Cast & Crew
Sometime in the not-to-distant future, gangs of teenage thugs roam rubble-strewn streets, terrorizing citizens who sequester themselves behind locked doors. Alex, the leader of one of the gangs, and his "droogs," Pete, Georgie and Dim, distinguish themselves by wearing all-white, cod pieces, bowler hats and walking canes as the spend their nights committing rapes, muggings and beatings for entertainment. One night, after stopping at the Korova Milk Bar for the house specialty, drug-laced milk that induces "ultra violence," the group kicks an elderly tramp mercilessly. Finding rival gang leader Billyboy and his hoodlums raping a woman nearby, Alex and his droogs take a moment to enjoy the scene then use chairs, broken bottles and knives to pummel the other gang unconscious. The gang speeds off in their Durango 95 sports car playing a game called "hogs of the road," which entails forcing other drivers off the road. Spotting a wealthy residence displaying the sign "HOME," the gang gains admittance by claiming that they need to use the phone to report an accident. Once inside, Alex beats and kicks the home's owner, writer Mr. Frank Alexander, while mimicking a soft shoe dance routine and singing a musical number. After the droogs shove balls into the mouths of Alexander and his wife and wrap their heads in tape, Alex rapes Mrs. Alexander as Mr. Alexander watches helplessly. Later, Alex returns to municipal flatblock 18A, a disheveled modern apartment building where he lives with his cowardly mum and dad. After stashing stolen money and watches, Alex listens to his favorite composer, Beethoven, plays with his pet snake and dreams of further violence. The next morning, Alex refuses to go to school, claiming that his work, "helping here and there," has left him exhausted. Soon after, a government probation officer, Mr. Deltoid, arrives at the flat and knees Alex in the genitals for reverting to outbursts of violence and wasting the government's resources trying to reform him. Unaffected by the visit, Alex picks up two young women at a record shop and brings them back to his room to have sex, becoming so involved that he misses a gang meeting. Later, after his droogs express their disappointment to Alex about his missing their meeting and Georgie rebukes him for picking on Dim and then suggests they commit larger robberies. Outraged at the insubordination, Alex knocks Georgie into a river and knifes Dim's arm when he tries to help Georgie. Having reasserted his authority, Alex appropriates Georgie's suggestion. The gang then proceeds to the home of health club owner Mrs. Webber, who is known as "Catlady" and lives alone with her dozens of cats. Having read about the Alexanders, Webber refuses the gang entrance when they attempt the accident ruse again, but Alex then breaks into the house and bludgeons Webber unconscious with a large sculpted phallus, part of Webber's erotic art collection. Hearing approaching sirens, Alex flees outside, where his droogs, fed up with Alex's brutality, bash him unconscious and leave him for the police. After Webber dies from her injuries, Alex is sentenced to 14 years in prison. During his jail admittance procedure, Alex must submit to an autocratic officer who assigns him a number to replace his name, strips him of clothes and belongings and performs an anal search. For his first two years, Alex panders to the prison chaplain by quoting the Bible and accompanying him on keyboard for service hymns, while secretly fantasizing about the Bible's violent and sexual passages. One day, Alex, hoping for an early release from jail, claims that he wants to reform permanently and asks the chaplain to help him get on the list for an experimental treatment of aversion therapy known as the Ludivicko technique, but the chaplain warns him that the brainwashing program will erase his will and therefore his soul. Soon after, the unscrupulous Minister of the Interior, hoping the aversion therapy will win his government valuable public support, chooses the enthusiastic Alex as the first candidate and sends him to the Ludivicko Center, where Alex is promised that he will be permanently cured in two weeks. Alex is then injected with a serum that causes him to feel waves of excruciating nausea and suffocation, which he names the "sickness," when his violent passions arise. Bound in a straightjacket with his eyelids forced open by clamps, Alex is forced to watch hours of violence and mass destruction as part of his conditioning to repulse violence. On the second day of treatment, when the attending doctors play Beethoven's ninth symphony during the screenings, Alex realizes that the music of his favorite composer will now forever be associated with "the sickness," and begs them to stop, but the doctors refuse. The day before his release, Alex is presented on a stage before an audience of government officials and other authorities to prove the treatment's validity. Alex's fear of "the sickness" prompts him to follow orders and submit to degrading treatment without reacting with violence. When he is then presented with a nude woman, Alex at first grasps for her, but the sickness prevents him from even touching her. Although the chaplain loudly protests that Alex has lost all choice and deems the treatment unethical, the Minister of the Interior proclaims it a success and releases Alex. Returning home, Alex discovers that his parents have taken a lodger, Joe, who defends his mum and dad and protests that Alex should not be allowed to return because of his atrocious