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A Clockwork Orange (film)

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Title: A Clockwork Orange (film)  
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Subject: A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick, 44th Academy Awards, Science fiction film, List of banned films
Collection: 1970S Crime Drama Films, 1970S Science Fiction Films, 1971 Films, A Clockwork Orange, British Crime Drama Films, British Films, British Science Fiction Films, Dystopian Films, English-Language Films, Fictional-Language Films, Film Censorship in the United Kingdom, Films About Psychopaths, Films About Rape, Films About Revenge, Films Based on British Novels, Films Based on Science Fiction Novels, Films Directed by Stanley Kubrick, Films Produced by Stanley Kubrick, Films Set in London, Films Set in the Future, Films Shot in Berkshire, Films Shot in Buckinghamshire, Films Shot in Hertfordshire, Films Shot in London, Films Shot in Oxfordshire, Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation Winning Works, Ludwig Van Beethoven in Popular Culture, Obscenity Controversies, Obscenity Controversies in Film, Pinewood Studios Films, Prison Films, Screenplays by Stanley Kubrick, Self-Censorship, Warner Bros. Films
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A Clockwork Orange (film)

A Clockwork Orange
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Produced by Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick
Based on A Clockwork Orange 
by Anthony Burgess
Music by Walter Carlos
Cinematography John Alcott
Edited by Bill Butler
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 19 December 1971 (1971-12-19) (New York City)
  • 13 January 1972 (1972-01-13) (United Kingdom)
  • 2 February 1972 (1972-02-02) (United States)
Running time
136 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom[2]
  • United States[2]
Budget $2.2 million[3]
Box office $26.6 million (North America)[3]

A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 dystopian crime film adapted, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on Anthony Burgess's 1962 novella A Clockwork Orange. It employs disturbing, violent images to comment on psychiatry, juvenile delinquency, youth gangs, and other social, political, and economic subjects in a dystopian near-future Britain.

Russian word друг, "friend," "buddy"). The film chronicles the horrific crime spree of his gang, his capture, and attempted rehabilitation via controversial psychological conditioning. Alex narrates most of the film in Nadsat, a fractured adolescent slang composed of Slavic (especially Russian), English, and Cockney rhyming slang.

The soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange features mostly classical music selections and Moog synthesizer compositions by Wendy Carlos (then known as Walter Carlos). The artwork of the now-iconic poster of A Clockwork Orange was created by Philip Castle with the layout by designer Bill Gold.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Themes 3
    • Morality 3.1
    • Psychology 3.2
  • Production 4
    • Adaptation 4.1
      • The novelist's response 4.1.1
    • Direction 4.2
    • Nature of the society 4.3
    • Locations 4.4
    • Music 4.5
  • Reception 5
    • Critical reception 5.1
    • Responses and controversy 5.2
      • American version 5.2.1
      • British withdrawal 5.2.2
        • Withdrawal controversy documentary
    • Accolades 5.3
      • Won 5.3.1
      • Nominated 5.3.2
  • Differences between the film and the novel 6
  • Home media 7
  • In popular culture 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12


In futuristic London, Alex DeLarge is the leader of his "droogs", Georgie, Dim and Pete. One night, after getting intoxicated on "drencrom" (milk laced with drugs), they engage in an evening of "ultra-violence," which includes beating an elderly vagrant and fighting a rival gang led by Billyboy. After stealing a car, they drive to the country home of writer F. Alexander, where they beat Mr. Alexander to the point of crippling him for life. Alex then rapes his wife while singing "Singin' in the Rain".

The next day, while truant from school, Alex is approached by his probation officer Mr. P. R. Deltoid, who is aware of Alex's activities and cautions him. Afterward, Alex visits a record store where he picks up two girls. He takes them back home and has sex with them.

That night, his droogs express discontent with Alex's petty crimes, demanding more equality and more high-yield thefts. Alex reasserts his leadership by attacking them. Later Alex invades the mansion of a wealthy "cat-lady", while his droogs remain at the front door. Once inside, Alex bludgeons the woman with a phallic statue. After hearing police sirens, Alex tries to run away, but Dim smashes a pint bottle of milk across his face, leaving him stunned, and Alex is captured by the police. A gloating Deltoid spits in his face after informing him that the woman died in the hospital, making him a murderer. Alex is sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Two years into his sentence, the Minister of the Interior arrives at the prison looking for test subjects for the Ludovico technique, an experimental aversion therapy for rehabilitating criminals within two weeks. Alex readily volunteers with the hope of early release. The process involves drugging the subject, strapping him to a chair, propping his eyelids open, and forcing him to watch images of violence. Alex becomes nauseated due to the drugs. He realizes that one of the films' soundtracks is by his favorite composer, Ludwig van Beethoven, and that the Ludovico technique will make him sick whenever he hears the music he loves. He begs the doctors to end the treatment, but they ignore his pleas.

