Review: A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #639

Number of Views: Two
Release Date: December 19, 1971
Sub-Genre: Dystopian Psychodrama
Country of Origin: United Kingdom, United States
Budget: $2,200,000
Box Office: $26,600,000 (North America)
Running Time: 136 minutes
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Producer: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick
Based on A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Visual Effects: Mark Freund
Cinematography: John Alcott
Score: Walter Carlos
Editing: Bill Butler
Studios: Polaris Productions, Hawk Films
Distributors: Warner Bros., Columbia-Warner Distributors
Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke, John Clive, Adrienne Corri, Carl Duering, Paul Farrell, Clive Francis, Michael Gover, Miriam Karlin, James Marcus, Aubrey Morris, Godfrey Quigley, Sheila Raynor, Madge Ryan, John Savident, Anthony Sharp, Philip Stone, Pauline Taylor, Margaret Tyzack, Steven Berkoff

Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫

[1] Supergrass “Alright”

[2] Gene Kelly “Singing In The Rain”

[3] Ludwig Van Beethoven “Ninth Symphony, Second Movement”

[4] Gioachino Rossini “The Thieving Magpie (Overture)”

[5] Erika Eigen “I Want To Marry A Lighthouse Keeper”

[6] Ludwig Van Beethoven “Ninth Symphony, Second Movement (Reprise)”

[7] Wendy Carlos “March from ‘Funeral Music for Queen Mary”

No one likes a scoundrel. Upsetting the natural order; that’s all they’re good for. Making the streets unsafe to walk at night; that’s all they’re good for. Causing decent, hardworking folk like you and I deep psychological trauma; that’s all they’re good for. Waking the neighbors at an ungodly hour with drunken profanities; that’s all they’re good for. Wasting the taxpayer’s money; that’s all they’re good for. Spreading sexually transmitted diseases; that’s all they’re good for. Raping and pillaging our livestock; that’s all they’re good for. But do you know what else they’re good for? Fuck all. There’s something dirty and rotten about them and, if I never see another scoundrel in my life, I’ll likely live to 84 and pass away peacefully in my sleep, surrounded by family.

Reluctantly however and against my better judgement, I have agreed to allow a scoundrel to join me for this little exercise and, in a few moments time, will be handing over to him for introductions. I feel obliged to warn you in advance; he’s a tad skewwhiff in the mental health department and seems to have concocted his own funny way of speaking and you’ll need to bear with him a bit as he’s something of an acquired taste. Don’t blame me; I don’t want him here any more than you do. That said, freedom of speech legislation states that every man, woman and child deserves the right to have their voices heard. While not entirely sure which of those groups our guest speaker actually falls into; he’s a human being at the end of the day.

There’s also a fairly strong chance he’s a product of society and that makes him kind of our responsibility when you think about it. Don’t shoot the messenger; I don’t make the rules. But as a law-abiding citizen; I do follow them. Before you go running in the aisles and misplacing those clutch bags; I’ve got a few little treats lined up for our guest, just to keep him on his toes. Think of him as our own little pet guinea pig and, by the time this whole circus is over and if all goes according to plan, I reckon we might have one less scoundrel to worry about. You’ll have to excuse the unorthodox methods and, I warn you, certain stages of this process may well be distressing to those of a more delicate disposition. But you will have been a part of something beautiful; a breakthrough for both scientific studies and humanity in general. So without further ado, I bring you… actually our guest speaker will take it from here.

Enough of that chepooka, yes that is me Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim. You’re joining the royal we in The Korova Milkbar and that is us currently trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening over a nice, refreshing glass of moloko-plus. Don’t mind the others; thems a bit gloopy that lot. But it beats hanging out oddy knocky. Safety in numbers I hear. Can’t be too careful in this day and age as you never know who might be planning a bit of the old ultra-violence.

Us? Never, as a matter of fact we were thinking of leaving soon and I’m straight off bedways after I get this down my gorlo. I’m faggy tired you see and can hardly keep my glazzballs open. Then again, a lashing or two of the old ultra-violence does have rather a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Drink up droogs, this nochy isn’t over yet by a long chalk. Gentlemen, shall we?