behavior. Learning that the police have taken away his belongings and his snake is dead, Alex leaves the apartment sobbing and contemplates suicide at the river. When a tramp interrupts to ask for change, the man recognizes Alex as the brutal youth who beat him years ago, and leads him to a tunnel teaming with elderly drunkards who accost him. Police officers stop the fight, but Alex soon recognizes the officers as Georgie and Dim, who are happy to mete out their revenge against their former leader. They handcuff Alex and drive him to an isolated area where they nearly drown him in an animal trough while laughing at the cruel spectacle. Weak, soaking and unable to recognize his surroundings, Alex mistakenly seeks help at "HOME." Alexander, who lost his wife to suicide just after Alex and the dross's attack, recognizes Alex only as the man in the newspaper who was forced to submit to the police's inhumane experiments and offers him a bath and dinner. However, when Alex starts humming his signature show tune, Alexander then realizes that Alex is his previous assailant and concocts a plan. Thinking Alex's behavior modification treatment unjust, the politically subversive writer calls several journalists who arrive shortly after to use Alex's testimony for their own political agenda. After learning that his conditioning includes a severe aversion to Beethoven, the writer serves Alex sedative-laced wine, locks him a room and tortures Alex by playing Beethoven at a deafeningly loud volume. Alex attempts suicide by jumping from the second story window, but the fall succeeds only in broken bones that result in an extended stay at a hospital. Newspapers soon report Alex's attempt as proof of the government's inhumanity, thus prompting the government to hire psychiatrist Dr. Taylor to reverse the Ludivicko conditioning. The doctor then tests Alex by presenting him with cartoons with open-ended narratives. Alex happily creates violent dialogue for his characters, thus proving his "recovery." Soon after, the Minister of Interior visits Alex with an offer. Reminding him that the writer and several of his other victims would like him either killed or imprisoned, the minister, worried about the outcome of the election, offers Alex a job and financial compensation in trade for being the minister's propaganda tool. As Alex accepts the proposal, the press photographs the two men to publicize the government's change of heart. When Beethoven's ninth symphony is then played, Alex spontaneously imagines scenes of public fornication and happily announces that he is "cured indeed."
John J. Carney
Nacio Herb Brown
Max L. Raab
Gioacchino Antonio Rossini
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Best Writing, Screenplay
A Clockwork Orange
The inspiration for Burgess' A Clockwork Orange had occurred during his military service during the Second World War. Stationed in Gibraltar with the Army Educational Corps, Burgess learned that his wife, Llewela Isherwood Jones, had been raped during a London blackout by deserting American GIs-an attack that cost the couple their unborn child. Burgess' later world travels (in particular to the Soviet Union) helped to add texture to the novel he would publish in 1962 as A Clockwork Orange, which took George Orwell's 1984 as a jumping off point to wax fearfully about the future of human life under the thumb of bureaucratic totalitarianism. Dealing in part with the rise of juvenile delinquency (a going concern on both sides of the Atlantic), the book's linguistic inventiveness and superficially uncritical depiction of criminality threw up red flags for British censors, one of whom-at the suggestion of a film adaptation being floated by screenwriters Terry Southern and Michael Cooper-returned the spec screenplay unopened with the note, "I know the book and there's no point in reading this script because it involves youthful defiance of authority and we're not doing that." Burgess himself attempted an adaptation as a vehicle for Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones (to play the book's predatory gang of young "droogs") that was determined by all involved to be unfilmable.
Initially disinterested in A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick had a change of heart post-2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), when he began to see the possibilities in the global demographic shift towards youth-oriented cinema that followed the release of Easy Rider (1969) and the rise of the "New Hollywood." To find a backer for his adaptation, Kubrick went from studio to studio, exciting little interest. (Kubrick even approached, to no effect, Francis Ford Coppola, who had set up American Zoetrope in the San Francisco Bay area as an alternative to the Hollywood studio system.) Funding came at last through Ray Stark and Eliot Hyman's Seven Arts Productions, which had backed his Lolita (1962) in partnership with MGM, but which had just absorbed the ailing Warner Bros. (Before A Clockwork Orange began filming, Warners Bros.-Seven Arts was bought by the Kinney National Company, a firm whose focus drifted over the years from mortuaries to the parking lots, and who changed the name of their acquisition back to Warner Bros.) Among the actors in consideration to play Burgess' sociopathic antihero, Alex, were Tim Curry, Jeremy Irons and Malcolm McDowell. McDowell got the role but the three actors found themselves in competition many years later to voice the villain Scar in Disney's animated The Lion King (1994)-a job that went to Irons.
