In the near future, pioneering doctors are carrying out medical research to subdue agression in delinquents after a crimewave involving gangs of youths. Meanwhile, a serial killer is at work, targeting young men and leaving the police few clues…
Unsatisfying, unfocused social satire that was a French/Spanish co-production from writer-director Eloy de la Iglesia. Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) was obviously the principle inspiration/touchstone here, but whereas that film was a shocking examination of the nature of youth and violence, this film is likely to provoke yawns more than anything else.
Prize-winning nurse Anna (Sue Lyon) has a secret. She likes to take young men back to her big house, have sex and then perform a non-regulation heart operation with a scapel. Oblivious colleague Jean Sorel would like the first part of that experience, but she’s not interested and he’s busy curing teenage hoodlums with extreme electo-shock therapy anyway. Destined for the operating table in one way or another is Chris (son of Robert) Mitchum who has fallen out with his gang mates over some missing money.
The film begins with some heavy-handed satire on advertising and consumerism, courtesy of some fake TV ads. Of course, there’s comic potential in that but the humour is broad and obvious. One of following scenes sees Mitchum’s gang pull a home invasion much in the manner of Malcolm McDowell’s Droogs in some other film I could mention and with pretty similar (if not so graphic) results. In case we miss the Kubrick reference, the family on the wrong end of it were about to sit down and watch ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) on their big screen TV. Subtle.
Later on, we see Lyon don a series of disguises so she can hang around in hotel bars and pick up men in the finest 1970’s lounge suits. When she takes them home, she plays cassette tapes of Strauss waltzes (‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968) – nudge, nudge, wink, wink) before she seduces them. In case it happens to have slipped your mind, Lyon was also Kubrick’s ‘Lolita’ (1962) and to make sure you remember that, on a couple of occasions we see her reading Nabakov’s original novel and the book gets a nice big close up. Subtle.
Surprisingly, having said all that, there are a couple of moments of actual quality here. A shot of Lyon walking through a storm of leaves in a blood-spattered white dress is terrific, and there’s a wonderfully prescient auction scene. What’s on the block? Some of Alex Raymond’s original ‘Flash Gordon’ artwork from the 1930s! In a time when film merchandising had yet to create a collector’s marketplace, it’s a spot on prediuction. Unlinke the continued use of cassette tapes.
The main problem here, however, is the story; a real hodgepodge of ideas and plot threads. They do come together in the film’s final act but, by then, it’s far too little too late. The cast seem strangely detached from the material (perhaps that was intentional), but none of them are vaguely interesting or sympathetic so the audience has no reason to care. Just pity the unwitting audience member who thought they were getting the Kubrick film when this was marketed in some territories as ‘A Clockwork Terror’!
Given the right material, Lyon could deliver a fine performance. See that little Kubrick film and John Huston’s ‘Night of The Iguana’ (1964) if you need proof. However, she looks all at sea here. Sorel, a veteran of many a Giallo film, is merely smug and Mitchum so laidback that he’s almost horizontal. Fair enough, that worked for his Dad, but Mitchum Jr doesn’t have anything approaching that level of natural charisma. At least this was a step up from ‘Bigfoot’ (1970) though. But then again what isn’t? Mitchum twice ran for Congress; in 2012 and again in 2014. On both occasions, he was unsuccessful. Rumour has it that his poor record on Sasquatch rights was a significant factor.
Blunt, obvious satire which tries the patience more than the funny bone.