A Clockwork Orange (1971) - Illustrated Reference

Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick

A Clockwork Orange was directed by Stanley Kubrick and premiered on 19th December 1971. Starring Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri, Michael Bates, Aubrey Morris and Warren Clarke. Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel by Anthony Burgess. Music by Walter (now Wendy) Carlos. 136mins.

London in the near future. Alex and his droogs are a gang of youths who spend their evenings randomly beating up strangers, fighting other gangs and raping women while intoxicating themselves on “milk plus”. After being betrayed by his droogs Alex is arrested by police and is sentenced to 14 years in prison for murder, he volunteers to undergo experimental aversion therapy…

Author Anthony Burgess (1917-1993) was born in Manchester, England, his most famous novel A Clockwork Orange was first published in 1962. Set in a dystopian future where gangs rule the streets, the novel is narrated by its protagonist Alex. One of the possible origins of the title of the book is that Burgess overheard someone in a pub say “as queer as a clockwork orange” assuming it was Cockney slang and decided it would make a good title for his novel.

It was Burgess least favourite of his stories, but to his annoyance it was the one everyone wanted to talk about thanks to Stanley Kubrick’s movie. “The book I am best known for, or only known for, is a novel 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 till I die.” Burgess, writing in his book Flame into Being: The Life and Work of D. H. Lawrence.

Alex: There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence.

Malcolm McDowell (1943-) / Alex

Born in Yorkshire, England, Malcolm McDowell was nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe for A Clockwork Orange, films include - If… (1968), O Lucky Man (1973), Caligula (1979), Time After Time (1979), Cat People (1982), Britannia Hospital (1982), Blue Thunder (1983), Class of 1999 (1990), Star Trek Generations (1994), Halloween (2007), Doomsday (2008), The Book of El (2008) and The Artist (2011).

Patrick Magee (1922-1982) / Mr. Frank Alexander

Born in Armagh, Northern Ireland, Patrick Magee’s films include - Zulu (1964), Masque of the Red Death (1964), Marat/Sade (1967), Cromwell (1970), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Asylum (1972), Barry Lyndon (1975) and Chariots of Fire (1981).

Adrienne Corri (1930-) / Mrs Mary Alexander

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Adrienne Corri’s films include – Devil Girl from Mars (1954), Corridors of Blood (1958), Bunny Lake is Missing (1965), Doctor Zhivago (1965), Moon Zero Two (1969), Vampire Circus (1972) and Madhouse (1974).

Michael Bates (1920-1978) / Chief Guard Barnes

Born in Jhansi, India, Michael Bates films include – Dunkirk (1958), Bedazzled (1967), Battle of Britain (1969), Patton (1970 as Montgomery) and Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972).

Aubrey Morris (1926-) / Mr. P.R. Deltoid

Born in Hampshire, England, Aubrey Morris films include – The Night Caller (1965), Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971), The Wicker Man (1973), Lifeforce (1985) and My Girl 2 (1994).

Warren Clarke (1947-) / Dim

Born in Lancashire, England, Warren Clarke’s films include – Antony and Cleopatra (1972), O Lucky Man (1973), Hawk the Slayer (1981), Firefox (1982), Top Secret! (1984) and Ishtar (1987). TV series Dalziel and Pascoe (1996-2007).

Ken Russell was interested in directing A Clockwork Orange and Oliver Reed would have been cast as Alex. It would have been a perfect fit for the late Ken Russell who had directed the controversial, and still censored in Britain, The Devils (1971) and would later direct Tommy (1975) and Altered States (1980).

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) was planning an epic movie on the life of Napoleon but the studio pulled the plug and cancelled the project. Kubrick than searched for a project he could film quickly and A Clockwork Orange caught his eye, he adapted the novel to screenplay himself and started shooting the film in September 1970 finishing in April 1971, a very quick film shoot for Stan.

Alex’s surname is never mentioned in the book, he refers to himself as “Alexander the Large” when having sex with two young girls he picks up at the record store. In the film he tells the prison guard his name is Alexander DeLarge, and on the front page of a newspaper he is named "Alex Burgess".

In the book Alex was only 15 years old, but in the film his age was increased to about 17 or 18, McDowell was 27 when he started filming.

Minister: What crime did you commit?
Alex: The accidental killing of a person, sir.
Chief Guard Barnes: He brutally murdered a woman, sir, in furtherance of theft. Fourteen years, sir!
Minister: Excellent. He's enterprising, aggressive, outgoing, young, bold, vicious. He'll do.