After two weeks of the Ludovico technique, the Minister of the Interior puts on a demonstration to prove that Alex is "cured". He is shown to be incapable of fighting back against an actor who insults and attacks him, and becomes violently ill at the sight of a topless woman. The prison chaplain protests at the results, feeling that Alex has been robbed of his God-given freewill: "He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice." The prison governor asserts that they are not interested in the higher ethics but only with "cutting down crime and relieving the ghastly congestion in our prisons".

Alex is released and finds that his possessions have been confiscated by the police to help make restitution to his victims, and that his parents have rented out his room. Homeless, Alex encounters the elderly vagrant from before, who attacks him with several other friends. Alex is saved by two policemen who turn out to be Dim and Georgie. They drag Alex to the countryside, where they beat and nearly drown him. A dazed Alex wanders the countryside before coming to the home of the writer Mr. Alexander, who is now paralyzed. Alex collapses on his doorstep, then wakes up to find himself being cared for by Alexander and his manservant, Julian. Mr. Alexander, who does not recognize Alex as his attacker, has read about his treatment in the newspapers. Seeing Alex as a political weapon to attack the government, Mr. Alexander prepares to introduce Alex to his colleagues, but then he hears Alex singing "Singin' in the Rain" in the bath, and identifies him as the attacker who crippled him and raped his wife. With his colleagues' help, Alexander drugs Alex and places him in a locked upstairs bedroom. Alex wakes up to hear Beethoven's Ninth Symphony playing loudly through the floor below. Experiencing excruciating pain, he tries to commit suicide by jumping out the window and is knocked unconscious by the fall.

Alex wakes up in a hospital with broken bones. While being given a series of psychological tests, Alex finds that he no longer has an aversion to violence or sex. The Minister of the Interior arrives and apologizes to Alex. He offers to take care of Alex and get him a job in return for his cooperation with his election campaign and public relations counter-offensive. As a sign of goodwill, the Minister brings in a stereo system playing Beethoven's Ninth. Alex then contemplates violence and has vivid thoughts of himself having sex in the snow with a woman in front of an approving crowd: "I was cured, all right!".





The film's central moral question (as in many of Burgess' books) is the definition of "goodness" and whether it makes sense to use aversion therapy to stop immoral behaviour.[5] Stanley Kubrick, writing in Saturday Review, described the film as:

"...A social satire dealing with the question of whether behavioural psychology and psychological conditioning are dangerous new weapons for a totalitarian government to use to impose vast controls on its citizens and turn them into little more than robots."[6]

Similarly, on the film production's call sheet (cited at greater length above), Kubrick wrote:

"It is a story of the dubious redemption of a teenage delinquent by condition-reflex therapy. It is, at the same time, a running lecture on free-will."

After aversion therapy, Alex behaves like a good member of society, but not by choice. His goodness is involuntary; he has become the titular clockwork orange — organic on the outside, mechanical on the inside. In the prison, after witnessing the Technique in action on Alex, the chaplain criticises it as false, arguing that true goodness must come from within. This leads to the theme of abusing liberties — personal, governmental, civil — by Alex, with two conflicting political forces, the Government and the Dissidents, both manipulating Alex for their purely political ends.[7] The story critically portrays the "conservative" and "liberal" parties as equal, for using Alex as a means to their political ends: the writer Frank Alexander — a victim of Alex and gang — wants revenge against Alex and sees him as a means of definitively turning the populace against the incumbent government and its new regime. Mr. Alexander fears the new government; in telephonic conversation, he says:

"...Recruiting brutal young roughs into the police; proposing debilitating and will-sapping techniques of conditioning. Oh, we've seen it all before in other countries; the thin end of the wedge! Before we know where we are, we shall have the full apparatus of totalitarianism."

On the other side, the Minister of the Interior (the Government) jails Mr. Alexander (the Dissident Intellectual) on excuse of his endangering Alex (the People), rather than the government's totalitarian regime (described by Mr. Alexander). It is unclear whether or not he has been harmed; however, the Minister tells Alex that the writer has been denied the ability to write and produce "subversive" material that is critical of the incumbent government and meant to provoke political unrest.

It has been noted that Alex's immorality is reflected in the society in which he lives.[8] The Cat Lady's love of hardcore pornographic art is comparable to Alex's taste for sex and violence. Lighter forms of pornographic content adorn Alex's parents' home and, in a later scene, Alex awakens in hospital from his coma, interrupting a nurse and doctor engaged in a sexual act.


