A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) C widescreen 136m dir: Stanley Kubrick

w/Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke, John Clive, Adrienne Corri, Carl Duering, Paul Farrell, Clive Francis, Michael Gover, Miriam Karlin, James Marcus

From the Turner Classic Movies website, www.tcm.com, this article about the film by Richard Harland Smith: "The glue holding together the fragments of Anthony Burgess' peripatetic life might well have been contradiction. Born in 1917, only son of a music hall actress and her pianist husband, John Burgess Wilson's family was halved with the deaths of his mother and sister from influenza in 1918, and he was raised by his father and stepmother in rooms above a Manchester pub. Iconoclastic and insubordinate by nature, he nonetheless rose through the ranks of the British military to the rank of sergeant-major and, after the war, helped demobilized soldiers adapt to the Labour Party's brand of British socialism, though he had no use for it. A conservative and monarchist, he would spend most his life away from Britain, traveling the world and writing book after book in quick succession because he thought (due to the misdiagnosis of a malignant brain tumor) that he was dying. His most famous and controversial novel, a dystopian vision of the United Kingdom in the not-so-distant-future, was the basis for Stanley Kubrick's no-less-controversial film A Clockwork Orange (1971) --- a highly-praised and widely-condemned adaptation that would inspire Anthony Burgess (one of several names he would sign to over sixty volumes of fiction, biography, history and literary criticism, poetry, stage plays, screenplays, teleplays and translations) to proclaim that he wished he had never written the book in the first place.

"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 célèbre. 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.

"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)"