A Clockwork Orange

Review No. 426


The Bottom Line: An involving crime film that begins humorously and ends disturbingly.

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay by: Stanley Kubrick
Based on: “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess
Narrated by: Malcolm McDowell
Alex DeLarge: Malcolm McDowell
Mr. Frank Alexander: Patrick Magee
Mrs. Mary Alexander: Adrienne Corri
Frederick, Minister of the Interior: Anthony Sharp
Dim: Warren Clarke
Cat Lady: Miriam Karlin
Prison Chaplain: Godfrey Quigley
Also Starring: Aubrey Morris, Carl Duering, Clive Francis, David Prowse, James Marcus, John Clive, John J. Carney, John Savident, Lindsay Campbell, Madge Ryan, Margaret Tyzack, Michael Bates, Michael Gover, Michael Tarn, Paul Farrell, Pauline Taylor, Philip Stone, Richard Connaught, Sheila Raynor, Steven Berkoff, Virginia Wetherell

Distributed by Warner Bros. on December 19, 1971. Produced in English and Nadsat by the United Kingdom. Runs 137 mins. Rated R by the MPAA (graphic violence; rape and sexual abuse).

A Clockwork Orange was watched on February 23, 2013.

“I was cured all right.” –Alex DeLarge (Malcolm MacDowell)

It wasn’t until I watched A Clockwork Orange that I realized what a genius Stanley Kubrick is. The film makes countless other psychodramas–including Kubrick’s own The Shining–seem shallow. Alex, the hero in this masterpiece, should be utterly detestable. During the week, he acts innocent, and on the weekends, he ventures on covert crime sprees with his equally awful friends–inductees in a psychosocial gang he heads–where they treat themselves to nights of rape, Beethoven, and other sorts of “ultra-violence.”

There’s something about the opening sequences that is alluring about Alex, though, and we can’t help but feel intrigued. He’s strange and in no way admirable, so don’t ask me how it works; for all I know, the methodical meticulosity in the mind of Stanley Kubrick, and now he, unfortunately, is buried as well. Alex commits so many crimes during the first half of this social commentary. It’s there as black comedy, and he’s clearly having fun. My gosh, he chants “Singin’ in the Rain” as he indulges in a horrendous rape. But these scenes are only enhancements on the black comedy and, oddly enough, they aren’t presented as disturbing.

Kubrick forces his audience to channel the character. The second half commences with Alex being administered the Ludovico torture method. He is tied inside a straitjacket, strapped to a chair in the front row of a cinema; while having his eyes forced wide open and dropped with serum, he has clips flashing in front of him, clips of this ultra-violence he so much loved–backed by Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. That he feels pain for the first time ever is, strangely enough, why it is nearly impossible not to writhe at the sight of such ultra-violence all of a sudden. In fact, in his plagued efforts to change, his everyday experiences are filled with the pain he had caused society. We suddenly cringe at it all.

How much you enjoy A Clockwork Orange correlates with how strong your stomach is. Yes, it’s rich with social commentary. This is science fiction, but very rarely is there even a suggestion of futurism. The tale could take place at any time, because crime is such a common way we waste our lives away. But there is no limit to what is shown onscreen. Let’s just say the film was threatened an X rating by the MPAA; it’s beyond me, how only twenty seconds were expended to receive appeal for an R rating.

A Clockwork Orange is a difficult film to assess without downright insulting it. The film is a classic, showing every ounce of the delinquent’s life through his own eyes, whether those eyes are blinded by criminal obsessions, or seeing his wrongdoings in 20/20 vision. This story is of pure sublimity, giving us perspective of an adolescent who tried to return when he had already long surpassed the point of no return. There’s no one who’s going to forgive him for the turmoil he doused his community into. I’d like not give away the ending, and I’m afraid I’ve given away more than I should. But let’s just say it gives that realization a thought-provoking, satisfying lobotomy.


2001: A Space Odyssey


17 thoughts on “A Clockwork Orange

    • Will do!

      I started the book, but never finished it. It was taking me so long, only because I kept having to flip to the back for “Nadsat” translations, and had to worry about not losing my page. I’ll probably give it a “take two” at some point, and use a printout glossary instead. Thank god for Google! (Must’ve taken some real devotion back when Burgess’s fans read it.)

      • Yes, it’s the toughest book I’ve ever read; mainly due to it’s inventive language. But Burgess managed to brainwash me into loving this book that deals with brainwashing; and made me understand his language myself. Except for a few words, most of the words I tried to make sense of myself, by re-reading lines and going back and re-reading paragraphs sometimes. I’d say avoid the glossary as much as possible. Make the book your own. Test yourself.

        • I was afraid doing that would make me…crazy, for lack of a better word. Hahah. But even with only half the book read, I sometimes have to catch myself from speaking in Nadsat. Gulliver, bezoomny, in-out, ultraviolence, chelloveck, scalliwag (I think?), appy-polly-loggy, rot…all part of my dictionary now hahah.

  1. Have you read the book? I differ from most of the movie going world in that I’m not a crazy fan of this film. I think it’s because I consider the book to be so superior, rather than due to any fault of the film itself.
    Still, nice review!

  2. Nice review. This definitely is one of Kubrick’s best and it was a film way ahead of its time. You might also be interested in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers if you liked A Clockwork Orange, which is a mix between that and Bonnie and Clyde.

    • I haven’t seen Bonnie and Clyde but it’s very high on my list. I love Faye Dunaway. Natural Born Killers, I just don’t know….

      I’ve become a really huge fan of Stanley Kubrick, now that I have, like, nine of his movies in my collection. I think I’ll try and watch Spartacus this weekend, and my 2001: A Space Odyssey review goes up maana.

      • The theatrical cut of Natural Born Killers is R but the unrated version is the equivalent of of an NC-17 rating. Either way it’s pretty violent. Bonnie and Clyde’s a classic.

        Kubrick’s my favorite director. Spartacus is an okay movie, but not his best. Barry Lyndon’s my second favorite by him and I recommend also seeing Paths of Glory. I look forward to your 2001 review.

          • FMJ and The Killing are great as well. Eyes Wide Shut, Lolita, and Fear and Desire are the only ones by him I haven’t seen.

            Dr. Strangelove and The Shining are two of his best. If I had to ranks his top five they’d be 2001, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Dr. Strangelove, and A Clockwork Orange.

            • Yeah I saw Strangelove near my blog’s genesis, so I probably didn’t understand the Cold War satire (but I do remember it being funny somewhat). I gave it a B.

              I gave The Shining an A+ when I reviewed it, but having seen it again recently, it seemed like a B or a B+ to me. I still love it, but Shelley Duvall was at her very worst and it’s not as explained as it should be.

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