I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I showed up at Alamo’s Weird Wednesdays last night to see TO LOVE, PERHAPS TO DIE. I knew from reading the program literature that it was A Clockwork Orange rip-off directed by queer socialist filmmaker Eloy de Iglesia. The aforementioned Kubrick masterpiece wasn’t allowed to be seen in Spain at the time because of codes set forth under the regime of Fransisco Franco, so there was an easy opportunity to capitalize off of its success in an untapped market. The thing is, though, I wouldn’t call it a rip-off of A Clockwork Orange, per se; I’d refer to it as a spoof, homage, and a send-up. It’s very self-aware and tongue-in-cheek and really quite hilarious.
The general storyline, although a bit convoluted at the beginning, is about a nurse in a futuristic hospital who considers herself to be a real angel of mercy. We first meet the nurse, Ana (played by Sue Lyon, or Lolita in Kubrick’s adaptation of the Nabakov novel) attending to an elderly patient, who says that most people don’t ever really live, most of the people are walking dead and are lucky if they do even 4 or 5 hours of actual living in their entire lives. We see later that this really stuck with her. Ana, who by all outward appearances, seems to be a wholesome girl next-door type, is definitely not that. We are welcomed into her secret murderous world, where she picks up men who have “problems” (a man who walks with a cane, a gay teenager, a failed actor-turned-jigalo hilariously played by Charly Bravo) and eases their pain by ending their lives with a surgical scalpel.
What does this have a thing to do with A Clockwork Orange? I’m getting there. Ana works in a hospital with psychiatrist Dr. Sender (Jean Sorel, of Belle Du Jour, The Man Who Laughs, and many other wonderful films), and since this is some undetermined date in the future that has video phones which are somehow still connected to landlines, and libraries where you can talk to computers and ask them questions, Dr. Sender has found a way to rehabilitate criminals through a new form of electrical therapy. Ana may or may not be dating Dr. Sender, it’s sort of unclear, but thankfully he somehow never comes under the scalpel’s scrutiny.
Where is Alex? Where is the Milk Bar? Where is Ludwig Van!? OKAY, I will try to explain!! There is no Alex, only David, played by Christopher Mitchum, son of Robert, who is currently running for senatorial office as a Republican in California in our own twisted version of the future. We meet his buddies, or shall I say droogies, at the point of their falling out. David challenges the authority of the lead of the black clad, motorcycle helmet, go-kart riding version of the droogs. It is a bit of a horrorshow, but we don’t get to spend as much time with them as in the original. Instead, David learns of Ana’s secret by accident, while he is standing across the water while she throws a body of one of her “patients” into the river. He ends up breaking into her house and stealing her tool kit, which is a jewelry box playing some classical music. While there is no noticeable Ludwig Van to speak of, there is some Strauss, which Ana waltzes to with her gay teenage victim, while she is dressed in drag. Which brings us to the Milk Bar, which in this movie is a gay bar, where Anna is dressed like a man where she picks said teenager up. There’s no milk though, just lots of fruity futuretinis. He then proceeds to blackmail her once he confronts her with his knowledge of her crimes. The finale is something I’ll leave to you to see, but it’s quite a doozy and we see our moto-droogs again!
The film is filled with little jokes that are super subtle and satisfying, one of the best ones being when Ana is at a bar where gigolos pick up older women, and Ana is dressed in costume as an older woman, reading Lolita by Vladamir Nabakov. Lolita reading Lolita? Well, I never! Another thing I loved is that this movie, like most foreign films, has about a million titles. Our host for the evening, Jon Dierenger, publisher and editor of the amazing Screen Slate website, listed off some of these titles, which include: Awkward Terror, A Clockwork Tangerine, Satan’s Brute (West Germany), Dead Angel: One Way Street to the Death, and The Morbid Vices Of a Young Nurse(Italy, which Dieringer said it sounded like it came from a “giallo title generator”). The one problem we had last night is that since the film is so rare and the print was old, it was missing about 15 minutes from it. I would really love to try to find this movie on VHS or DVD or SOMETHING so that I can see the extra 15, although I get the overall point, I still feel a little disappointed and hope someday I can see it.
So there you have it! Join me in real life at Alamo Drafthouse NYC next week for Terror Tuesdays and Weird Wednesdays. This week we have Jack Sholder IN PERSON presenting The Hidden, and on Wednesday, Max Every of Comingsoon.net will be presenting one of my favorite films by one of my favorite directors in the known world: Santa Sangre by Alejandro Jodorowsky. If I don’t see you there, read all about em here at Nightmarish Conjurings. Til next week!