Cast on the strength of his star performance in Lindsay Anderson's equally antiutopian If... (1968), the 27 year-old McDowell would bring considerable innovation to the character of the teenaged Alex, using his own cricket whites (albeit with the jockstrap worn on the outside of the trousers-a Kubrick touch) as the template for the droog white-on-white uniform and making such a case for the use of the song "Singin' in the Rain" to particularize an instance of grotesque sexual violence that Kubrick was inspired to pay $10,000 for the rights to use the song. (Many years later, McDowell felt the wrath of the song's most celebrated interpreter, Gene Kelly, who turned away from him during a Hollywood gathering in disgust at what the film had done to the memory of the beloved Arthur Freed-Nacio Herb Brown composition.) Kubrick's notorious reliance on multiple takes took its toll on many of the cast, with McDowell suffering a scratched retina during the "Ludovico Treatment" setpiece, actress Adrienne Corri being made to endure multiple takes of a brutal rape scene, and Aubrey Morris ordered by Kubrick to spit so many times in McDowell's face that he ran out of saliva - compelling Steven Berkoff (later Eddie Murphy's urbane antagonist in Beverly Hills Cop) to realize the effect for the close-up.
Shot by John Alcott (in his first of three collaborations with Kubrick) on largely existing locations in and around metropolitan London, but dressed by production designer John Barry (who would bring distinction to both George Lucas' Star Wars and Richard Donner's Superman: The Movie) in an evocative (and at times provocative) style that revealed the present in the future, the film would become, upon its theatrical release in December 1971, an instant cause célebrè. It was a critical darling that grossed multiple returns on its $2.2 million budget and a magnet for outrage from those who discerned an invitation to anarchy and a defense of Fascism. (Reaction to the film was less complicated in the United States, where it grossed $26 million and earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Writing Based on Material from Another Medium). Though A Clockwork Orange was never officially banned in the United Kingdom, Kubrick was later motivated to have it pulled from exhibition there due to death threats he had received as its adaptor and director, and to negative publicity related to alleged copycat crimes inspired by the film. Consequently, A Clockwork Orange was all but impossible to see in Great Britain until after Kubrick's death in 1999.
Though he had enjoyed a good early relationship with Kubrick (the two bonded on the subject of Napoleon Bonaparte, about whom Burgess was planning a book and Kubrick a film), Burgess, a lapsed but respectful Roman Catholic, grew weary of being put in the position of having to defend Kubrick's vision instead of his own-which was rooted in an oblique but sincere take on Christian forgiveness. "The book I am best known for, or only known for, is a novel I am prepared to repudiate," Burgess wrote in later years. "Written a quarter of a century ago, a jeu d'esprit knocked off for money in three weeks, it became known as the raw material for a film which seemed to glorify sex and violence. The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me until I die." Misdiagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor and given a grim prognosis in 1961, Burgess had written A Clockwork Orange and four other books in quick succession, with the expectation that their combined sales would support the wife he had prepared to leave a widow. As fate would have it, Llewela Isherwood Jones predeceased Burgess in 1968, succumbing to cirrhosis of the liver secondary to physical and psychological trauma related to her wartime rape. Anthony Burgess died of lung cancer in 1993.
By Richard Harland Smith
Stanley Kubrick: A Biography by John Baxter (Basic Books, 1997)
Stanley Kubrick: Interviews, edited by Gene D. Phillips (University Press of Mississippi, 2001)
Conversations with Anthony Burgess, edited by Earl G. Ingersoll and Mary C. Ingersoll (University Press of Mississippi, 2008)
Anthony Burgess: A Biography by Roger Lewis (Macmillan, 2014)
A Clockwork Orange
Appy-polly-loggies. I had something of a pain in my gulliver so I had to sleep. I was not awakened when I gave orders for awakening.- Alex
Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well. To what do I owe the extreme pleasure of this surprising visit?- Alex
As I was saying, Alex, you can be instrumental in changing the public verdict. Do you understand, Alex? Have I made myself clear?- Minister
As an unmuddied lake, Fred. As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer. You can rely on me, Fred.- Alex
Initiative comes to thems that wait.- Alex
What we were after now was the old surprise visit. That was a real kick and good for laughs and lashings of the old ultraviolence.- Alex
Kubrick once said "If Malcolm [McDowell] hadn't been available I probably wouldn't have made the film."
It is said that Stanley Kubrick made this movie because of the failure of Waterloo (1970/I). After he completed 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), he had planned to film a movie about Napoleon's life. After many years of research, he sent location scouts to various Eastern European locations, and even had an agreement with the army of Yugoslavia to supply troops for the vast battle scenes. However, after Waterloo tanked, Kubrick's financial backers pulled out. He thus decided to adapt the American version of "Clockwork", which had been given to him by Terry Southern (co-writer of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)).
