one of Shadows' all-time best films A Clockwork Orange


Prisoner 655321: Alex (McDowell) prepares to pay for his life of crime....
dir-scr Stanley Kubrick
with Malcolm McDowell, Patrick McGee, Anthony Sharp, Warren Clarke, James Marcus, Michael Tarn, Paul Farrell, Philip Stone, Sheila Raynor, Steven Berkoff, Dave Prowse, Carl Duering, Godfrey Quigley
Warners 71/UK 5 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Banned in Britain by Kubrick himself since 1973, A Clockwork Orange finally makes its long-awaited return to the big screen here. It had been about 18 years since I'd seen it in a cinema, and the most striking thing about the film is just how memorable it is. Kubrick's astounding vision (based on the Anthony Burgess novel) is jarring, uncomfortable, surprisingly moving and ultimately unforgettable.

Alex (McDowell) is a young thug in the not-too-distant future, hanging around the milk/drug bars with his pals (Clarke, Marcus and Tarn) then going out to engage in a bit of the "ultra-violence", beating up tramps, robbing and raping the rich folk. Then Alex is arrested and sent to prison, where he's selected for a breakthrough brainwashing treatment that will cure him of his violent tendencies in two weeks. But does this mean he loses his freedom of choice?

The film is jaw-droppingly straightforward, gruesomely violent and blackly funny from the very beginning, using Kubrick's trademark camera work to maximum effect and deeply probing the issues it raises. Like the style and sets, the performances are all heightened and surreal, yet profoundly effective. And McDowell makes Alex surprisingly likeable for such an unrepentant monster. This is a timeless story that works just as well now as it did 30 years ago; its British-Russian slang, bored violent youth, harsh urban landscape and desperate government officials all ring true, even if typewriters and vinyl records are long gone. Perhaps the only thing that dates it is the adept skewering of British society, which gives the film a real kick and makes you wonder if Monty Python might have used this film as a textbook. A masterpiece.

[18--very strong adult themes and situations, violence, language, nudity] 13.Mar.00
UK reissue 17.Mar.00

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"I am only 18 so I wasn't around when this first came out. But even though I am used to modern films I thought this film was incredibly well done and powerful. It looks so good for its age. I must say I didn't enjoy the first half-hour. The endless violence and disturbing images, with happy singalong music to accompany it, made me feel quite sick! It felt like I was watching a snuff film! But when he goes to jail and you see him change into a cured man, that's when I started to enjoy it. Then the ending ... he just changed back again! They make Alex to look like the hero, and these people who gave him the treatment were made to look like the villains, and the fact that he changed back to a violent sick rapist was made to look like a happy ending. Did nobody else find that sick? But I gotta give this film points because the reason it had an effect on me was because it was so well made. The acting was brilliant, and Kubrick is a really good director. It's just ... they should've had an ending where his treatment is reversed, but he becomes a good man anyway, out of choice, because he's grown up. That would've made the film a hell of a lot more contraversial and would've left viewers at the end thinking the film actually had a point to it. I'd give it 6/10." --Michael Muncer, net 24.Jun.03
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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall