Nurse Ana Vernia lives in an authoritarian, dystopian world where she just received a commendation for her work, but beneath the archetype of a scrutinizing society seeking to acculturate deviants by way of involuntary electroshock treatments, Ana moonlights in her own violent behavior as an act of mercy. Under the pretense of disguises, Ana seduces men aberrant to the social norms, returns them to her luxurious mansion, sleeps with them, and to then only murder them with precision before they can be subjected to imperious judgement for being different. All the while, societal dissentient David, an exiled member of a brutal gang, witnesses Ana’s exploits and infiltrates her home, her life, to garner incriminating evidence in order to blackmail her for money, but when David is tracked down for his former gang and beaten to near death, he comes ironically under the care of nurse Ana who plans to fix David before his fate before the electroshock treatments.
Get ready to dial high on voltage on the social commentary scale, “Murder in the Blue World” is a fascinating, dystopian look at social disorder. Heavily influenced in more ways than one by Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” the Eloy de la Iglesia 1973 picture was once entitled “Clockwork Terror” in the U.S. to ride the lucrative coattails of Kubrick’s symphony to violence. Also known in other parts of the world as “To Love, Perhaps to Die,” “Satansbrut” (“Satan’s Fiend”), and “La clinique des horreurs” (“The Clinic of Horrors”), Iglesia’s original penned script and title actually “Una gota de sangre para morir amando” (“A Drop of Blood to Die Loving”), co-written with José Luis Garci (“El Teroso”), Antonio Artero (“El tesoro del capitán Tornado”), George Lebourg, and Antonio Fos (“Panic Beats”). The Spanish film goes internationally by many monikers but has one objective and that is to counter the dictation of free-thinking individuals with violence. “Murder in a Blue World” is produced by José Frade under his self-titled production company, José Frade Producciones Cinematográficas S.A.
“Murder in a Blue World” is so much so in the Stanley Kubrick wake, the film stars Sue Lyon who played the titular character in Kubrick’s “Lolita.” More than a decade later, the “End of the World” and “The Astral Factor” actress enters another emotionally lacerating role of a woman, a nurse, sworn to do no harm who sees that a quick euthanization is the only possible mercy she can offer to spare societal downcast souls from a fate far worse than death in a cold and cruel condemnatory world. Lyon’s excellent in curating her different disguises and looks, taking on a variety of personas with subtle mannerisms despite how comical or implausible they may appear on screen, such as the idea of being an old, gray-haired woman. Lyon is fair and small in stature compared to her male counterparts but commands the screen with her confident approach to Ana’s advantageous beauty and eroticism that can turn a gay man straight apparently. Former gang member David shares her ideology to an extent, to the extent of capitalizing off her nightly murder for mercy escapades in order to survive on the street alone. Christopher Mitchum, son of the late Golden Age of Cinema actor Robert Mitchum (“El Dorado,” “The Longest Day,” “Scrooged”), plays the nihilistic gangbanger with aversion to any or all rules that tell him how to think. Mitchum’s impressive motorbike skills are utilized for an impressive chase sequence that incorporates ramp jumps and car crashes at a high speed velocity, a talent Mitchum and film producers utilized often in his other credits, such as “Sumertime Killer” and “Big Jake.” Lyon and Mitchum don’t have much screen time until later in the story but their interactions are playful, flirtatious almost, but in a predator-prey kind of way and we’re not really sure which-is-which in that shifty relationship. French actor Jean Sorel (“A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin”) rounds out the three-prong principal characters as a diehard representative of the authoritarian body and a potential love interest for Ana. Playing Victor Sender, a neurologist experimenting on the criminally insane with electroshock therapy and working at the same hospital as nurse Ana, Sorel is the epitome of the calculating stability and clean-cut coldness of the ruling class that’s doesn’t see what they’re doing to be a unjust, cruel, or even a problem at all. “Murder in a Blue World” rounds out the cast with Ramón Pons (“Scarab”), Charly Bravo (“The Cannibal Man”), Alfredo Alba, Antonia del Rio, Domingo Codesido Ascanio, and Fernando Hilbeck (“The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue”).
On the surface, director Eloy de la Iglesia carves a rib right out of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” with themes of exquisite, unprovoked violence sparked by the very basis of rebellion against authority. Not to also forget to mention the elaborately dressed gang of four, the electroshock treatment that aims to cure the criminal cerebrum, and the dystopian, futuristic guild with hints of fascism. “Murder in a Blue World” is a mixture that’s two-third post-Kubrick and one-third part pre-Paul Verhoeven, the latter reaching into fascist imagery as well as extreme commercialism that has surely inspired the “Robocop” and “Starship Trooper” director. Blue wellness drinks and panther-primitive men’s underwear are just a few the commercials fabricated for Iglesia’s coloring of an influential culture as the filmmaker uses the motif to symbolize and parallel brainwashing that becomes more severe when the government attempts to force a cure for criminality down incarcerated individuals’ throats. Even David announces to the world in multiple scenes how he doesn’t care what others think and he’s a free thinker. Homosexuality, prostitution, and physical imperfections suggest master race ideology amongst the domineering class hierarchy. Those who Ana seduce, as well as David, struggle in poverty and are considered inferior though not explicitly mentioned in the story. Iglesia integrates his trademark graphic violence, closeups of stabbings and throat slitting, but only really visualizes post-third act climax to keep more of an implied violence, off screen, and quickly edited to maintain an unclear vagueness of what’s right and what’s wrong in what Ana’s accomplishing.
A phenomenal companion piece and second bill to Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” Eloy de la Iglesia’s “Murder in a Blue World” finds Blu-ray love with a high definition, 1080p release from the genre film eternizing Cauldron Films. The Blu-ray debut is a 2K restoration of the 35mm transfer that has held up fairly well over the decades to only show pockets of wear and tear. Presented in a widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio, there’s no edge enhancement or digital noise reduction to clear out the natural stock grain, leaving the picture quality with more texture. Skin tones are, for the most part, natural and popping color grade doesn’t stray too far from its integrity until one brief scene goes full Oompa-Loompa orange before reverting back to normal. Light scratching is common throughout but not obtrusive to the viewing. Two audio options come with the release, an English dub dual mono and a Spanish dub dual mono. Since the cast is comprised of American, French, and Spanish native actors, neither track appears attractive from a lip-reading and audio-hearing perspective. Preferably, I went English dub as Sue Lyons and Chris Mitchum monopolize the lion’s share of screen time. There’s quite a bit of hissing and popping on the single channel output that can render dialogue almost indistinct but passes with a D+. The English subtitles synch well and show no sign of inaccuracy or grammatical issues. English SDH captions are available as well. Special features include a 2008 archive interview with Chris Mitchum, an interview with dubbing guru Ben Tatar Dubbing in a Blue World, a video essay read by Spanish Gothic film and literature scholar Dr. Xavier Aldana Reyes who dives into the themes and constructs of Iglesia’s film, audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger, the VHS cut of “Clockwork Terror” in 720p standard definition, and image gallery. The physical release comes in a clear Blu-ray snapper with a colorfully illustrated cover art that is reversible with one of the more notable and beautifully shot scenes on the inside. With a runtime of 97 minutes, the release is region free and is unrated. “Murder in a Blue World” receives a gorgeous Blu-ray restoration and debut as it’s an eclectic work of inspired and pioneering visual art from one of Spain’s most individualist directors.