard Franklin transitioned to television, first in America and then in his native Australia. One of Franklin’s American television projects was the failed pilot turned TV movie Running Delilah (1994). This science fiction take on the “super spy” motif is a kind of combination of The Bionic Woman (1976-79) and the aesthetics of Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987).

It isn’t hard to see why Running Delilah did not air for two years after completion. As a stand alone film it doesn’t make too much sense, being endlessly bogged down by details that would, if it were released as a television pilot, establish a number of character arcs and plot threads to support an entire series. As is, Running Delilah has a relatively small scale narrative that is padded with weird asides, like the shot of cyborg spy Kim Cattrall jamming out on guitar.

The film begins when Delilah (Cattrall) is undercover, in a disguise that looks like Diane Keaton in Baby Boom (1987), infiltrating an arms dealer. When she is discovered, murdered, then left for dead her handler, Paul (Billy Zane), takes her back to base where her head and left arm are all that survive as part of a new cyborg super spy. After some moral debates that go nowhere, their boss Judith (Diana Rigg) decides that they should catch Delilah’s killer.

Running Delilah belongs in the same trashy sci-fi television world of TekWar (1994-96), where interesting concepts are lost in dialogue and narratives that never really feel relevant or compelling. It’s the unintentional camp factor that makes Running Delilah watchable. There is a scene in the rain where Delilah’s exposed robotic arm begins to short circuit and she and Billy Zane laugh hysterically before the shot fades for a commercial break. Another wonderfully campy aspect of the film is the recurring theme of Billy Zane’s character always being hungry; every character comments on this at least once.

But nothing about Running Delilah can prepare the viewer for its ending. After the bad guys are dead or in jail, Cattrall and Zane are in their Paris hotel room. Zane is watching It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) dubbed in French when Cattrall enters from the shower. Wearing only a robe, Cattrall climbs onto Zane’s lap, her arms outstretched beside either of his ears. Cattrall then begins to vibrate. The room shakes, her face clearly expressing some orgasmic euphoria. Billy Zane begins to laugh, still fully clothed beneath her. It is at this moment it dawns on the viewer that the scientists who created Cattrall’s cyborg body decided to make her a human vibrator. Zane’s laughing escalates with the trembling of the room. Richard Franklin cuts to an outside view of the hotel as all of the windows shatter. Fade to black.

It’s hard to decide if some mad genius isn’t behind this ending or if it’s just another example of gross incompetence in Running Delilah. Either way Running Delilah ends up being more memorable than it has a right to be, and more enjoyable than one expects it to be. Now if only it had a tripped out special edition BluRay.