A Clockwork Orange — The Film

I have avoided watching this movie all of my life. Several years back I thought I should watch it and I asked my friend if I could borrow his copy. My friend is a film buff and loves Kubrick. He hesitated and asked me a few questions. His questions made me queasy so I passed. At the time I didn’t know this film was on the AFI top 100 list. And I was unaware that the novel by Anthony Burgess was on the 1001 list. When I found out that both were I was not happy. Not at all. Please note that there might be some spoilers in this review.

The Better Half agreed to watch the flick with me. I had been advised not to watch it alone. We popped the DVD in and I settled in on the couch expecting the worst. For those who aren’t familiar with the story, the main character, Alex, is a charming sociopath. He leads a tiny gang. Alex has few interests including violence, rape, and classical music. The movie depicts Alex and his gang, whom he calls his droogs, on a disturbing crime spree. Then Alex is arrested, imprisoned, and then rehabilitated. The rehabilitation involves questionable psychological conditioning. You have to watch the movie to understand.

The violence in this movie is graphic, chilling, and unsettling. During the first twenty to thirty minutes there were moments when I wanted to shut it off. Rape is such a despicable crime and seeing it depicted in the movie in such a way was hard to sit through. But my rule for my challenge are that I have to watch the entire movie. So I did.

The film, released in 1971, was a hit with American audiences. In addition, it was nominated for four Academy Awards including: Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The French Connection won Best Picture that year, which is 93rd on the AFI list. The original AFI list ranked A Clockwork Orange much higher than the 2007 list, which is the one I’m using for my challenge. The 2007 list has it ranked 70th.

So am I glad I finally watched the film. I guess so. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I thought of the film when it finished. My first reaction was, “Huh.” I still kinda feel that way. Yes it was disturbing on so many levels. But since I had such an aversion to the movie for the past two decades I thought it would have a bigger impact on me. Maybe in ten years I should watch it again and see if I feel differently. I don’t recommend the movie to everyone. I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch it. But everyone should decide on their own if this is something they want to see.

The next movie on the list is Tootsie. Thank goodness. The last two films, Saving Private Ryan and A Clockwork Orange were not easy movies to watch. I could use a little humor.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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50 Responses to A Clockwork Orange — The Film

  1. Geoff W says:

    I’ve never seen it, but one of the first ‘legends’ I was told about Leeds Uni was that part of it was filmed there. It wasn’t, but it was sort of cool to think that something that iconic was filmed there.

  2. i have the dvd on my shelf but haven’t gotten around to it yet. i’ve wondered if the increasing levels of violence in film through the years will make this seem tame by comparison.

    • TBM says:

      I would still rank this one as pretty high on the violence scale. Sure some films lately will top it, but this one has an intensity.

  3. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Well done for watching. I went to a cinema to see it but left pretty quickly. That was many, many years ago and I wonder if I would stay if I went now.

    • TBM says:

      Well if you left once I have a feeling you would want to leave again. If I didn’t have my rule, I think I would have shut it off. There are so many other great movies out there so not sure if you want to try.

  4. IsobelandCat says:

    I agree Clockwork Orange is a very violent and disturbing film, but unlike others of which I could say the same, the violence is not there to titillate. The moral messages of the film are very strong. There is also humour, and of course Beethoven. I haven’t seen it for a very onetime, but I remember it as a powerful film with a strong narrative. I believe Kubrick wanted it withdrawn after some copycat crimes based on the action isn’t he film.i do not know if he was successful.

    • TBM says:

      I read about the crimes. If I remember correctly, Burgess wasn’t happy that the film became a cult classic since that wasn’t his intent. I think a lot of people saw this movie and thought it was cool and missed the actual message. Such a shame, since the message is loud and clear. Hope your foot is better!

  5. Carole says:

    Kudos for sitting through it. “Disturbing on so many levels” describes this film perfectly. Tootsie is the perfect antidote!

    • TBM says:

      The first 30 minutes made me cringe. I had heard so much to each scene I expect brutality. And then when it did come–well I want to think happy thoughts. Come on Tootsie!

  6. It has been years since I watched Clockwork. I loved it but found the second half much more frightening then the first. Malcolm McDowell was genius in the film.

    • TBM says:

      McDowell was amazing. And I have to agree with you, the first half was violent, but the second half is terrifying. I found the book did a better job getting that across.