Ludovico technique apparatus

Another critical target is the behaviourism or "behavioural psychology" propounded by psychologists John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner. Burgess disapproved of behaviourism, calling Skinner's book Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971) "one of the most dangerous books ever written." Although behaviourism's limitations were conceded by its principal founder, Watson, Skinner argued that behaviour modification — specifically, operant conditioning (learned behaviours via systematic reward-and-punishment techniques) rather than the "classical" Watsonian conditioning — is the key to an ideal society. The film's Ludovico technique is widely perceived as a parody of aversion therapy which is a form of classical conditioning.[9] Author Paul Duncan said of Alex: "Alex is the narrator so we see everything from his point of view, including his mental images. The implication is that all of the images, both real and imagined, are part of Alex's fantasies". [10] Psychiatrist Aaron Stern, the former head of the MPAA rating board, believed that Alex represents man in his natural state, the unconscious mind. Alex becomes "civilised" after receiving his Ludovico "cure", and the sickness in the aftermath Stern considered to be the "neurosis imposed by society".[11] Kubrick stated to Philip Strick and Penelope Houston that he believed Alex "makes no attempt to deceive himself or the audience as to his total corruption or wickedness. He is the very personification of evil. On the other hand, he has winning qualities: his total candour, his wit, his intelligence and his energy; these are attractive qualities and ones, which I might add, which he shares with Richard III."[12]


Stanley Kubrick taking a break, waiting for the rain to stop, during filming of A Clockwork Orange

McDowell was chosen for the role of Alex after Kubrick saw him in the film if..... He also helped Kubrick on the uniform of Alex's gang, when he showed Kubrick the cricket whites he had. Kubrick asked him to put the box (jockstrap) not under but on top of the costume.[13][14]

During the filming of the Ludovico technique scene, McDowell scratched a cornea,[15] and was temporarily blinded. The doctor standing next to him in the scene, dropping saline solution into Alex's forced-open eyes, was a real physician present to prevent the actor's eyes from drying. McDowell also cracked some ribs filming the humiliation stage show.[16] A unique special effect technique was used when Alex jumps out of the window in an attempt to commit suicide and the viewer sees the ground approaching the camera until collision, i.e., as if from Alex's point of view. This effect was achieved by dropping a Newman Sinclair clockwork camera in a box, lens-first, from the third story of the Corus Hotel. To Kubrick's surprise, the camera survived six takes.[17]


The cinematic adaptation of A Clockwork Orange (1962) was accidental. Screenplay writer Terry Southern gave Kubrick a copy of the novel, but, as he was developing a Napoleon Bonaparte–related project, Kubrick put it aside. Kubrick's wife, in an interview, stated she then gave him the novel after having read it. It had an immediate impact. Of his enthusiasm for it, Kubrick said, "I was excited by everything about it: The plot, the ideas, the characters, and, of course, the language. The story functions, of course, on several levels: Political, sociological, philosophical, and, what's most important, on a dreamlike psychological-symbolic level." Kubrick wrote a screenplay faithful to the novel, saying, "I think whatever Burgess had to say about the story was said in the book, but I did invent a few useful narrative ideas and reshape some of the scenes."[18] Kubrick based the script on the shortened US edition of the book, which missed the final chapter (restored in 1986).

The novelist's response

Burgess had mixed feelings about the cinema version of his novel, publicly saying he loved Malcolm McDowell and Michael Bates, and the use of music; he praised it as "brilliant," even so brilliant that it might be dangerous. Despite this enthusiasm, he was concerned that it lacked the novel's redemptive final chapter, an absence he blamed upon his American publisher and not Kubrick. All US editions of the novel prior to 1986 omitted the final chapter.

Burgess reports in his autobiography You've Had Your Time (1990) that he and Kubrick at first enjoyed a good relationship, each holding similar philosophical and political views and each very interested in literature, cinema, music, and Napoleon Bonaparte. Burgess's 1974 novel Napoleon Symphony was dedicated to Kubrick. Their relationship soured when Kubrick left Burgess to defend the film from accusations of glorifying violence. A lapsed Catholic, Burgess tried many times to explain the Christian moral points of the story to outraged Christian organizations and to defend it against newspaper accusations that it supported fascist dogma. He also went to receive awards given to Kubrick on his behalf.


Kubrick was a perfectionist of meticulous research, with thousands of photographs taken of potential locations, as well as many scene takes; however, per Malcolm McDowell, he usually "got it right" early on, so there were few takes. So meticulous was Kubrick that McDowell stated "If Kubrick hadn't been a film director he'd have been a General Chief of Staff of the US Forces. No matter what it is—even if it's a question of buying a shampoo it goes through him. He just likes total control."[19] Filming took place between September 1970 and April 1971, making A Clockwork Orange the quickest film shoot in his career. Technically, to achieve and convey the fantastic, dream-like quality of the story, he filmed with extreme wide-angle lenses[20] such as the Kinoptik Tegea 9.8mm for 35mm Arriflex cameras,[21] and used fast- and slow motion to convey the mechanical nature of its bedroom sex scene or stylize the violence in a manner similar to Toshio Matsumoto's Funeral Parade of Roses (1969).[22]