Alex favourite composer is Ludwig van Beethoven and the 9th Symphony is heard throughout the film, even used against him during the Ludovico aversion therapy treatment. The film reportedly boosted sales of Beethoven’s music.

Malcolm McDowell scratched his cornea during the Ludovico therapy where his eyes were forced open by metal clamps and a saline solution dropped in to his eyes, the actor was temporarily blinded. The doctor in the scene with Alex was a real doctor.

When Kubrick asked McDowell to sing and dance during the attack on the writer’s house the only song he knew the words to was "Singin’ in the Rain" so Kubrick bought the rights to the song.

During Alex’s visit to the record store the soundtrack album to Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey is visible.

When Alex attempts to commit suicide by jumping out of a window the shot was accomplished by throwing the movie camera, encased in a special plastic box, out of the window repeatedly until Kubrick got the desired effect.

Alex: Ho, ho, ho! Well, if it isn't fat stinking billy goat Billy Boy in poison! How art thou, thou globby bottle of cheap, stinking chip oil? Come and get one in the yarbles, if ya have any yarbles, you eunuch jelly thou!

Anthony Burgess invented his own slang words for the book, he named the language Nadsat, a mixture of Russian and English. A glossary of the various words and their meaning was added to later editions of the book.

Here are some examples of Nadsat:

appy polly loggy – apologies
bolshy - big
cancer - cigarette
clockwork - mechanically responsive
devotchka – young woman
dratsing - fight
droog – friend
filmdrome – cinema
glazzies - eyes
gulliver – head
in-out in-out – sexual intercourse
korova - cow
koshka – cat
moloko – milk
nagoy – naked
orange – man or person
pan-handle – erection
shaika – gang
skolliwoll – school
soomka – old woman
tick-tocker – heart
vellocet – drug
viddy – see
vino – wine (also blood)
yahoodies – Jews
yarbles / yarblockos – testicles
zasnoot – sleep
zoobies - teeth

The bodybuilder in Patrick Magee’s house is David Prowse who was to become a sci-fi icon a few years later when picked by George Lucas to play Darth Vader in Star Wars.

Kubrick was an excellent chess player and would regularly play McDowell during breaks in filming, Kubrick always won.

Reportedly the first film to use Dolby Noise Reduction on its soundtrack.

The film composer Walter Carlos would later undergo a sex-change operation and changed her name to Wendy Carlos. Carlos also scored Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) and the sci-fi movie Tron (1982).

A Clockwork Orange was banned in Britain a couple of years after being released and it was Kubrick who insisted it be withdrawn from circulation. His wife Catherine stated that the family had gotten several death threats over the film, and there were a couple of copy-cat crimes influenced by the film. The film was back in cinemas and released uncut on DVD after Kubrick’s death in 1999.

It became one of the most sought after movies on pirated video tape in Britain during the 80’s and 90’s.

Alex: Naughty, naughty, naughty! You filthy old soomka!

Kubrick cut about 30 seconds of sexually explicit footage after the film was given an X certificate in the U.S. it was than granted an R-rating.

A Clockwork Orange was Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Film Editing.

It was nominated for seven British Academy Awards – Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Soundtrack.

It ranks at #46 on the American Film Institute's 100 Greatest Films List, #21 on it's 100 Great Thrillers list, #4 on AFI's 10 Greatest SF films list and Alex is #12 on the AFI's 50 Best Villains list.

A Clockwork Orange cost $2.2m to make and grossed over $26m on release making it a very profitable movie for Warner Bros. It had mixed reviews but the controversial film drew in the crowds, not one of Kubrick's best loved movies but it may have the biggest cult following among his fans.

An excellent restored edition of A Clockwork Orange has been released on Blu-ray and is highly recommended to fans of the film. It includes a commentary by Malcolm McDowell.

The Critics Wrote –

"A brilliant nightmare." (Variety)

"A Clockwork Orange" is so beautiful to look at and to hear that it dazzles the senses and the mind, even as it turns the old real red vino to ice... McDowell is splendid as tomorrow's child, but it is always Mr. Kubrick's picture, which is even technically more interesting than "2001." A Clockwork Orange" makes real and important the kind of fears simply exploited by other, much lesser films." (Vincent Canby, New York Times)

"An evil motion picture. The way Kubrick shot and edited all this makes it obvious he is truckling to today's alienated young, the script is adolescent maundering, and sinks to the depths of buck-chasing (sex scribblings on walls; total nudity; sight-gags for perverts)." (Henry Hart, Films in Review)

