The Gates of Video Hell is a feature that Dave came up with 5 or so years ago to give a shout out to films from the Golden Era of VHS (we still miss it here at Blueprint towers!) and hopefully unearth some forgotten gems. A few us are jumping on the bandwagon (mainly because some of us still actually have VHS collections!!!) and bring lost classics, crazy titles and just plain odd films to the masses. Dave’s rating system is as below.
– Rot in VHS hell: This film should stay where it is and never see the light of day
– Resurrect on DVD/Netflix: This film deserves a second chance, but it’s no masterpiece
– Resurrect on Blu-Ray: This film is a forgotten gem and a boutique label like Arrow or 88 Films should give it the remastered re-release treatment.
Director: Eloy De La Iglesia
Script: Eloy De La Iglesia, Jose Luis Garci, Antonio Fos, Antonio Artero & George Deboung
Cast: Sue Lyon, Chris Mitchum, Jean Sorel, Ramon Pons, Charley Bravo, Alfredo Alba, Antonio Del Real, David Carpenter, Cesar Godoy, Luis Gaspar, David Areu
Running time: 97 minutes
Pretty blonde nurse Anna Vernin (Sue Lyon) is awarded a medal in front a roomful of her peers and is later met by her wannabe boyfriend Victor (Jean Sorel) who is keen to impress her and later show her his new research in actual practice, namely cleaning felon’s minds of the desire to behave criminally. She doesn’t seem impressed, which is not really surprising as, in between her bouts of playing the role of Florence Nightingale at her local hospital, Anna likes to meet random young men at clubs and bars, seduce them in her now deceased parent’s house and then kill them with a very sharp and pointy surgical tool (and, no, I don’t mean a scalpel as it’s definitely not one of those!).
While the killer nurse is in ‘angel of death’ action a separate storyline is unravelling whereby David (Chris Mitchum – son of Robert) is the deputy leader of a gang of thugs who like nothing better than mincing around in their fetish leathers, wearing very fashionable red helmets and basically making a nuisance of themselves, although most of their crimes are committed off-screen so there’s little point to them really!
After a (probably) nasty home invasion (we don’t know for sure since we see very little) David decides enough is enough and he questions the validity of what the gang are trying to achieve, resulting in a bull-whip fight in a tunnel (probably the film’s weirdest, but coolest scene) between him and two others in the gang. Sadly, he loses and is left bloodied and bruised and alone.
Meanwhile Anna continues her stint as the angel of the wards, but a demon under the bed-covers, and Victor continues to try to convince her that she really needs him in her life. She seems to enjoy wearing disguises and hits the town dressed as an older woman, replete with an unconvincing grey wig, and in a business suit to what looks more like a gay bar. She ‘pulls’ both times though, resulting in two more dead bodies being dumped in the local river.
Unfortunately for her, while wandering the streets, possibly trying to find meaning to his life, David witnesses what she’s up to and starts stalking her and even befriends her dogs so he can sneak into the house to watch her latest murder. He confronts her and starts to blackmail her for money to keep schtum. However, he comes a cropper when his old gang see him with the nurse and give chase (sadly we don’t see much of this chase since it’s too dark), finally catching up with him and beating him, yet again, to within an inch of his life. The gang leader seems to take special delight in punching him repeatedly in the nuts with a spiked glove!
The somewhat obvious kicker to the story is that David ends up in hospital and later being transferred to Victor’s wing for his ‘special treatment’ of rehabilitation once it’s been ascertained that he’s a ‘bad boy’. When our friendly neighbourhood killer nurse discovers his whereabouts it’s only a matter of time until the two meet again, and this time with her having the upper-hand…
Clockwork Terror is probably the most expensive video I’ve ever bought and is therefore one of the most disappointing films I’ve seen in a ‘satisfaction vs. money spent’ kind of way. That’s not to say that it’s a dreadful movie. Sue Lyon is a good actress and really carries the film, and despite her evil actions she still manages to pull off the difficult task of making her character quite sympathetic despite her heinous actions. Mitchum tries his best with an unwritten part, but doesn’t really impress much, and everyone else’s performances are hampered by some dodgy dubbing on this Spanish production.
Director Eloy De La Iglesia (The Cannibal Man) was obviously influenced by Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, which this film steals some key ideas from, and he has fun planting references to Kubrick and his work throughout the film. For example, at one point while Anna pretends to be an older lady, replete with grey hair, she sits and reads Nabokov’s Lolita, which of course Kubrick also directed a film version of.
Clockwork Terror is clearly supposed to be set in the future, but I suspect budget constraints hampered its initial ambitions so we get to see a few modern (back in the 70s) homes ‘tarted-up’ to look more futuristic, but mostly failing. Although, to be fair, the set design is pretty good, and the film is mostly more than adequately shot, despite some lighting issues now and then, and way too many static shots that outstay their welcome.
As with the later Robocop and Starship Troopers, Clockwork Terror uses satirical commercials to further flavour the future world its story is set in, although these are nowhere as good or as witty as the other films’ ads. This is a world full of ‘Panther pants’ (which apparently enhance one’s virility), blue coloured drinks, jazzed-up mini-moke buggies and pyjamas that are more like karate gis.
Sadly, what really lets the film down the most is the script, which forces the actors to deliver some ridiculous lines in a rather stilted and staccato way, making some scenes wince-inducing to watch. On the flipside, the production used some good locations in and around Madrid, where it was shot, and the overall production values aren’t bad.
The music, by George Garvarent, ranges from rather weird to more conventional classic waltzes and dance music, but it kind of does the trick, although it can’t help the film’s pacing, which is rather slow and awkward, although it does pick up toward the end.
Part Clockwork Orange, part Mad Foxes and part Spanish-styled giallo, Clockwork Terror is a weird mash-up of a movie and one with limited appeal since it isn’t violent or atmospheric enough to appeal to horror fans and it’s not smart enough to work as an Orwellian type of near future thriller about those in authority actually being worse than individuals who rail against the system and commit crime.
Verdict – Resurrect on DVD/Netflix: This film deserves a second chance, but it’s no masterpiece. I have to admit I’d quite like to see a making of doc on this film or at least a few interviews with key cast and crew members.