A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange is a great and dismal movie. A word of caution to all the budding teenage SF movie fans: if there ever was an SF movie to watch behind your daddy's back, A Clockwork Orange would have to be it!

Review by SAndman
June 15, 2008

Clockwork Orange Movie

Director: Stanley Kubrick

novel: Anthony Burgess
screenplay: Stanley Kubrick

Malcolm McDowell as Alex
Warren Clarke as Dim
James Marcus as Georgie
Michael Tarn as Pete
Patrick Magee as Mr. Alexander

Released: 1971

Prison Chaplain: Goodness is something to be chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.

I remember the first time when I watched it - back in the Ice Age of VCR tapes. Up until then I had probably seen loads of SF movies. The precocious young teenager that I was, I thought I had seen just about everything SF had to offer.

It took me about five minutes to realize that this movie was unlike anything I had seen before. This baby was wild. Needless to say, at the time I knew nothing about the legend that surrounded A Clockwork Orange. I knew nothing about the controversy which the movie had incited, censorship, death threats aimed at Kubrick and so on.

So what is A Clockwork Orange about?

The main character is Alex DeLarge, a charismatic teenager with a penchant for violence and Beethoven's music. Alex is the leader of a local gang, which is made up of the three like-minded young hoodlums. Alex rules his underlings with a rod of iron, brooking no argument or opposition. With utter abandon Alex and his "droogs" (the word from Nadsat-a construct language used by Alex in the movie) stomp their way through a futuristic world.

This is not a post-apocalyptic future in which humanity lives its days on the remnants of the past glory. But rather a dehumanized future of concrete underpasses, stark hallways strewn with litter and housing estates devoid of human presence.

This may be the '70s idea of the futuristic cityscape and some may find it outdated but it works for me. As a matter of fact, for years after watching A Clockwork Orange I had this recurring dream of being lost in a deserted city. No, there never was a gang a teenage hoodlums in the dream but the sense of desolation was scary enough.

Let's see what happens when the young Alex and his buddies decide to go out on the town.

For starters, they beat up a helpless tramp – talk about gratuitous violence - by way of psyching up for the night. Next, they pick up a fight with another local gang. They kick their butts in a long elaborately choreographed sequence and in the process the two gangs trash an abandoned theater.

Afterward they blow off some steam driving a stolen car along country roads. Eventually they wind up at a lonely farm. They break in and disable the owner of the house. They rape his wife in what has got to be one the most repugnant scenes ever shown on the silver screen.

No analysis could get at the disturbing potential of this scene. Kubrick crafted it with real sadistic gusto. You can't help feeling that he sticks his knife and twists it.

Finally the feisty quarto get a much-deserved rest at a local molloco bar and after a little disagreement over the matter of taste, which Alex resolves with his usual tact, they call it a night.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot. I will just say that what follows is an unprecedented parable about the dark side of human nature.

As I watched A Clockwork Orange I felt shaken, slapped in the face and spun around. All that time I had this distinct feeling that I was doing something…well, not exactly forbidden but definitely something very very dangerous. And, yeah, I must confess that I had that daddy-looking-over-your-shoulder-feeling during the whole movie. You know what I'm talking about, right?

But I must also say that A Clockwork Orange got me there and then. It made me a life-long fan. A baffled and bewildered fan may be, but a fan nonetheless.

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