Nature of the society

The society depicted in the film was perceived by some as Communist (as Michel Ciment pointed out in an interview with Kubrick) due to its slight ties to Russian culture. The teenage slang has a heavily Russian influence, as in the novel; Burgess explains the slang as being, in part, intended to draw a reader into the world of the book's characters and to prevent the book from becoming outdated. There is some evidence to suggest that the society is a socialist one, or perhaps a society evolving from a failed socialism into a fully fascist society. In the novel, streets have paintings of working men in the style of Russian socialist art, and in the film, there is a mural of socialist artwork with obscenities drawn on it. As Malcolm McDowell points out on the DVD commentary, Alex's residence was shot on failed Labour Party architecture, and the name "Municipal Flat Block 18A, Linear North" alludes to socialist-style housing. Later in the film, when the new right-wing government takes power, the atmosphere is certainly more authoritarian than the anarchist air of the beginning. Kubrick's response to Ciment's question remained ambiguous as to exactly what kind of society it is. Kubrick asserted that the film held comparisons between both the left and right end of the political spectrum and that there is little difference between the two. Kubrick stated, "The Minister, played by Anthony Sharp, is clearly a figure of the Right. The writer, Patrick Magee, is a lunatic of the Left... They differ only in their dogma. Their means and ends are hardly distinguishable."[23]


Thamesmead South Housing Estate where Alex knocks his rebellious droogs into the lake in a sudden surprise attack

A Clockwork Orange was photographed mostly on location in metropolitan London and within quick access of Kubrick's then home in Barnett Lane, Elstree.

Shooting began on 7 September 1970 with call sheet no. 1 at the Duke Of New York pub: an unused scene and unused location (the first of many). A few days later, shooting commenced in Alex's Ludovico treatment bedroom and the Serum 114 injection by Dr. Branom.

New Year's Eve started with rehearsals on the 31st at the Korova Milk Bar and shooting finished after four continuous days on 8 January.

The last scenes were shot in February 1971 ending with call sheet no. 113. The last main scene to be filmed was Alex's fight with Billy Boy's gang, taking six days to cover. Shooting encompassed a total of around 113 days over six months of fairly continuous shooting. As is normal practice, there was no attempt to shoot the script in chronological order.

The few scenes not shot on location were the Korova Milk Bar, the prison check-in area, Alex taking a bath at F. Alexander's house, and two corresponding scenes in the hallway. These sets were built at an old factory on Bullhead Road, Borehamwood, which also served as the production office. Seven call sheets are missing from the Stanley Kubrick Archive, so some locations, such as the hallway, cannot be confirmed.

Otherwise, locations used in the film include:

  • The attack on the tramp was filmed at the (now renovated) southern pedestrian underpass below Wandsworth Bridge roundabout, Wandsworth, London.
  • The unused scene of the attack on the professor was shot in (now covered) Friars Square shopping centre in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, but dropped due to the actor dying. For the subsequent scene where the professor recognises Alex towards the latter part of the film, the tramp plays the character who recognises Alex.
  • The Billy Boy gang fight occurs at the demolished Karsino hotel on Tagg's Island, Kingston upon Thames.
  • Alex's apartment is on the top floor of Canterbury House tower block, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. An exterior blue plaque and mosaic at ground level commemorate the film's location.
    The Chelsea Drugstore in west London
  • The record shop where Alex picks up the two young women was in the basement of the former Chelsea Drugstore, located on the corner of Royal Avenue and King's Road in Chelsea.
  • The Menacing Cars scene where the Durango '95 drives under the lorry trailer was shot by Colney Heath on Bullens Green Lane at the crossroads of Fellows Lane, Hertfordshire.
  • The writer's house, site of the rape and beating, was filmed at three different locations: The arrival in the "Durango 95" by the "HOME" sign was shot on the lane leading to Munden House which is off School Lane, Bricket Wood. The house's exterior and garden with the footbridge over the pond is Milton Grundy's Japanese garden in Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire and the interior is Skybreak House, in The Warren, Radlett, Hertfordshire.
  • Alex throws Dim and Georgie into South Mere lake at Thamesmead South Housing Estate, London. This is 200 yards north of where Alex walks home at night through an elevated plaza (now demolished) kicking rubbish.
  • The "Duke Of New York" pub is the demolished "The Bottle and Dragon" pub (formerly "The Old Leather Bottle") in Stonegrove, Edgware, London.
  • The Cat Lady house where Alex is caught by police is Shenley Lodge, Rectory Lane, Shenley, Hertfordshire.
  • The prison's exterior is HMP Wandsworth, its interior is the Woolwich Barracks now demolished prison wing, Woolwich, London.
  • The chapel where Alex scrolls the lyrics as the prisoners sing is (building is probably demolished) at St. Edward's College, Totteridge Lane, North London. The same site where Alex signs consent for the Ludovico treatment in the prison governor's office (still standing).
  • The two biblical fantasy scenes (Christ, and the fight scene) were filmed at Dashwood Mausoleum, West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
  • The check-in at Ludovico Medical Clinic, the brain-washing film theatre, Alex's house lobby with the broken elevator, Alex's hospital bedroom and police interrogation/beating room (demolished) are all Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex.
  • The Minister's presentation to the media of Alex's "cure" takes place at the Nettlefold Hall inside West Norwood Library, West Norwood, London.
  • Alex is attacked by vagrants underneath the north side of the Albert Bridge, Chelsea, London.
  • The scene where Dim and Georgie take Alex in the police Landrover down the country lane and subsequent water trough beating is School Lane, Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire.
  • Alex's suicide bid leap and corresponding billiard room were at the old Edgewarebury Country Club, Barnett Lane, Elstree, Hertfordshire.
  • The hospital where Alex recovers is Princess Alexandra Hospital (Harlow), Essex.
  • The final sexual fantasy was shot at the demolished Handley Page Ltd's hangars, Radlett, Hertfordshire.


