Friday, August 24, 2012

525. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Running Time: 137 minutes
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick, from novel by Anthony Burgess
Main Cast: Malcolm McDowell, James Marcus, Warren Clarke, Michael Tam, Patrick Magee
Click here to view the trailer


I'll tell you now that "Kubrick WEEK" is going to last longer than a week, as per usual with my "week long" director tributes. However, the Kubrick catalog cannot be rushes, as it takes time to process these films, turn them over in my head and ultimately form my opinions on them. "A Clockwork Orange" is no exception.

Alex De Large (McDowell) sits in a milk bar, in futuristic London, sipping on a tall glass of white, surrounded by his "droogs": Dim (Clarke), Pete (Tam) and Georgie (Marcus). The camera slowly pans out revealing nude, female mannequins with erratic, colored hairdos, some being used as serving tables and "A Clockwork Orange" is underway. After they're through sipping on their milk, the droogs, lead by Alex, head out to engage in some "ultra violence", which includes beating an elderly homeless man, brawling with a rival gang and the most dastardly act of their evening, forcing their way into the home of a couple, beating the husband (Magee) and raping his wife, all while Alex belts out his best rendition of "Singin' In the Rain". Later, the droogs decided they're tired of ending their evenings each night with only a few measly dollars to show for it and propose that the jobs get bigger, with more fulfilling payoffs. Alex reluctantly agrees and that night he busts into the home of a wealthy woman. The cops are notified, but before they arrive Alex kills her and finds himself in an interrogation room. He is ultimately sent to prison for fourteen years. Approximately two years into his fourteen year sentence, Alex hears tell of an experimental treatment that prisoners can subject themselves to, in exchange for an early release. Alex eagerly volunteers and is transferred to a sort of hospital. There he finds his "gulliver" (head) strapped to a chair, his eyelids locked open and forced to watch treacherous images and movies being projected onto a movie screen. Alex doesn't mind at first, but notices that the longer he watches the films, he becomes violently ill. It seems that the government has found a way to cure the common criminal and Alex has the distinction of being the first guinea pig.

Honestly, after re-reading that plot synopsis, I don't do this film justice in the slightest. "A Clockwork Orange" is a film that cannot be told about, but rather, one that must be experienced. There's a plot and apparently it's a satire, but the thing that really strikes me when I watch "A Clockwork Orange" is not the story or the social commentaries, but rather, the colors, the numbness of the characters and the hint of a frightening aura. Much like the sun, "A Clockwork Orange" is so bright and rich with color, that staring at in excess might just cause damage to your retina's. It's such a bright picture that you can't help but take notice when the reels are rolling and your attention cannot help but be drawn to the screen. Then there's the characters and their complete lack of emotion, devoid of human qualities, as if they're aliens on another planet. There isn't one character in the entire film that you want to know better and in fact, the entire cast is a of characters are miscreants. In saying that, there's also just a hint of horrific tones in the film - seeing the droogs, their shadows stretching across the pavement, preying over an old man, much like a pack of lions prey over a wildebeest or watching Alex's eyes pried open with lid locks as he's forced to watch films of a particularly violent nature. Those are the three elements of this film that really made it unique to me, that and the fact that Stanley Kubrick had a vision, a vision that only a mastermind could reflect onto the screen. It took a special director to create the images and colors and the sometimes skin crawling feelings that the film forces upon it's viewers and after watching this, it's hard to deny the talents of Kubrick.


Don't get me wrong, I liked the story too. I thought it flowed nicely and was broken up into distinguished sections: The beginning to Alex's imprisonment, Alex's imprisonment to Alex's release and then the rest. It's not flawless or anything though and really, for my tastes, the entire movie really relies on those intangibles that I mentioned above. The acting is good too, with Malcolm McDowell featured in only his fourth film ever (his first film being "If....", which I also reviewed here on the 1001 blog) and everyone else tapping into that strange behavior that was essential in making "A Clockwork Orange" standout. I really don't know what else to say about this film. I have a certain likeness for this film that I really can't describe. I said it best when I said that the film MUST be experienced to be understood and appreciated. It's not something that I can really convey to you here, it's truly a MUST SEE. Sure, there are flaws in it, at least as far as my personal tastes are concerned, but honestly, there aren't many and in fact, even though I wouldn't give it a full blown '10' rating, I'd still consider it a masterpiece.

RATING: 8.5/10  The rating of '8.5' has a way of somehow transforming itself into a '10'. Remember that both "La Roue" and "Once Upon a Time in the West" were initially rated an '8.5' and later named to the #1 spot on their respective TOP 20 lists. Next up in "Kubrick Week": "Barry Lyndon".


August 24, 2012  11:30pm


  1. Hi Andrew... Amanda made me do it...

    I'd forgotten I had missed this one (and a few others around here), so when it was suggested I have a look at one of your more.. controversial.... scorings, i thought i should have a go.

    This film was a bit of a legend as I developed. Perhaps the best known 'banned' film, you always heard tales of what was in it, and rumours of illegal tapes being around.
    So I went to see it at the cinema when it was finally released...

    Oh boy...

    I think what I most disliked about it, was that I came out of that cinema feeling and thinking like a 'Daily mail' editorial, muttering 'ban this sick film now'
    (Note for non UK readers.. 'The Daily Mail' is a popular national newspaper, very middle class, very conservative, very judgmental, very right wing, very prone to manufactured hysterical moral outrage)

    Hey, Andrew, this is a great review.
    You may remember before I said something that a review must be great if it makes you stop and think and re-consider your own views.
    Well, you had me for a while thinking.. MMmmm.. perhaps there is something here I missed. And hey, i desperately want an excuse not to agree with the Daily Mail..
    But I'm afraid I will still have to say i really didn't like this.

    The eternal dilemma of the to be comfortable outside your own comfort zone of nice people. These are not nice people, and I did not like spending time with them and being told to regret the passing of Alex's free will.
    The non liberal part of me is just glad that Alex is off the streets.
    Yes, I know that is not the point.. that perhaps an ultra safe society is sterile and not worth the cost, and a lobotomised Alex is every bit 'not nice' in a different way... but...
    I don't like bullies. Alex and his Mates were every bit as much bullies as the MASH guys.

    1. Well, I'd go one further and say Alex and his "droogs" are 100 X worse than the MASH boys, in that their "pranks" were more crimes.

      However, I feel like we were never asked to like Alex and his mates. They were presented as an awful gang and that's what they were. There was no sugar coating it. I can be presented with any type of fiction and watch any sorts of characters, as long as you present them to me in an interesting manner. There are always going to be characters that I like and dislike, but I always know that they're characters and that's that. I'm not implying that you don't, I guess I'm just saying that we obviously look at things a bit different, which is absolutely fine.

  2. Good morning..
    Good point - we are not expected to like the Droogs (they are pretty much card-board cut out thugs..), but I think we are invited to see Alex as at least sympathetic. And I certainly think we are expected to mourn the passing of the free and independent spirit of Alex.


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