Now that things are clear as an unmuddied lake, how do you like The Durango ’95? Real silver-like wouldn’t you say? She’s purring up a real horrorshow and I’m getting a nice, warm vibraty feeling all through my guttiwuts as we speak. This should be a guff; always is with them droogs. You see, they happen to be rather partial to a splodge of the old punchipunching and I’ve been known to dabble myself from time to time.

Nothing too ultra-violent you understand, but I can prove a bit of a rookerful when the mood takes me. If it all gets a little bezoomny, and it’s not unheard of, then I’d thank you not to go calling the millicents as the last thing I need is a trip to the stripey hole. I’m no eunuch jelly before you start flapping those goobers. But somebody’s got to keep my droogs in line.

A little tap to the yarbles from time to time is absolutely necessary as I’ve been getting a little fashed with the constant undermining of my authority. Just because we gooly about in the same koshtooms, doesn’t give them the right to revolt behind my sleeping back. Mindless greeding bulldogs. I viddy what’s going on and sloosh what comes out of their rot when they think I’m otherwise disposed.

Initiative comes to thems that wait. They’d do well to remember that, my droogs. I’ll make them hear all proper, then I’ll go home, put my toofles on and conclude the evening with a nice bit of Ludwig Van. There’s nothing like the glorious Ninth Symphony before going bedways to make my sneeties sweet. Bliss and heaven it is.

Appy-polly-loggies for wakening so frightfully late but last night was one of no small expenditure and all that ultra-violence can really take it out of you. A young strapping chelloveck like myself needs a good hearty meal to begin the day and good old em has prepared me plentifully for the munchy-wunchies. Luscious lomticks of toast smothered in jammiwam and some eggiweg to dip them into – that’s a real horrorshow of a breakfast and I’m now ready for whatever the day may bring. Later on, I’ll catch up with me droogies, let them know what their master and leader has planned for the p.m. but first I think I shall have some Alex time.

A quick bit of the old in and out would set me up grand and I know where all the best devotchkas straggle. Unlike my associates, I’m aware how to comport myself publicwise and learned a thing or two about lubbilubbing back at skolliwoll. The old extra curricular I called it. Dost thou wish to be granted a malenky promo? Right, right.

The old in and out is a glorious form of cardiovascular as it sure gives the tick-tocker a workout and my pan-handle is throbbing after all that physical exertion. ‘Tis for a cause of goodness of course as all three of us benefitted greatly from the transaction. But I’m now feeling a bit of the old ultra-violence and really should check in with my droogs before Georgie the General, as it is now to be, gets any more ideas in his gulliver and he will, no error.

The new way he calls it and, if he thinks himself some kind of master prestoopnik, then I’m good and prepared to let him fall on his own stabby stick. As it occurs, Georgie the General has been govoreeting about some health farm he knows. It’s a bit out of the town, isolated like, and owned by some rich ptitsa who lives there with her cats Georgie says. Could be a high yield on the cutter this one and I’ll take gladness in dealing with the cat-lady solo like; just to show my droogs who’s still master and leader.

Our cat-lady’s an art lover I viddy. Oh, the finer things. Much as I could keep this up until the rise of a fresh new sun; this place isn’t robbing itself. She’s a feisty old soomka, that’s for the giving, and not so taken with little old me it would appear. Hath I not warranted a welcome of warmth? Didst I not ring three times on the colliloll before letting myself inward? Wretched slummy bedbug she called me. Clobbered me she did. With a bust of Beethoven and nothing less. Poor show madam. Manners cost nothing, don’t you know.

So that’s the way it is then, eh? Righty right, a little of the old round and round just because you asked so politely missus. Should be a guff but she may not be guffing come the end, our cat-lady. The temptation is there for a bit of the old in and out, real savage like, but me droogies are waiting patiently downstairs and a quick tolchok would settle our little dispute. Open that rot wide luvvy, got something for you to get those zoobies around. Turn your heads cats. 