Despite Alex's obsession with Beethoven, the soundtrack contains more music by Rossini than by Beethoven. The fast-motion sex scene with the two girls, the slow-motion fight between Alex and his Droogs, the fight with Billy Boy's gang, the invasion of the Cat Lady's home, and the scene where Alex looks into the river and contemplates suicide before being approached by the beggar are all accompanied by Rossini's music.[24][25]


Critical reception

Despite its controversial nature, A Clockwork Orange was a hit with American audiences, grossing more than $26 million on a conservative budget of $2.2 million, was critically acclaimed, and was nominated for several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture (losing to The French Connection). It also boosted sales of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. As of 2015, A Clockwork Orange holds a 90% "Certified Fresh" rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes.[26]

The movie was the most popular film of 1972 in France with admissions of 7,611,745.[27]

The film is ranked highly in many polls. It is ranked 46th in the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies and 70th in the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition). In Sight & Sound's 2012 poll, A Clockwork Orange was ranked 75th greatest film of all time in the directors poll and 235th in the critics poll.[28]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times praised the film saying "McDowell is splendid as tomorrow's child, but it is always Mr. Kubrick's picture, which is even technically more interesting than "2001." Among other devices, Mr. Kubrick constantly uses what I assume to be a wide-angle lens to distort space relationships within scenes, so that the disconnection between lives, and between people and environment, becomes an actual, literal fact."[29] The following year, after the film won the New York Film Critics Award he called it "a brilliant and dangerous work, but it is dangerous in a way that brilliant things sometimes are."[30]

Despite general praise from critics, the film had notable detractors. Film critic Stanley Kauffmann commented, "Inexplicably, the script leaves out Burgess' reference to the title".[31] Roger Ebert gave A Clockwork Orange two stars out of four, calling it an "ideological mess."[32] In the New Yorker review titled "Stanley Strangelove", Pauline Kael called it pornographic because of how it dehumanized Alex's victims while highlighting the sufferings of the protagonist. Kael derided Kubrick as a "bad pornographer", noting the Billyboy's gang extended stripping of the very buxom woman they intended to rape, claiming it was offered for titillation.[33]

John Simon noted that the novel's most ambitious effects were based on language and the alienating effect of the narrator's Nadsat slang, making it a poor choice for a film. Concurring with some of Kael's criticisms about the depiction of Alex's victims, Simon noted that the writer character (young and likeable in the novel) was played by Patrick Magee, "a very quirky and middle-aged actor who specialises in being repellent". Simon comments further that "Kubrick over-directs the basically excessive Magee until his eyes erupt like missiles from their silos and his face turns every shade of a Technicolor sunset."

The film was re-released in North America in 1973 and earned $1.5 million in rentals.[34]

Responses and controversy

Along with Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Wild Bunch (1969), Dirty Harry (1971), and Straw Dogs (1971), the film is considered a landmark in the relaxation of control on violence in the cinema.[35] In the United Kingdom, A Clockwork Orange was very controversial and withdrawn from release by Kubrick himself.[36] It is 21st in the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills and number 46 in the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies, although in the second listing, it is ranked 70th of 100. "Alex DeLarge" is listed 12th in the villains section of the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains. In 2008, the AFI's 10 Top 10 rated A Clockwork Orange as the 4th greatest science-fiction movie to date. In 2010, TIME placed it 9th on their list of the Top 10 Ridiculously Violent Movies.[37] In 2008, Empire ranked it 37th on their list of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.", and in 2013, Empire ranked it 11th on their list of "The 100 Best British Films Ever".[38] Spanish auteur Luis Buñuel was highly praising of the film. He once said: "A Clockwork Orange is my current favourite. I was predisposed against the film. After seeing it, I realised it is only a movie about what the modern world really means".[12]

