A Clockwork Orange(released Dec/71)was quite the oddity then(I remember well its premiere)and it still remains so,to me.The film takes place in a dystopian near future world in England and remnants of the 60s are everywhere to be seen.To take on such a novel as Burgess got published in /62,would have been an overwhelming undertaking for most directors,but Kubrick rose to the challenge and it remains one of his better known works.The film stars a myriad of wonderful English actors,but the star of course is McDowell himself,who convincingly portrays the leader/hoodlum of the film.The film is many things,not the least of which would include a pervading darkness,cynicism,perverse sexuality from actual acts to artwork,brutality,humour,pathos and metaphoric story telling.
The plot finds McDowell as the leader of a gang.The world he inhabits is filled with such young men who randomly commit unlawful acts of every description.We follow McDowell and his group of misfits from one distasteful incident to another which include beatings,robberies and rapes.They talk in a funny combination of slang,double speak and Yoda-like sentence structure.All is not nirvana in the gang,as slowly but surely two start to rebel against McDowell's leadership.McDowell temporarily puts down the "uprising".However one night when he is leaving a home that he had broken into with the help of his boys,they clobber him in the face with a milk bottle.The gang flees and they leave McDowell to the police.McDowell is taken away and imprisoned.His "rehabilitation" takes the form of sucking up to the Catholic priest in the jail,but all the time his thoughts are bent towards violence.
One day McDowell approaches the priest with the idea of participating in a new program he has heard that can rehabilitate him within two weeks.When a member of Parliament makes a surprise visit to the prison McDowell speaks up and is chosen to enter the program.McDowell thinks this is going to be a lark and his way of drastically reducing his 14 years sentence,two years of which he has already served.The program has McDowell in a theater with his eyes forced wide open,watching unpleasant and violent films on the screen.As he does,his eyes are doused with a chemical.As the program progresses and the more violence he sees the more sick he becomes watching them.To top this off the doctors run the music of Beethoven,which McDowell had previously adored,but after the program it makes him as sick as looking at the films themselves. When the program's two weeks are up McDowell is released.
He goes home but his old room in his parents house has been rented out to a stranger.He is forced to leave and his troubles on the street just begin.He first runs into a street drunk his gang had beat at the beginning of the film.He is recognized and McDowell gets a reciprocal beating from him and several other drunks.Two cops then show up which turn out to be two members of his old gang.They take him out to a remote country location and almost drown him in a trough of water.Barely able to walk he makes his way to a house.He is taken in by the resident there,who is in a wheelchair and is looked after by a well built male servant.As McDowell is laying in a warm bathtub he starts to warble"Singing in the Rain";a big mistake.This is the home he and his gang had entered and crippled its owner and raped his wife,who died shortly after the incident.The owner now recognizes him and decides he will get revenge.He phones two other people and they drug him.He is placed in an upstairs room and when McDowell comes to he is being sonically bombarded with Beethoven's 9th Symphony.This is of course anathema to McDowell who tries to commit suicide by jumping out of the bedroom window.
McDowell wakes up in the hospital and is being nursed back to life courtesy of the government.McDowell has become front page news now because of his now"barbaric" rehabilitation treatment at the hands of the doctors and ultimately the government.The very member of Parliament who put McDowell in the program to begin with in the prison,now visits him.He asks for McDowells "help" in getting him out of his jam,in a roundabout way.In return McDowell will get a nice and comfortable job.As McDowell sits there in his bed posing with the politician,the cameras are flashing all around.However in McDowells mind we see his old bent and warped ideas now coming back to the fore,even though he has been considered "cured".
This film is just chock full of wonderful moments and Kubrick of course was a master of framing and lighting scenes that would remain unforgettable in ones mind.His staging of the drunk being beaten up or the moments leading up to the cat woman's killing are just two that stand out among many.I won't go into the metaphors and possible hidden meanings in this film,as it is full of them,but I think it is best left to film scholars better than I.Suffice it to say Kubrick conveys alot of information but makes it as entertaining as possible,in Kubricks own inimitable style.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r of 1:66:1.I found it generally clear and crisp but there were some scenes where colours would fluctuate and film blemishes would appear,so I would recommended a proper remastering of this film be done.Extras include commentary and the trailer.
All in all one of Kubricks most memorable and off beat films.It was quite a shocker on its release and it still packs quite the punch today.Between Kubricks great direction and McDowells beautiful portrayal of one heck of a tough and complex role,the movie still shines through.4-4 1/2 stars.