The film rights were sold for "a few hundred dollars", but then re-sold for a much larger amount. Before director Stanley Kubrick become involved in the film, several different casts were considered for Alex and his droogs: girls in miniskirts, old-age pensioners, and The Rolling Stones.
During the filming of the Ludovico scene, star Malcolm McDowell scratched one of his corneas and was temporarily blinded. He suffered cracked ribs during filming of the humiliation stage show, and he also nearly drowned when his breathing apparatus failed while being held underwater in the trough scene.
The snake, Basil, was introduced into the film by Kubrick when he found out McDowell had a fear of reptiles.
Onscreen credits include a written acknowledgment to Braun AG Frankfurt, Dolby Laboratories Inc., Kontakt Werkstaetten, Ryman Conran Limited, Steinheimer Leuchtenindustrie and Temde AG. A Clockwork Orange was based on the Anthony Burgess novel of the same title, which was published in Great Britain in 1962. The British publication included 21 chapters, while the New York publisher left out the last chapter for the American publication, consequently removing the ending in which "Alex," although able to return to his violent actions without the institutionally induced severe queasiness, grows bored with his brutal habits and has a moral transformation. According to Burgess, in a March 26, 1987 Rolling Stone interview, American publishers thought that Burgess "sold out" in the last chapter and therefore deleted it. Director Stanley Kubrick based his film on the American version of the novel.
Burgess sold the film rights to the novel for $500 soon after its publication, according to a May 29, 1972 Variety article. The film was originally projected as a vehicle for the rock-n-roll musical group The Rolling Stones, with Ken Russell set to direct. According to the 1971 Filmfacts review, Burgess first conceived of turning the book into a movie in 1964, and Mick Jagger had expressed interest in playing Alex; however, Burgess claimed, the British censors warned that the film would not be passed.
Burgess was not involved in the making of the final production of A Clockwork Orange, nor did he receive any profit from it, other than his initial $500 payment for the rights. He created the language of "Nadsat," a mixture of Russian, cockney slang and invented words and phrasing, for the novel's characters, which Kubrick adapted for the film version, adding working-class English accents for Alex and his "droogs." Burgess claimed this dialect was created to make the violence in the novel more symbolic than realistic. According to the author, in a February 13, 1972 Los Angeles Times article, the scene in which the writer's wife is beaten and raped was loosely based on his own wife's experience of being beaten and robbed by three GI deserters during the 1942 London blackout.
According to a February 13, 1972 Los Angeles Times article, Burgess choose the title "A Clockwork Orange" after having heard an aging cockney call someone "queer as a clockwork orange" to describe his craziness. Burgess explained that man is similar to an orange, "a fruit, capable of color, fragrance and sweetness; to meddle with him, condition him, is to turn him into a mechanical creation." Star Malcolm McDowell provides voice-over narration through out the film as the character "Alex." McDowell, in a January 30, 1972 New York Times article, claimed that when faced with shooting the sequence in which Alex beats the writer and rapes his wife, Kubrick asked him to sing and dance to a familiar song to improvise the scene. McDowell chose "Singin' in the Rain," the only song he knew by heart. Over the closing credits the song is reprised by Gene Kelly, who recorded it for the 1952 film Singin' in the Rain (see below). The end credits state that the portions of A Clockwork Orange shot on location in England were by Hawks Films Limited. According to the December 21, 1971 Los Angeles Times review of the film, Kubrick did not use sound stages and built only two sets, including the milk bar, for the film. Christiane Kubrick, who contributed special paintings and sculpture for the film, was Stanley Kubrick's wife.
Kubrick had not made a film since 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, see below) and his next film, Barry Lyndon, was not released until 1975. Clockwork Orange's release was met with mixed reviews, some lauding its uncompromised portrait of man, while others suggested, as a February 13, 1972 New York Times article did, that the film's unrepentant violence was fascist. Dozens of letters to the editor printed in both British and American newspapers weighed the film's merits, including a letter from Kubrick in the February 27, 1972 issue of New York Times, in which he refuted the fascism charge. In a January 31, 1972 Hollywood Reporter article, a psychologist praised the film for portraying man's unconscious motivations in a "masterful" way.
New York Times lauded Kubrick in a July 15, 1979 article for using music in A Clockwork Orange as a distancing device to separate the viewer from the action. Kubrick often employed the technique for satirical effect, for example, in his use of "Pomp and Circumstance" for a prisoner inspection sequence. Other newspapers claimed the film began the stylization of violence, a template expanded upon by other filmmakers throughout the decade.
