STARRING: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri, Aubrey Morris, James Marcus, Steven Berkoff, David Prowse

1971, 137 Minutes, Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Description: Alex is the leader of a quartet of droogs, a vicious group of young hoodlums who spend their nights stealing cars, fighting rival gangs, breaking into people's homes, and raping women. We watch Alex transform from a free-roaming miscreant into a convict used in a government experiment that attempts to reform criminals through an unorthodox new medical treatment. The catch, of course, is that this therapy may be nothing better than a quick cure-all for a society plagued by rampant crime.

Back in 1971 there could have been little doubt that A Clockwork Orange was destined for endless late night re-runs at film fests organised by students.

Based on British author Anthony Burgess's novel about a dystopian future riddled with youth gangs, it introduces us to thirteen-year-old Alex (Malcolm McDowell in a breakthrough performance he has never been able to repeat) and his "Droogs". Speaking a largely invented (by Burgess) slang, Alex happens to be into Beethoven (a sly reference to Wagner-loving Nazis?) and ultraviolence. And ultraviolence is what the audience experiences for rest of the movie.

A Clockwork Orange is an assault on the senses. It is loud - in both music (classics re-done by Walter Carlos on the synthesizer) and garish 1970s colors. The violence and rapes have lost none of its intensity that made ‘Seventies audiences squirm in their seats. Its impact, even after two decades of audiences getting used to all kinds of ultraviolence on the silver screen, is undeniable.

It is an uncomfortable movie to watch. It preys perhaps most on our deep-seated fears of being the victim to unwarranted crime - not the person who comes to steal our hi-fi set, but the criminal who comes to torture us and sadistically rape our loved ones while not even bothering with the hi-fi set!

But the film also carries Burgess's very Catholic concerns with sin and free will. In the film, Alex is subjugated to a treatment which creates a total aversion to violence within him - he becomes physically sick when exposed to scenes of violence. But it also creates the same symptoms to listening to Beethoven as well.

The obliteration of Alex's free will leaves behind merely the husk of an individual - one who will never experience genius, madness, what constitutes a human being. In Burgess's eyes this even a worse sin.

Kubrick, who changed the face of cinema a few years before with his previous sci-fi effort, 2001: A Space Odyssey, has created an excruciating, yet ultimately powerful, film. It may not make for escapist viewing but cannot be missed by serious filmgoers.


# 9
of the
Top 100 Sci-Fi Movies
of all time



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