All’s well that ends that way then? Not so. You see, my stinking traitorous droogs clattered me with a full milk bottle just as the millicents showed up, then the brachnies scarpered, leaving your friend and humble narrator to get loveted. Next thing I know, I’m being sentenced to 14 years in the stripey hole among smelly perverts and hardened prestoopnicks. O my brothers and only friends, this is the real weepy and tragic part of the story beginning.

When I think of my poor em boohoohooing as her only child and son of her bosom has been snatched away, it makes me want to blub too. It has not been edifying, indeed not, being tolchocked by brutal warders, real savage like. A luscious young malchick like your storyteller is fodder in a place like this and my teachings have been swift and really ever so hurty.

If thou lose hope being weary in the days of distress, thy strength shall be diminished. So I’ve made myself of use to the prison charlie and it has been my rabbit to help him with the Sunday service. As part of my further education, I read him passages from the bible and now know why they calls it the good book. It’s not a great book and I don’t so much care for the latter part which is too much preachy talking and not enough dratsing and the old in-out. But the scourging and crowning with thorns bit was fun and I could viddy myself helping out with the tolchocking and the nailing in, being dressed in the height of Roman fashion. Brought back bittersweet memories it has.

This will give you a smeck. You see, having not been found guilty of any institutional infractions in my time here, your friend and humble narrator has qualified for a new technique currently making a shoom all over the worldcast. The buzz has it that this new treatment gets you out of prison in no time at all and makes sure you never get back in again. The governor tells me the residue of my sentence will be commuted to the Ludovico Medical Facility and they’ve got their own cine there so I even get to viddy a few films while taking my daily dose of vitamins.

And viddy I have. I’ve been to filmdromes in the previous, but nothing quite like this one. It’s funny how the colours of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on a screen. The red, red vino flowed free in one and, in the next, a young devotchka was being given the old in-out, in-out, first by one malchick, then his leering droogs one by one. Real horrorshow. Or, at least, it would have been, had they not bound me in a straitjacket, strapped my gulliver to the head rest, and clamped lidlocks on my glazzballs so I didn’t miss a blink. While queer it was, I’d be a free young malchick in a fortnight’s time and would put up with much in the meantime.

These tasty lashings of ultra-violence would have had me feeling real horrorshow, were it not for the fact that I could not shut my glazzies, no matter how hard I tried. By the time it reached the sixth or seventh malchick, I began to come over all sick like and it was then that my old friend Ludwig Van was invited along, not that I wished it so. It was his ninth symphony, my favorite zvook to be baddiwad to being used against me in a manner nothing short of sinful. After a few strings, the sickness spread right to my guttiwuts and all I could think of was snuffing. Anything to make it stop.

And stop it did but not before making me viddy that all this ultra-violence has been wrong and terribly so. There would be no more fuzzy warbles on my pop-disc by Ludwig Van from now on and all that tolchocking no longer seemed just either. Everyone has a right to live and be happy, that’s the new way for Alexander de Large. And I have but one final test to pass before being placed gently back in the bosom of society. After enduring a sound lashing of ultra-violence being committed against me, which very near put into my main cables I add hastily, my guess-work is that it can’t get any worse. Make me right, o brothers. Please, make me right.

It’s a sin! It’s a sin! My pan-handle betrays me and my gulliver is filled with thoughts of ripping off my platties and bowling this young devotchka over for a quick blast of the old in and out, to the height of my savagery. But the sick feeling has made its return and, while her groodies appear ready to express, I can’t bring myself to do such. Frozen is what I am, frozen to the ends of paralysis.

And frozen is where you shall remain Alex. Seems like an ideal place to stop, call it your eternal penance for all the deeply unpleasant ultra-violence you subjected us to. Besides, I can’t go giving away the ending can I? These good people would have nothing left to viddy for themselves. Of course, most of us have had the exclusive pleasure of feasting our glazzballs on Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange although, for some, it likely felt akin to being lidlocked like our friend and humble narrator as it’s hardly what you’d call a gentle stroll down the marina.

