Stanley Kubrick’s Dystopian Future Masterpiece “A Clockwork Orange” premiered on this day in 1971

The controversial movie sparkled an intense discussion about violence and was censored in several countries including England

Stanley Kubrick’s Dystopian Future Masterpiece “A Clockwork Orange” premiered on this day in 1971

Based on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel of the same name, Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “A Clockwork Orange” premiered for the first time on December 19th, 1971 in New York City. The controversial movie sparkled an intense discussion about modern society’s violence; the explicit scenes of rape, violence, juvenile delinquency, youth gangs, social, political, and economic subjects along with the disturbing psychological treatments depicted in the movie, played a key role on being censored and banned in several countries around the world, including England where the dystopian near-future is set to take place.

The iconic main character Alex, portrayed by Malcolm McDowell, it’s a complex and fascinating character, perhaps Mcdowell’s most memorable role, or at least his most iconic, it is impossible to think of any other actor portraying Alex as it fitted McDowell perfectly; Alex is a charismatic, antisocial delinquent, well read, educated young man whose interests include classical music, rape, and what is termed “ultra-violence”. He leads a small gang of thugs, Pete (Michael Tarn), Georgie (James Marcus), and Dim (Warren Clarke), whom he calls his “droogs” (from the Russian word друг, “friend”, “buddy” as Alex narrates most of the film in Nadsat, a fractured adolescent slang composed of Slavic, English, and Cockney rhyming slang), in some ways, a sociopath; his violent behavior it’s increased by the “milk-plus” that he and his “droogs” drink at the Korova Cafe, a special milk that most likely contain drugs, and it gives Alex the kick for that special “ultra-violence”. Alex loves music, and one of the best scenes in the movie it’s when he goes to get some records he ordered, politely and sharply dressed, he owns a beautiful designed and high tech Hi-Fi system, that includes a turntable, mini-cassete player and speakers to provide him the best sound experience of his music idol, Beethoven. But the “droogs”, tired of being abused by Alex, set him up after a rape-murder evening. This takes us to the second part of the movie, where after he’s arrested and we get to follow Alex’s experimental psychological treatment, funded by the government and mentored by the Minister of the Interior (Anthony Sharp) Ludovico, that will condition and wipe every thought of violence from his mind. The aversion therapy it’s considered a success and Alex is released from prison, only to find he’s no longer capable of any type of violence, not even to defend himself; the climax of the movie happens during the third part of it, when Alex finds out that his beloved Beethoven music is now associated to thoughts of violence, which makes him feel sick and painful. After leaving prison, Alex behaved 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. The movie ends with a somehow cryptic message we hear from Alex’s own narration as we get to see what goes on inside his mind.

The Final Chapter and Burgess’s Opinion

The last chapter of the book is missing from the movie version and was never made by Kubrick, Burgess had mixed feelings about this, 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, but 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.

The Soundtrack and Artwork

The stunning soundtrack to “A Clockwork Orange” features mostly classical music selections and Moog synthesizer compositions by Walter Carlos (now Wendy Carlos), a trippy non conventional soundtrack and record that blends together Classical music pieces and also adaptations of it on a Psychedelic Moog Synthesizer, experimental compositions of Carlos including the theme song for the movie, “Title Music from A Clockwork Orange”,the inclusion of “Singin’ in the Rain” by Gene Vincent and re-recorded versions of songs by the British Psychdelic band Sunforest, originally released on their 1969 album “Sounds Of Sunforest”, the instrumental medieval “Overture To The Sun” a Renaissance-like style, that its elegance constitutes a counterpoint to the violence of the scene where it’s used, and “I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper”. Kubrick originally wanted the Pink Floyd album “Atom Heart Mother” to be used as a soundtrack, however, the band refused the offer, on the record store scene, a copy of that album can be seen on the shelves. The artwork for the now-iconic poster of “A Clockwork Orange” was created by Philip Castle with the layout by designer Bill Gold.

A Film With a Legacy

“A Clockwork Orange” it’s one of the greatest movies ever made, one of those movies that simply by the aesthetic of it and the soundtrack, can be watched over and over again. It makes you talk about it after watching it, comparing different theories about the story-line, about the characters intentions and the “moral” you can take from it. For decades now, it has been playing a very important role on Pop Culture, one of the strongest cult movies ever made that keeps attracting new generations of fans, it’s cinema at it’s best,  perfect the way it is.

Origin: U.K and U.S.A
Released: 1971
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Michael Tarn, James Marcus, Warren Clarke, Anthony Sharp

Watch the original 1971 trailer for “A Clockwork Orange”

Watch the 2011 anniversary trailer for “A Clockwork Orange”

Listen to a selection of some of the songs featured on “A Clockwork Orange” on Spotify (Original Soundtrack album unavailable)

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