On April 23, 1972, New York Times reported that thirty American newspapers had instituted a new policy declining any advertising from films receiving an "X" rating by the MPAA. According to a September 3, 1972 New York Times article, the MPAA condemned the use of their rating system as means of excluding advertisers and mentioned A Clockwork Orange as an example of a "legitimate motion picture" undeserving of such treatment. Among those declining advertising was the Detroit News, which published an explanation on March 19, 1972, stating that it refused to assist a "sick motion picture industry using pornography and an appeal to prurience to bolster income." In a June 18, 1972 New York Times article, Jack Valenti, MPAA president, reminded the public that the rating system was created to assist parents only in making informed decisions about their children's viewing.
On August 25, 1972, New York Times stated that A Clockwork Orange's rating would change from "X" to "R" after Kubrick substituted less explicit footage in two sexually charged sequences, Alex having intercourse with two women in his room and a scene shown to Alex during his "treatment" in which soldiers gang rape a woman. A June 22, 1973 New York Times article reported that the United States Supreme Court handed down a ruling that day which set new guidelines on obscenity, enabling states to ban published written materials, plays and films that were offensive to local standards despite acceptance elsewhere, further complicating the exhibition of A Clockwork Orange, despite its rating change. Editorials debating the MPAA code, using A Clockwork Orange as a case in point continued in New York Times until the end of the 1970s.
In the summer of 1973, British press, including Daily Mail, Daily Express and News of the World, attributed the murder of a tramp by sixteen-year-old Richard Palmer to Palmer having been influenced by the book and movie A Clockwork Orange. After other violent criminals used the book and film as part of their defense in the British criminal courts, Kubrick banned additional British screenings of A Clockwork Orange in 1974. A December 7, 1999 The Times (London) article stated that Kubrick's ban was due to his concern over violence, but he insisted that the picture's focus was the dangerous extremes society will go to to fight crime and added that several states in the United States had legalized medical castration for certain offenders. Despite the ban, many British citizens later saw the film on videocassette, while other countries continued theatrical screenings. Before his death in 1999, Kubrick removed the ban and the film was re-released theatrically in Great Britain in 2000, according to a March 5, 2000 The Times (London) article.
Despite its detractors, A Clockwork Orange set box-office records and, according to a March 23, 1972 Hollywood Reporter article, grossed over $3.5 million. A January 24, 1972 LAHExam noted that the film was the first feature film released in Mexico to include explicit sex scenes and subsequently caused record attendance upon its opening there in 1972. The film had been banned in South Africa until 1984 when, according to an February 18, 1984 Screen International article, the censors finally released the film.
A Clockwork Orange received the following Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing. The film won Best Picture and Best Director awards from the New York Film Critics and McDowell was nominated for Best Actor. The National Society of Film Critics nominated the film in the following categories: Best Motion Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. A Clockwork Orange was included in many "Ten Best" lists for 1972 including: New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time and Newsweek.
The film also garnered many other awards throughout the world including a Belgian film critics' top honor and Best Foreign Film by the Venice Film Festival. The film also won the Hugo Award for best science fiction film of 1971 by the World Science Fiction Convention. AFI named A Clockwork Orange as one of the hundred greatest American movies of all times, ranking the film in forty-sixth place.
The key art of Alex with false eyelashes on one eye, staring out from under his black bowler hat and clutching a dagger with an eyeball dangling from his cuff became an iconic image of evil for decades, while Alex and his droogs's all white costumes with cod pieces, canes and bowlers have been used many times to refer to and parody the popular film.
Re-released in United States October 3, 1996
Released in United States 1996
Released in United States 1997
Released in United States 1998
Shown at Venice International Film Festival (tribute--Stanley Kubrick) August 27 - September 6, 1997.
Shown at Los Angeles County Musuem of Art (LACMA) as part of program "Twentieth Century Fox and the Golden Age of CinemaScope" July 3 - August 15, 1998.
Based on the Anthony Burgess novel "A Clockwork Orange" (London, 1962).
Re-released in United Kingdom March 17, 2000
Released in United States Winter December 1971
Re-released in United States October 3, 1996 (Nuart; Los Angeles)
Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of series "Stanley Kubrick" August 10 - September 1, 1996.)
Released in United States 1997 (Shown at Venice International Film Festival (tribute--Stanley Kubrick) August 27 - September 6, 1997.)
Released in United States 1998 (Shown at Los Angeles County Musuem of Art (LACMA) as part of program "Twentieth Century Fox and the Golden Age of CinemaScope" July 3 - August 15, 1998.)
Released in United States Winter December 1971