Kubrick’s film asks rather a large favor of its viewer as it challenges their notions of justice. It’s one thing denouncing torture when we have sympathy for its target, but less so when their actions have been so utterly reprehensible throughout and serial killing rapists are somewhat harder to blub over. Can we divorce ourselves from the question of whom is being subjected to such harsh cruelty? While I can’t speak for others, my papers were filed the very first moment this extraordinary motion picture tolchocked my senses. Thus I was powerless not to sympathize with its monster and I owe a monumental debt of gratitude to Malcolm McDowell as the hat fits quite beautifully atop all that luscious glory.

Seldom has a performance reeked so much of sincerity and McDowell not so much rents a room with a view in Alex’s hectic head space as shacks up indefinitely and moves around the furniture to suit his own eclectic tastes. With Kubrick as one’s landlord, you’re pretty much guaranteed the first month free, and he uses his leading man as a paintbrush, leaving it to him to decide whether strokes should be broad or fine. His vision is as clear as an azure sky of deepest summer as each shot is so meticulous in its execution and precious few filmmakers could ever boast of having Kubrick’s eye for the most miniscule of details.

While Alex is our friend and humble narrator, without pause, others around him large it up quite beautifully for our optical gratification. Aubrey Morris is a frightful delight as Mr. Deltoid, who may or may not be of this planet and every second spent in his unforgettable company is a bona fide horrorshow in itself. Is it pretentious? You’re very much darned in your tooting, if such you suggest. But it’s also summed up nicely by the following two words from its sponsor.

More than mere gaff, Kubrick’s film remarks just as scathingly about reform and rehabilitation as it does juvenile delinquency. That said, for all the heavy-handed methods employed against our storyteller, it never once feels preachy or anything less than tremendously compulsive. I’ve viddied many pieces of cine in my time but, should the request be for my grandest experiences, then A Clockwork Orange would be right up there, sitting pretty and all silver-like. After all, somebody’s got to keep those droogs in line.


Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 10/10

Grue Factor: 2/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: It’s a common misconception that A Clockwork Orange was banished for its cruelty, when the decision to withdraw it from exhibition actually came from Kubrick himself. Accused by the British media of encouraging copycat violence and subjected to death threats toward himself and his family, his hands were tied and the film didn’t screen uncut in cinemas until after his death. However, for all its ultra-violence, there’s actually very little shown and its the nonchalant manner in which Alex and his droogs go about their vile work that sticks with you after the credits spool. On the devotchka side of things, some of it may titillate but the majority most certainly won’t. 

Read The Shining Appraisal
Read Eyes Wide Shut Appraisal
Read The Last House on The Left (1972) Appraisal
Read American Psycho Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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  1. Nice to see you are back in fine form, Rich. Terrific review! I love how you did it as if Alex wrote it.
    McDowell has always been a favorite of mine. I think his boyish looks back in the day enabled him to play scoundrels like Alex effectively. You didn’t expect abhorrent behavior from those baby blues.
    Good work!

    1. Thank you Susan. This one was a logistical nightmare as the NADSAT language is extensive but I had a lot of fun with it and it just seemed right to step into his shoes. So glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Spectacular words bro!!! That HUGE Dildo scene is fucking SICK!!! When I first saw it I was shocked about what they show him in his therapy… His parents are a damn bunch of BITCHES!!! LOL
    Love the car ride shots, FANTASTIC!!! Such a killer. Unforgettable little MASTERPIECE. Nothing like old school Ultra Violence!!! 😀

    1. Thank you so much bro, thrilled that you dug my take. I found so many wonderful gifs and decided it just had to be done first-person. Like you, I reckon you can’t beat a nice bit of the old ultra-violence. Stunning film!

  3. I have read many movie reviews and this one has blown them all away. You have outdone yourself this time Richard. I felt as if I had stepped directly into the movie. It was sheer brilliance.

    1. I wish you could see my smile right now. I’m over the moon that it did the job as I had to do something unique for such an unforgettable movie. So many words to learn, my gulliver was throbbing come the end but that comment makes it all worth it.

  4. Nice write up there! Although I think you forgot to mention that, for some horrorshow droogs like me, the film is also damn hilarious at times. 🙂 Disturbing and laughable in it’s savagery and sarcasm. But maybe I viddy the old ultra-violence a little more than some.

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