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A Clockwork Orange (18, 136 minutes)
Restored in 4K to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s most controversial work, A Clockwork Orange was the second X certificate film I got into the cinema to see.
By the time I managed to successfully fool the ticket desk at the ABC cinema in Wolverhampton that I was old enough to be admitted it was 1973 and even then it took two attempts within the same week for 16-year old me to finally pull it off.
Of course, Kubrick’s adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel already had a notorious reputation with some councils banning it from showing in their towns following claims that its glorification of “ultra violence” had prompted gangs of football hooligans to dress as droogs in white overalls and black bowlers, causing mayhem.
So the scene was set for a classic failure to live up to the hype scenario.
However, that was far from the case and although in terms of style it has not aged particularly well – something the restoration tends to accentuate in places rather than improve upon – the vision of Britain in 1980 (which at the time the book was written was 20 years away) is eerily accurate in places as the tower blocks of the early 60s became decrepit, graffiti-adorned, p*ss stinking monuments to society’s decline.
Meanwhile, today’s street language is as indecipherable to me as the Nadsat spoken by the droogs.
Malcolm McDowell is perfectly cast as central character Alex, although the experience of being directed by one of the world’s most respected film makers was not a pleasant one, such as the day when, suffering from a kidney infection, the actor was forced to endure having his head held underwater in a trough on a freezing cold day until he almost drowned.
But look at any irredeemable delinquent in cinema since and there’s a little bit of Alex in all of them.
For the uninitiated, A Clockwork Orange belongs on a list of films everyone should see at least once before they die. It’s no Dr Strangelove, but despite being very much of it’s time and reducing serious issues such as rape to the real life equivalent of a Punch and Judy show, over time the film has shown itself to be a chilling satire of 80s politics and society.