A Clockwork Orange (1971)

It’s Time for a Bit of the Old Ultra-Violence

Today’s movie was requested by my friend Christine, probably based on my earlier review of another Stanley Kubrick film, Spartacus.  This movie is A Clockwork Orange.  I already had this movie in my collection so it was an easy request to grant.  Problematically, I don’t remember liking the movie very much so I’m not sure why I owned it.  But I watched it again anyway and here’s what I think.  A Clockwork Orange stars Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, and Anthony Sharp.

A short time ago in a land across the pond, Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) is the leader of a gang of “droogs” that likes to hang out in “milk bars” and go out for “the old ultra-violence”.  This, on one evening, including the beating of writer Mr. Alexander (Patrick Magee) and the raping of his wife while singing “Singin’ in the Rain”.  Two of Alex’s droogs suggest that they break into the house of a wealthy woman who is all alone except for her cats.  They do so and Alex ends up beating the woman to death with a penis statue, then getting betrayed by his cohorts and left for the police.  He goes to jail for about 2 years until he gets selected by the Minister of the Interior (Anthony Sharp) for an experimental aversion therapy called the Ludovico technique.  This involves giving him a shot to make him sick and showing him scenes of violence and rape.  This has the desired effect of making him sick whenever he sees naked girls or wants to hit someone, but also has the accidental effect of making him sick when he hears Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony because it was the background music.  Calling Alex cured, he is sent back out into the world.  Suffice to say, it goes poorly for Alex.

I’m generally not a fan of what I refer to as an “artsy-fartsy” movie.  Take, for instance, Donnie Darko.  I know, everyone tells me it’s the best film ever for some reason.  I know I’ve seen it once and I know I’ll have to see it again, but I remember not liking it and barely understanding it.  I’m not much for finding hidden meaning to films or novels, either because I’m not paying attention at all or maybe just not paying attention to the right things.  Either way, I generally regard such movies as trying to seem meaningful by not making sense.

All that being said, I generally liked A Clockwork Orange.  It’s a very watchable movie with a couple confusing bits but not enough that I’d lose track of what was going on.  The slang was the hardest thing to follow.  At least 50% of what comes out of McDowell’s mouth is almost unintelligible by the standards of an American of my age.  I don’t know what a “droogie” is, nor do I know what it is to “viddy”.  I think I managed to deduce that “yarbles” are testes, but much else made it difficult to understand what was being said.  Of course, that’s not the movie’s fault.  It can either be blamed on England in the 70’s for their choices of crazy slang terms, or for the author of the book the film was based on.  I’m not going to read that book, but I assume the movie sticks to it fairly well.  Based on nothing, of course.  And this movie left me wondering if everyone in London in the 70’s actually had artsy pictures and sculptures of naked women and dicks laying around their houses as the movie lead me to believe.

I figure the point of the movie (as best I can understand) is something about the morality of a temporary fix to a problem in comparison to fixing it for good.  Sure, Alex was unable to rape people and randomly assault people, but is that fixing it?  Hell, it didn’t even work out that well for him because he was unable to defend himself when being attacked or, I assume, have a consensual relationship with someone.  Basically the movie seems to be asking whether or not it’s good enough for someone to want to do something bad but to be unable to, or should we instead try to fix them wanting to do the bad thing in the first place.  This is not really a hidden message as the Priest in the movie pretty much says just that.

The acting is all pretty good in here.  As is expected, McDowell steals the show.  In the beginning, as leader of his droogs, he’s every bit as creepy as he should be.  In the middle, when he’s trying to finagle his way into the aversion therapy, not to get better of course, but instead to get out of jail, he’s got a thick layer of unbelievable obedience masking his true intentions.  And during and after the therapy, he’s every bit as conflicted as he should be.  He’s probably the reason I found this movie so watchable.

I give this movie my blessing.  It’s very watchable with a decent meaning to it and some great performances.  You should take a look and it should probably be in any self respecting collection.  It’s still inferior to my favorite Kubrick movie, The Shining, but I can’t hold that against it.  I’ll give this movie a “Viddy well” out of “Whatever the hell that means”.

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others.  It may help me get better.