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26 February 2012

Clockwork Orange (1971)

There's nothing as queer as a clockwork orange
I've been lucky enough to meet some wonderful people recently via this Blog. It's been a real treat. As you know, I'm not a huge online socialite, but I do get a kick out of hearing what other people think about reviews I've written, and I love getting tips and suggestions for new stuff... so don't be shy!

Clockwork Orange, Warner Brothers 1971

About a month ago the marvelous Christy Dempsey asked me what I thought of a Clockwork Orange. It's a film I'd been meaning to get hold of for some time. Can you guess what happened next? Yeah... here's the review...

Let me set the scene...

Anthony Burgess ponders milk and speed
Clockwork Orange

It's the early 70s. Stanley Kubrick is on the hunt for subject matter for a new film. He's got virtually no money and even less time. The choice is simple: Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel 'Clockwork Orange'. The rest is history.

Clockwork Orange is set in an indeterminate future. It tracks the rise and fall of Alex DeLarge, a charismatic teenage deliquant. Alex is the leader of a gang of thugs who drink milk-drugs, fight with rival gangs and wreak havoc into the wee hours. We have house-breaking, rape, murder, robbery, the works; There isn't anything that these young hoons won't try their hands at! But don't worry... It isn't long before Alex is caught and behind bars. The future doesn't look bright for our anti-hero.

Life behind bars for our Alex
Clockwork Orange, Warner Brothers 1971

You may have picked up that this isn't a happy tale. But don't worry, that's all I'm going to tell you about the story. Watch it yourself!

It was almost guaranteed that this film was going to cause a few ripples when it was released in 1971. And indeed it did. The censors were happy, but not so the public. The fear was that it would inspire a wave of copy-cat 'ultra-violence'. This never materialised, but the public backlash was loud and constant enough for Kubrick to pull the film from general release in 1974. The DVD I bought dates from 2001 and was only released afer Kubrick's death. This explains why I've never watched this film before.

Alex lays down the law for his droogs!
Clockwork Orange, Warner Brothers 1971

Would you like some impressions?

I loved the film making. Right from the opening credits it's clear that Kubrick is going to deliver a heavy dose of popart. He doesn't disappoint. And it may be set sometime in the future, but this is really a stylised version of the 1970s. We have a drab 1960s decor infused with heady psychadelic colour. Fantastic! As retro as this film obviously is, I still found the setting to be unnervingly current and relevant.

Bring on the cod-pieces!
Clockwork Orange, Warner Brothers 1971

Fashion plays a big part in the film. On the whole it's of a bygone era. Perhaps the best bit is the gang uniform. It put me in mind a sort of cross between skinheads and the Sweet with their white outfits, bovver boots and longish hair. The look is over-the-top and iconic, but it works. And can you believe it... they even make cod-pieces look cool! I'll be getting myself one as soon as I can.

Music plays a huge part in this film. It's a trigger for key story points and drives a number of scenes. I like the way Kubrick uses it as a countermeasure for some for the sex and violence. I think Kubrick got some tips from Burgess on the choice of soundtrack. The use of mainly classical pieces was an inspired decision which was most likely done to save Kubrick some cash, but actually I think it has allowed the film to age.

Alex undergoes 'The Ludovico Technique'
Clockwork Orange, Warner Brothers 1971

The cast are great. Malcolm McDowell shines as Alex and there are a host of familiar faces dotted throughout. Most have gone on to bigger and better things. I was interested to learn that there had been an idea to film Clockwork Orange in the 60s starring the Rolling Stones. That would have been fun, but I doubt it would have been as effective as Kubrick's version.

So there's lots to like...

Do you sense that I'm building up to a 'but'...

Spot the reference to Space Odyssey?
These girls were 10 in the book - Kubrick toned it down
Clockwork Orange, Warner Brothers 1971

Yep, unfortunately there is one thing that took the gloss off the experience for me. I felt that the ending wasn't as clear as it needed to be. I know I'm famous for missing the obvious, but I felt that it needed to be more explicit than it was. It's been bugging me, so I've done a bit of research and it turns out that there were two endings to the book: an American version; and a British version. Both have completely different outcomes! For me, the film ends somewhere between the two. I can't really explain without ruining the ending for you... so I'm not going to :-D

Okay, let's wrap this up.

On the Triple-B I'm going to order 6 glasses of milk-plus for my droogs. Everyone up for some ultra-violence?

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