  7. bulldog says:

    I remember the name and having seen the movie oh so many years ago… but for the life of me I don’t remember a thing about it, so it couldn’t have made such an impression on me…. however Tootsie, I can remember like yesterday… did enjoy that movie, also so many years ago….

    • TBM says:

      I’m looking forward to Tootsie. It has been years, over ten maybe since I’ve seen it. If I remember correctly Hoffman is fabulous in the flick.

  8. Vishy says:

    Nice review, TBM. I did a Stanley Kubrick festival at home a few years back and at that time I watched this film. This is not my favourite Kubrick film but it was quite interesting. I read the Anthony Burgess novel first before watching the movie. I found the fact that Alex and his gang drink milk and listen to classical music and also love violence, quite interesting. We would assume that people who drank milk and listened to classical music would be gentle and I am wondering whether Burgess / Kubrick were making a point here. Congratulations to you for being courageous and watching this movie. It is not for everyone as you have said. Thanks for this review.

    • TBM says:

      It is interesting that on one hand Alex seems like such a gentle soul. Beethoven and milk don’t conjure up images of sociopath in my mind. Yet there’s no other way to describe Alex, especially in the beginning of the story. After watching this film and reading the book my impression was we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. You never know what lies under the surface.

      What’s your favorite Kubrick film?

      • Vishy says:

        I think ‘Paths of Glory’ is my favourite Kubrick film. But I liked all of them 🙂 It is sad that he made only 12 films. Makes us yearn for more…

      • TBM says:

        It is a shame when a gifted person doesn’t create more. But I also know that’s a lot of pressure to put on one person. I haven’t seen Paths of Glory. Will add it to my list.

      • Vishy says:

        Which is your favourite Kubrick film, TBM?

      • TBM says:

        I haven’t seen all of his works, but if I had to name my fave now I would say, Full Metal Jacket.

      • Vishy says:

        Hope you enjoy watching ‘Paths of Glory’, TBM. Nice to know that ‘Full Metal Jacket’ is your favourite Kubrick movie. I like that too – it is quite wonderful.

      • TBM says:

        Thanks, Vishy. FMJ is a terrifying depiction of war. Can’t get some of the images out of my head from that movie.

  9. wordsurfer says:

    I haven’t watched the movie, I don’t think I ever will. I have read the book though (part of a literature course at uni) and it’s really good. It’s still full of violence and some very disturbing scenes, but it’s a very interesting message, a very relevant message about growing up and about society and the individual. It’s also very inventive and very interesting in the use of language, as Burgess invented his own system of slang language for it, so if you have any interest in language and linguistics, that’s quite cool.
    It’s also said that Anthony Burgess hated the movie they made out of his book.

    • TBM says:

      I don’t blame you for not wanting to watch the movie. I read the book after viewing this film and I enjoyed the book much more. It’s till violent, but I think the message is clearer in the novel. And after I got used to his language I started liking it. I think you’re right that Burgess didn’t like the film version.

  10. Pingback: A Clockwork Orange–the book | 50 Year Project

  11. I can’t watch A Clockwork Orange. Just watched Tootsie last month for the hundred and eleventh time and I love it.

  12. Beth Ann says:

    Catching up on posts today, again….. I vividly remember this movie because it was the very first movie that we rented when we got our first VCR!!!!! Why on earth we picked this one I have no clue and I could not make it through it at that time. My sister and her husband were visiting and we wanted to show off our new VCR and wow—-what a movie to choose! I may be able to watch it today and not be as traumatized but it is not really on my list at the moment. Currently I am working my way through all the seasons of The Sopranos so maybe it isn’t that far off……

  13. vinnieh says:

    I can’t listen to Singin in the rain the same way after seeing this film.

  14. Think I must be really desensitized by media – I was pretty surprised the film got banned when I saw it, and it doesn’t really bother me. Not at all as much as some I’ve seen made since that havent been banned.

    I didn’t like the film simply coz I didn’t think it was a good film, but it does stay with you.

    Think I’m much more affected by films with more realism – and to me the film lacked that so much it was very easy to detach the crime and violence from reality… ironically probably the opposite of what was hooed for…

  15. Caroline says:

    I saw that years ago and was shocked but the images – the colours, clothes, design stayed with me in a good way.

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