American Film Institute recognition

American version

In the United States, A Clockwork Orange was rated X in its original release. Later, Kubrick voluntarily replaced approximately 30 seconds of sexually explicit footage from two scenes with less explicit action for an R rating re-release in 1973. Current DVDs present the original edit (reclassified with an "R" rating), and only some of the early 1980s VHS editions are the edited version.[44][45]

Because of the explicit sex and violence, The National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures rated it C ("Condemned"), a rating which forbade Roman Catholics seeing the film. In 1982, the Office abolished the "Condemned" rating. Subsequently, films deemed to have unacceptable levels of sex and violence by the Conference of Bishops are rated O, "Morally Offensive".[46]

British withdrawal

Although it was passed uncut for UK cinemas in December 1971, British authorities considered the sexual violence in the film to be extreme. In March 1972, during the trial of a fourteen-year-old male accused of the manslaughter of a classmate, the prosecutor referred to A Clockwork Orange, suggesting that the film had a macabre relevance to the case.[47] The film was also linked to the murder of an elderly vagrant by a 16-year-old boy in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, who pleaded guilty after telling police that friends had told him of the film "and the beating up of an old boy like this one." Roger Gray QC, for the defence, told the court that "the link between this crime and sensational literature, particularly A Clockwork Orange, is established beyond reasonable doubt".[48] The press also blamed the film for a rape in which the attackers sang "Singin' in the Rain" as "Singin' in the Rape".[49] Christiane Kubrick, the director's wife, has said that the family received threats and had protesters outside their home.[50] Subsequently, Kubrick asked Warner Brothers to withdraw the film from British distribution. In response to allegations that the film was responsible for copycat violence Kubrick stated: "To try and fasten any responsibility on art as the cause of life seems to me to put the case the wrong way around. Art consists of reshaping life, but it does not create life, nor cause life. Furthermore, to attribute powerful suggestive qualities to a film is at odds with the scientifically accepted view that, even after deep hypnosis in a posthypnotic state, people cannot be made to do things which are at odds with their natures."[51] The Scala Cinema Club went into receivership in 1993 after losing a legal battle following an unauthorized screening of the film.[52]

Whatever the reason for the withdrawal, it was difficult to see A Clockwork Orange in the United Kingdom for 27 years. It was only after Kubrick's death in 1999 that the film reappeared in cinemas and was released on VHS and DVD. On July 4, 2001, the uncut version premiered on Sky TV's Sky Box Office, where it ran until mid-September.

Withdrawal controversy documentary

In 1993, Channel 4 broadcast Forbidden Fruit, a 27-minute documentary about the controversial withdrawal of the film in Britain.[53] It contains much footage from A Clockwork Orange, marking the only time portions of the film were shown to British audiences during the 27-year ban.



  • Silver Ribbon (Nastro d'Argento) 1973 for Best Foreign Director - Stanley Kubrick (awarded by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists)


Differences between the film and the novel

Kubrick's film is relatively faithful to the Burgess novel, omitting only the final, positive chapter, wherein Alex matures and outgrows sociopathy. Whereas the film ends with Alex offered an open-ended government job — implying he remains a sociopath at heart — the novel ends with Alex's positive change in character. This plot discrepancy occurred because Kubrick based his screenplay upon the novel's American edition, its final chapter deleted on insistence of the American publisher.[55] He claimed not to have read the complete, original version of the novel until he had almost finished writing the screenplay, and that he never considered using it. The introduction to the 1996 edition of A Clockwork Orange, says that Kubrick found the end of the original edition too blandly optimistic and unrealistic.

