AFED #99: Una gota de sangre para morir amando [aka Murder in a Blue World, aka A Clockwork Terror] (Spain/France, 1973); Dir. Eloy de la Iglesia

Billed as "the Spanish Clockwork Orange", Eloy de la Iglesia's film makes no attempt to disguise the influence of its more illustrious predecessor. Not only does the story feature a subplot of behaviour modification experiments and similar kitschy production design, the earlier movie is even playing on the television when a gang of ersatz 'droogs' mount an identical home invasion (although, being Spanish, these guys favour black leather and bullwhips).

The Kubrick connection is further enhanced by the casting of his Lolita, Sue Lyon, in the lead role. For those in the audience too dense to make the connection - and in truth she was much changed in the years since her breakthrough role - there's a scene in which Lyon is even depicted reading the Nabokov text. It's fair to say that subtlety is not one of the films strong points.

And yet Murder in a Blue World actually aspires to be something more than a shameless ripoff, treating A Clockwork Orange more as a starting point for its story. Set sometime in the near future Lyon portrays Ana Vernia, a highly regarded if enigmatic nurse at a large city hospital who becomes a self-styled sister of mercy, administering relief in a manner the recipients don't entirely appreciate.

It's difficult to say too much more about the plot without revealing its major twist, which actually caught me completely off guard; suffice to say its not dissimilar to the kind of thing you'd find in a giallo of similar vintage. As events unfold she comes into contact with one of the young thugs (played by Christopher Mitchum), who's fallen foul of the rest of the gang and begins blackmailing her. Meanwhile at the hospital Ana's would-be boyfriend Victor (Jean Sorel) is involved in research designed to alter criminal behaviour which has very little to do with the rest of the story.

There's more style than substance here; whatever intellectual pretensions Iglesia may have envisaged fall rather flat and the performances are nothing to get excited about. Yet despite that and the heavily derivative elements it's enjoyably bonkers and delivered with real style. For one thing I can't think of another film where the lead character attends an auction for pieces of Alex Raymond's original Flash Gordon artwork!

Probably not everybody's cup of tea but if you like offbeat then it's well worth a look.


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