A Clockwork Orange

09/02/2016 15:55

Film: A Clockwork Orange

Year: 1971

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writer: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee and Michael Bates



This film is one of my favorites. I randomly saw it in high school when my buddy brought it over, thinking that it was a vampire movie. He knew that it had notoriety and those were the types of movies we watched as a group. I’ve loved it since that first viewing. Since then, I’ve seen this quite a few times throughout the years. It is one I’ve written papers on in college and now can even say that I saw it in the theater. I have also read the book as well.

Synopsis: in the future, a sadistic gang leader is imprisoned and volunteers for a conduct-aversion experiment, but it doesn’t go as planned.

We are following a young man by the name of Alex de Large (Malcolm McDowell). He narrates throughout to give us a bit more information. Along with his friends, who are called Droogs, they’re at a milk bar where it can be purchased with different drugs in it. With him are Dim (Warren Clarke), who is the largest, Georgie (James Marcus) and Pete (Michael Tarn). Amongst the youth, they have their own language named NADSAT. It is a combination of English, Russian and slang terms. They are deciding what they are going to do for the night.

It is quite eventful. They attack a homeless man who asks for money. They save a young woman from getting raped by a rival gang and then get into an all-out brawl with them. They stole a car and drove around the countryside going fast. Then they knock on the door of a writer and his wife. They pretend there was an accident and need to use their phone. The writer is Mr. Alexander (Patrick Magee) and his wife is Mrs. Alexander (Adrienne Corri). They attacked him and then cut off her clothes. She is raped while Alex sings ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. To finish the night, they go back to the milk bar where we learn that Alex loves classical music, especially Ludwig von Beethoven. We also see there is resentment amongst the group with Alex being harsh as a leader.

When he gets home, he turns on Beethoven and we see that he has perverted dreams of violence and sexual fantasies. Alex lives with his mum (Sheila Raynor) and dad (Philip Stone). That morning, his Mum tries to wake him for school, but he tells her he has a headache. When he does get up, a counselor from the school is in the apartment. His name is Deltoid (Aubrey Morris). He tries to convince him to stay on the straight and narrow, but Alex pretends like he was just sick and is good.

After Alex works off steam with two young women that he met at a record store, he meets with his crew in the lobby of his building. It is tense with things that Dim says and Georgie backs him up. Alex strikes while they’re walking, exerting his dominance once again. He does agree to their plan of robbing a rich woman. That night they go to her house and this cat lady is Miriam Karlin. They try to use their ploy again, but she remembers reading in the newspaper so she doesn’t fall for it. She calls the police to alert them to what happened. Alex sneaks into the house. She attacks him, but he fights back. He ends up killing her with a phallic statue by accident. As he goes to flee, his friends turn on him. They hit him with a milk bottle and left him for the police.

It is from here we see the failings of the prison system. Alex takes to the prison’s Chaplain (Godfrey Quigley), but we see his fantasies are just as depraved. He does see an opportunity to get out through government minister, Anthony Sharp. This leads him to the Ludovico Institute and Dr. Brodsky (Carl Duering). They try an experimental treatment that causes him to be ill when violence, sex or even listening to Beethoven. This leads to some interesting reactions when he’s released.

That should be enough for my recap. There are layers to this movie which is what I like about it. I think what I’ll do is breakdown commentary that we are getting. Since we jump into this movie at a point of time, we don’t know the history of Alex. It feels to me like they’re going with nature as to why he is the way that he is. He is content with being this small-time hood. He tells his friends, why pull a big job that will draw the police when you can take whatever you need. It makes me wonder, did his friends really want to pull that big job or just use it to get him busted? Regardless, I think that McDowell does an excellent job as this sociopath here. I’m not done with his character though.

Going along with this idea of nature, we have an interesting look at the prison system. The minister points out that they don’t need more prisons. They need a different way of rehabilitating criminals. Being that I live in the United States, we are dealing with ‘for profit’ prisons and it doesn’t work. We put criminals away in a building that is full of criminals. If anything, it is making things worse. There are heinous people that can’t be helped, like Alex, that we need to do something better with. This movie is taking it to the extreme with making it where the thought of violence makes him sick. He cannot have a normal sexual relationship and my thought there is that Alex is a monster by nature. They’re trying to stop the gene there. The issue is that his parents are normal and good. Who is to say if Alex has children, they’ll be like him? That is where nurture comes into play. It is horrible that he cannot listen to Beethoven anymore, but I will say, he has a bad aversion when he does with sick fantasies. The last bit as well is that he ‘turns to religion’ in prison. We see his dream is to kill and torture as a Roman, so it isn’t good. He is using it to get out earlier. He needs to be locked up.

Another idea of this movie comes from the chaplain. He says that they haven’t cured Alex during the presentation. It shows he cannot do these things and the chaplain uses religion as the basis for his argument. Alex no longer has free will. If memory serves, clockwork orange comes into play here since he is like a machine. I think the minister’s rationale is that criminals need to lose the ability to choose, since they’ve chosen poorly. By making people become machines, it creates issues with government control. This is where Mr. Alexander comes into play. He speaks out against the government and what they’re doing here. He is afraid of a 1984 or Animal Farm scenario coming into play.

Now with all of this, why am I covering this as a horror movie review? For me, this is a horror adjunct film. We have Alex and his gang doing horrific things. They’re hurting people, killing, rape and other bad things. They are quite brutal. We also have the idea of the government doing mind control, which is scary. Alex becomes this person who cannot fight back and he is driven to kill himself. Alex is a psychopath and we get a glimpse into that life. It isn’t traditional, but I think all this together with the dark tone makes it horror for me.

So that should be enough for the story and I’ll go to the acting. I’ve already said how good McDowell is. Magee is great with his facial expressions as Mr. Alexander. It is hard to watch him hold back his hatred for Alex when it clicks to who he is. It is well done. Michael Bates is good as the chief guard at the prison. I like Clarke as Dim. Corri is good in her limited role. The same could be said for Duering, Paul Ferrell, Karlin, Morris and the rest of the cast. This is such an odd movie with a futuristic tinge while still feeling like it could be any era from when it was made until today.

Then the last thing to go into would be filmmaking. For how this is shot, it is beautiful. I expect this seeing Stanley Kubrick’s name. The cinematography is amazing. I’ll toss the effects in here as well to make this feel futuristic and yet still grounded in the era it was made. There is a bit of blood that is bright, but I have a soft spot there. Not everything with the effects look great and yet, it still works. The soundtrack is also amazing. It gives an epic feel to things. I love the use of classical music and the real songs tossed in there add an odd duality. The major one being the use of the song Singin’ in the Rain. This movie is the reason I know the words.

In conclusion, this movie is a masterpiece to me. It is my favorite Kubrick film as there are layers to it. This is partly a reason he is one of my favorite filmmakers. We have this futuristic story that still feels grounded and almost timeless. The performance from McDowell is excellent and the rest of the cast is great in directing him to where he goes. This movie is shot beautifully. The effects aren’t great, but they also don’t have to be. The soundtrack fits the movie for what it needs and works so well. I don’t have anything negative to say here, aside from the movie is long. I can’t hold it against it though as it flies by for me still. This is as close to a perfect movie as you can get for me.


My Rating: 10 out of 10