  • In the novel, Alex's last name was never revealed, while in the film, his surname is 'DeLarge', due to Alex's calling himself "Alexander the Large" in the novel.
  • At the beginning of the novel, Alex is a 15-year-old juvenile delinquent. In the film, to minimize controversy, Alex is portrayed as somewhat older, around 17 or 18.
  • Critic Randy Rasmussen has argued that the government in the film is in considerable shambles and in a state of desperation while the government in the novel is quite strong and self-confident. The former reflects Kubrick's preoccupation with the theme of acts of self-interest masked as simply following procedure.[56]
    One example of this would be differences in the portrayal of P.R. Deltoid, Alex's "post-corrective advisor". In the novel, P.R. Deltoid appears to have some moral authority (although not enough to prevent Alex from lying to him or engaging in crime, despite his protests). In the film, Deltoid is slightly sadistic and seems to have a sexual interest in Alex, interviewing him in his parents' bedroom and smacking him in the crotch.
  • In the film, Alex has a pet snake. There is no mention of this in the novel.[57]
  • In the novel, F. Alexander recognises Alex through a number of careless references to the previous attack (e.g., his wife then claiming they did not have a telephone). In the film, Alex is recognised when singing the song 'Singing in the Rain' in the bath, which he had hauntingly done while attacking F. Alexander's wife. The song does not appear at all in the book, as it was an improvisation by actor Malcolm McDowell when Kubrick complained that the rape scene was too "stiff".[58]
  • In the novel, Alex is offered up for treatment after killing a fellow inmate who was sexually harassing him. In the film, this scene was cut out and, instead of Alex practically volunteering for the procedure, he was simply selected by the head of the government due to speaking out of turn.
  • Alex's prison number in the novel is 6655321. His prison number in the film is 655321.
  • In the novel, Alex drugs and rapes two ten-year-old girls. In the film, the girls are young adults that seem to have consensual, playful sex with him, with no suggestion of using any drugs and without any violence.
  • In the novel, the writer was working on a manuscript called A Clockwork Orange when Alex and his gang are breaking into his house. In the movie, the title of the manuscript is not visible, leaving no literal reference to the title of the movie. Some explanations of the title are offered in the Analysis section of the novel.
  • Early in the film, Alex and his droogs brutally attack a drunk, homeless man. Later, when Alex is returned to society, he is recognised by the same man. The homeless man gathers several other homeless men to beat Alex, who is unable to defend himself. These scenes do not appear in the book, but there is a similar scene in which an elderly man heading home from the library is beaten and his books destroyed by the droogs. After Alex is returned to society, he decides he wants to kill himself and goes to a library to find a book on how to do it. There, he is recognized by the man he had beaten and is attacked by him and a gang of other old library patrons.
  • Alex is beaten nearly to death by the police after his rehabilitation. In the film, the policemen are his former droogs, Dim and Georgie. In the book, instead of Georgie, who was said to have been killed, the second officer is Billy Boy, the leader of the opposing gang that Alex and his droogs fought earlier, both in the movie and the book.
  • In the novel, Alex is accidentally conditioned against all music, but in the film he is only conditioned against Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

Home media

In 2000, the film was released on VHS and DVD, both individually and as part of The Stanley Kubrick Collection DVD set. Consequent to negative comments from fans, Warner Bros re-released the film, its image digitally restored and its soundtrack remastered. A limited-edition collector's set with a soundtrack disc, film poster, booklet and film strip followed, but later was discontinued. In 2005, a British re-release, packaged as an "Iconic Film" in a limited-edition slipcase was published, identical to the remastered DVD set, except for different package cover art. In 2006, Warner Bros announced the September publication of a two-disc special edition featuring a Malcolm McDowell commentary, and the releases of other two-disc sets of Stanley Kubrick films. Several British retailers had set the release date as 6 November 2006; the release was delayed and re-announced for 2007 Holiday Season.

An HD DVD, Blu-ray, and DVD re-release version of the film was released on October 23, 2007. The release accompanies four other Kubrick classics. 1080p video transfers and remixed Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (for HD DVD) and uncompressed 5.1 PCM (for Blu-ray) audio tracks are on both the Blu-ray and HD DVD editions. Unlike the previous version, the DVD re-release edition is anamorphically enhanced. The Blu-ray was reissued for the 40th anniversary of the film's release, identical to the previously released Blu-ray, apart from adding a Digibook and the Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures documentary as a bonus feature.

In popular culture

The film's themes and visual characteristics have been referenced in popular culture, including music, television, film, sports, magazines and video games.[59]

