Combustible Celluloid
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With: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Warren Clarke, James Marcus, Aubrey Morris, Godfrey Quigley, Michael Bates, David Prowse
Written by: Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel by Anthony Burgess
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 136
Date: 18/12/1971

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Agent 'Orange'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A Clockwork Orange may be Stanley Kubrick's most disturbing film, in that the gruesome first 40 minutes -- with the various rapes and attacks -- are so alive and so perversely enjoyable. As Alex, the "droog" who likes a little "ultraviolence," Malcolm McDowell looks and sounds great as he romps through the night causing all kinds of havoc. After he's caught and given a special "treatment" which makes him abhor violence, we realize we preferred him before.

The movie has a fairly upfront theme about the role of an individual with free will in a society governed by rules and morals (it's an old idea; Charlie Chaplin often used it himself). However, aside from that, this is one of the few movies that really questions the idea of the "likeable" Hollywood character, one who learns a lesson and finds redemption, which Alex most certainly does not do here.

It's a very dark message, but maybe that's why the film caught on as a video cult item in the 1980s. I still get a kick out of watching McDowell's hellraising performance. The film was originally rated 'X' but is now rated 'R.' I'm pretty sure no cutting was involved. It received four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, but did not win. David Prowse, who later played the hulking form of Darth Vader in Star Wars, here plays Mr. Alexander's bodyguard. The movie received four Oscar nominations, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Editing, but did not win.

In 2011, for the film's 40th anniversary, Warner Home Video released a super-deluxe new two-disc Blu-Ray Book edition, with several glossy pages inside. The first disc comes with the feature film, a commentary track by McDowell, and two new high-def featurettes, as well as the old featurettes. The second disc comes with Jan Harlan's two feature-length documentaries, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001) and O Lucky Malcolm! (2006). The set also includes a digital copy offer (which expires in a year).

Additionally, Warner Home Video has released a separate DVD, Never Apologize, a feature length concert film with that great storyteller McDowell onstage, talking about his experiences working with Lindsay Anderson.

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