“Literal-mnded in its sex and brutality, Teutonic in its humor, Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange might be the work of a strict and exacting German professor who set out to make a porno-violent sci-fi comedy. Is there anything sadder - and ultimately more repellent - than a clean-minded pornographer? How can people keep talking about the dazzling brilliance of movies and not notice that the directors are sucking up to the thugs in the audience?” (Pauline Kael)

“Kubrick has pushed the unsettling powers of the cinema beyond the limits probed by Bunuel. For savagery of image dredged from the depths of the subconscious, Kubrick is the prince of darkness and the apostle of light.” (David Annan)

"A Clockwork Orange is an ideological mess, a paranoid right-wing fantasy masquerading as an Orwellian warning. It pretends to oppose the police state and forced mind control, but all it really does is celebrate the nastiness of its hero, Alex." (Roger Ebert)

"A classic of the genre and an extremely unpleasant and unlikeable movie.” (Alan Frank)

Stanley and Malcolm
Stanley and Malcolm

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13 comments

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

An excellent addition to your Illustrated Reference series....I remember the first time I saw this movie....I saw it in the mid 1980s at a midnight showing....I had no idea what the movie was about going into it....and I was simply blown away by the master Kubrick.

Thanks for the glossary of Nadsat words...I can use that the next time I watch this classic movie. I can not even imagine Oliver Reed in the Alex role....which I still think of Clockwork Orange whenever I see a new Malcolm McDowell project...he is and always will be Alex to me.

I had no idea that was David Prowse until reading your hub....I will be keeping an eye open for that...lots of great tidbits and photos in this hub....awesome job.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Bruce, appreciate the comment and quick response. You saw the film before I did. I was too young to see it at the cinema on its first release and than it was banned. I first saw it on a murky European video I bought in the late 80's. It would be more than 10 years before I bought a decent looking DVD copy and the latest blu-ray is fantastic.

Malcolm McDowell was great as Alex, probably still his most famous film. But I liked him in Time After Time too.

Yep David Prowse, he had played the Frankenstein monster in two Hammer films before he turned to the dark side of the force.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

I have still not seen this movie. I'm not sure when I'll be ready to watch this movie, if ever. I think I've run out of Kubrick films that I haven't seen yet that are the kind of genre I seek. And yet despite this, similar to Cogerson's comment I think of this movie when I see Malcom mcDowall because he is most famous for this film. Maybe I just haven't seen enough of his big screen career? I've seen him on TV a lot.

Franzy is an apt film for actor in this film to also appear. :) Michael Bates was the main detective in that movie.

The actress Corri's name I don't recognize, but I've seen Bunny Lake is Missing and Dr. Zhivago.

Did anyone ever notice the reference to slippers in the other hub? I see that Patrick McGee is listed with the same years for his birth and death...I was 8 years old and this movie was made before I was born....tsk, tsk. Whenever I hear this name I think of Patrick *McNee* who played Steed.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Hi Flora, appreciate the comment, as always. I promise my next hub will be something you have seen. I just wanted to finish off two nasty films this week and I've succeeded. :)

Thanks for spotting the mistake in Patrick Magee's birthdate it wasn't deliberate. You might be one of the few people who looks at the actors area of my hubs, no one else has spotted slippers, I might as well change it back to boots.

Btw the google ads missing in my Vertigo and Psycho hubs are back. Two words in the critics reviews were causing the problem. I took out the words and the ads are back. Harmless words too isn't that pathetic? I wont repeat them here in case the ads on this page disappear too. :)

Maybe Google should supply a list of words that are taboo.


iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

Well written hub on a great movie!!! Voted up!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thank you iamaudraleigh, appreciate the comment and vote!


iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

You are very welcome!!!


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

This was such a strange, creepy, surreal film. It's definitely unique. It's well made and well acted. this is the kind of film you either love or hate.

Fun hub. Great pictures,

Rob


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Rob, appreciate the comment. Some of the pictures were a little too graphic for hubland so they stayed in the folder. Even the lobby cards contained nudity. Back in the 70's it was almost a given that every r-rated or 18 certificate movie contain full frontal nudity, thrillers, horror, comedies, it was expected. But by the 1980s wearing clothes in movies was back in fashion, damn! :)


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Tell me about it. Ads are not the issue in my case, but the fact that tone of voice and facial expression are not available are my problem online.

Glad to hear the other ads are back.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Regarding the birth year. I wondered if it were deliberate or a typo. I decided to mention it in any case.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Flora. Here are the words which caused the ad problem if you're curious, I've customised them a bit "Pro$tituti0n of talent" and "Hitchc0ck and Bool". They were responsible for the missing google ads!


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Typical internet overreaction

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