See also


  1. ^ "A Clockwork Orange".  
  2. ^ a b "A Clockwork Orange (1971)".  
  3. ^ a b "A Clockwork Orange (1972)".  
  4. ^ McDougal, Stuart Y. (7 July 2003). Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.  
  5. ^ "Should We Cure Bad Behavior?".  
  6. ^ Saturday Review, December 25, 1971
  7. ^ "Books of The Times".  
  8. ^ "A Clockwork Orange". 
  9. ^ Theodore Dalrymple (January 1, 2006). "A Prophetic and Violent Masterpiece". City Journal. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  10. ^ Duncan 2003, p. 142.
  11. ^ Duncan 2003, p. 128.
  12. ^ a b Duncan 2003, p. 129.
  13. ^ "Malcolm McDowell and Leon Vitali Talk A CLOCKWORK ORANGE on the 40th Anniversary". May 18, 2011. Retrieved 2015-04-13. 
  14. ^ "McDowell’s cricket gear inspired `Clockwork’ thug". Washington Times. May 19, 2011. Retrieved 2015-04-13. 
  15. ^ "Art Adams interview". "The Mutant Report." Volume 3. Marvel Age #71 (February 1989). Marvel Comics. pp. 12–15.
  16. ^ "Misc". Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  17. ^ Strick, Philip; Houston, Penelope. "Interview with Stanley Kubrick regarding A Clockwork Orange". Sight&Sound (Spring 1972). Retrieved 2015-04-13. 
  18. ^ "The Kubrick Site: The ACO Controversy in the UK". Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  19. ^ Baxter 1997, pp. 6-7.
  20. ^ "A Clockwork Orange".  
  21. ^ "A Clockwork Orange". Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  22. ^ "Similarities – Funeral Parade of Roses and A Clockwork Orange « Recca's Blog". 2008-04-20. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  23. ^ Ciment 1982. Online at: Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange: An interview with Michel Ciment
  24. ^ Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange edited by Stuart Y. McDougal. Cambridge University Press, 2003. P. 123.
  25. ^
  26. ^ "A Clockwork Orange Movie Reviews".  
  27. ^ French box office for 1972 at Box Office Story
  28. ^ "A Clockwork Orange". 
  29. ^  
  30. ^  
  31. ^ Quote in John Walker, Halliwell's Film, Video & DVD Guide 2006, page 223 (HarperCollins, 2005). ISBN 0-00-720550-3
  32. ^ Ebert, R: "A Clockwork Orange," Chicago Sun-Times, 11 February 1972
  33. ^ The Kubrick Site: Pauline Kael on 'A Clockwork Orange'
  34. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974, p. 60
  35. ^ Ian MacDonald, Revolution in the Head, Pimlico, p.235
  36. ^
  37. ^ "Top 10 Ridiculously Violent Movies". Time. 3 September 2010. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  38. ^ "The 100 Best British Films Ever". Empire. Retrieved 5 January 2013
  39. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies" (PDF).  
  40. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills" (PDF).  
  41. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains" (PDF).  
  42. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)" (PDF).  
  43. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10: Top 10 Sci-Fi".  
  44. ^ "Article discussing the edits, with photographs".  
  45. ^ "Kubrick Film Ratings Comparisons" – actual clips, in both "X" and "R" edits.
  46. ^ Gillis, Chester (1999). Roman Catholicism in America. United States of America: Columbia University Press. p. 226.  
  47. ^ "Serious pockets of violence at London school, QC says", The Times, 21 March 1972.
  48. ^ " 'Clockwork Orange' link with boy's crime", The Times, 4 July 1973.
  49. ^ "A Clockwork Orange: Context". SparkNotes. 1999-03-07. Archived from the original on 14 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  50. ^ Barnes, Henry; Brooks, Xan (2011-05-20). "Cannes 2011: Re-winding A Clockwork Orange with Malcolm McDowell – video". London: Guardian News and Media Limited. Archived from the original on 21 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-21. 
  51. ^ Paul Duncan, Stanley Kubrick: The Complete Films, page 136 (Taschen GmbH, 2003) ISBN 3-8228-1592-6
  52. ^ "Scala's History". Archived from the original on 24 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-12. 
  53. ^ "Without Walls: Forbidden Fruit (1993) A Clockwork Orange BBC Special – Steven Berkoff". Archived from the original on 2009-10-23. 
  54. ^ HFPA - Awards Search
  55. ^ "The Kubrick FAQ Part 2". 
  56. ^ Kubrick: Seven Films Analyzed by Randy Rasmussen, p. 112
  57. ^ Stanley Kubrick by John Baxter, p. 255
  58. ^ Stanley Kubrick by Vincent Lobrutto pp. 365–6 and Stanley Kubrick, director by Alexander Walker, Sybil Taylor, Ulrich Ruchti, p. 204
  59. ^ Melanya Burrows (2005-01-28). "Addicted to Droogs".  
  • Baxter, John (1997). Stanley Kubrick: A Biography. HarperCollins.  
  • Duncan, Paul (2003). Stanley Kubrick: The Complete Films. Taschen GmbH.  

Further reading

  • Burgess, Anthony (2000). Stanley Kubrick's a Clockwork Orange: Based on the Novel by Anthony Burgess. ScreenPress Books.  
  • Duncan, Paul (2003). Stanley Kubrick: The Complete Films. Taschen GmbH.  
  • Heide, Thomas von der (1 June 2006). A Clockwork Orange - The presentation and the impact of violence in the novel and in the film. GRIN Verlag.  
  • McDougal, Stuart Y. (7 July 2003). Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. Cambridge University Press.  
  • Volkmann, Maren (16 October 2006). "A Clockwork Orange" in the Context of Subculture. GRIN Verlag.  

External links

  • Official website of Stanley Kubrick at Warner Bros.
  • A Clockwork Orange at the Internet Movie Database
  • A Clockwork Orange at Box Office Mojo
  • A Clockwork Orange at Rotten Tomatoes
  • A Clockwork Orange at Metacritic
  • A Clockwork Orange at Discogs (list of releases)
  • A Clockwork Orange at SparkNotes
  • "One on One with Malcolm McDowell" from (in which the actor discusses the film and its staying power)
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