A Clockwork Orange (1971)

X | 135 or 137 mins | Drama, Fantasy | 19 December 1971

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HISTORY

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 26 Mar 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 29 May 1972 Var 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 ... More Less

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 26 Mar 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 29 May 1972 Var 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 13 Feb 1972 LAT 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 13 Feb 1972 LAT 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 30 Jan 1972 NYT 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 21 Dec 1971 LAT 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 13 Feb 1972 NYT 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 27 Feb 1972 issue of NYT , in which he refuted the fascism charge. In a 31 Jan 1972 HR article, a psychologist praised the film for portraying man's unconscious motivations in a "masterful" way.
       NYT lauded Kubrick in a 15 Jul 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 23 Apr 1972, NYT 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 3 Sep 1972 NYT 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 19 Mar 1972, stating that it refused to assist a “sick motion picture industry using pornography and an appeal to prurience to bolster income." In a 18 Jun 1972 NYT 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 25 Aug 1972, NYT 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 22 Jun 1973 NYT 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 NYT 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 7 Dec 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 5 Mar 2000 The Times (London) article.
       Despite its detractors, A Clockwork Orange set box-office records and, according to a 23 Mar 1972 HR article, grossed over $3.5 million. A 24 Jan 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 18 Feb 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: NYT , LAT , 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. A Clockwork Orange was ranked 70th on AFI's 2007 100 Years…100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving down from the 46th position it held on AFI's 1997 list.
       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. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Express
4 Jul 1973.
---
Daily Mail
4 Jul 1973.
---
Daily Variety
12 Sep 1972.
---
Filmfacts
1971
pp. 649-55.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 1970
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 1970
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Feb 1971
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1971
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 1972
p. 8, 12.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 1972.
---
Life
4 Feb 1972.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
20 Dec 1971.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
24 Jan 1972.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
9 Aug 1972.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Dec 1971.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Feb 1972
Calendar, p. 1, 18.
Los Angeles Times
18 Mar 2000.
---
MFB
Feb 1972
pp. 28-29.
New Republic
1 Jan 1972
p. 22.
New York Times
20 Dec 1971
p. 44.
New York Times
4 Jan 1972.
---
New York Times
9 Jan 1972
Section II, p. 1.
New York Times
30 Jan 1972.
---
New York Times
6 Feb 1972.
---
New York Times
13 Feb 1972.
---
New York Times
27 Feb 1972.
---
New York Times
19 Mar 1972.
---
New York Times
23 Apr 1972.
---
New York Times
18 Jun 1972.
---
New York Times
25 Aug 1972.
---
New York Times
3 Sep 1972.
---
New York Times
22 Jun 1973.
---
New York Times
1 Jul 1973.
---
New York Times
22 Jul 1973.
---
New York Times
20 Apr 1975.
---
New York Times
3 May 1978.
---
New York Times
15 Jul 1979.
---
New York Times
6 Feb 1993.
---
New Yorker
1 Jan 1972
pp. 50-53.
New Yorker
2 Jan 1972.
---
News of the World
8 Jul 1973.
---
Newsweek
3 Jan 1972
pp. 28-33.
Newsweek
14 Feb 1972.
---
Playboy
Jan 1972.
---
Rolling Stone
26 Mar 1987.
---
Saturday Review
25 Dec 1971
pp. 40-41.
Screen International
18 Feb 1984.
---
The Times (London)
24 Mar 1993.
---
The Times (London)
7 Dec 1999.
---
The Times (London)
5 Mar 2000.
---
Time
20 Dec 1971
pp. 80-81.
Time
27 Dec 1971
p. 59.
Time Out (London)
15 Mar 2000.
---
Variety
15 Dec 1971
p. 14.
Variety
29 May 1972.
---
Village Voice
30 Dec 1971
p. 49.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Stanley Kubrick Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Lighting cam
Supv elec
Cam op
Focus-puller
Cam asst
Cam asst
Boom op
Grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir
Spec paintings and sculpture
Spec paintings and sculpture
Spec paintings and sculpture
Spec paintings and sculpture
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Const mgr
Prop master
Prop man
Prop man
Prop man
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Cost des
MUSIC
Electronic mus comp and realised by
SOUND
Sd ed
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
MAKEUP
Consultant on hair and coloring
Hairdresser
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Casting
Loc mgr
Promotion coord
Prod accountant
Prod secy
Dir's secy
Prod asst
Prod asst
Loc liaison
Tech adv
STAND INS
Stunt arr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (London, 1962).
MUSIC
Second and fourth movements from Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Opus 125 by Ludwig van Beethoven
overture to the opera William Tell and selections from the opera The Thieving Magpie by Gioacchino Antonio Rossini, recorded by Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft
Marches No. 1 and 4 from "Pomp and Circumstance" by Edward Elgar, conducted by Marcus Dods
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MUSIC
Second and fourth movements from Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Opus 125 by Ludwig van Beethoven
overture to the opera William Tell and selections from the opera The Thieving Magpie by Gioacchino Antonio Rossini, recorded by Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft
Marches No. 1 and 4 from "Pomp and Circumstance" by Edward Elgar, conducted by Marcus Dods
"Overture to the Sun," composed by Terry Tucker
"Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary," composed by Henry Purcell
selections from Scheherazade by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov.
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SONGS
"Singin' in the Rain," music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Arthur Freed from the MGM picture, performed by Gene Kelly
"I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper," composed and performed by Erika Eigen
"Cockles and Mussels (Molly Malone)," traditional
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SONGS
"Singin' in the Rain," music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Arthur Freed from the MGM picture, performed by Gene Kelly
"I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper," composed and performed by Erika Eigen
"Cockles and Mussels (Molly Malone)," traditional
"Wayward Child," words by Fanny Crosby, music by Anthony J. Showalter.
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PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 December 1971
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 19 December 1971
Production Date:
late September 1970--mid February 1971 at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, England and EMI-MGM Studios, Boreham Wood, Elstree, England
Copyright Claimants:
Warner Bros., Inc. and Polaris Productions, Inc. Warner Bros., Inc.
Copyright Dates:
19 December 1971 22 December 1972
Copyright Numbers:
LP41304 LP42910
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
135 or 137
MPAA Rating:
X
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
22962
SYNOPSIS

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 ... +


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.”

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.