This movie classic is real horrorshow
The films of Stanley Kubrick are being reissued on DVD in 2-disc “special editions.” Among them, naturally, is his extraordinary Oscar-nominated adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange, which I first saw on its release in 1971, when I was just 17. Seeing it then, of course, required my passing for 18, because A Clockwork Orange was rated X. This was in the day when “X” didn’t necessarily signify pornography, and critically acclaimed movies like Midnight Cowboy, The Damned, and Last Tango in Paris sported X ratings. Anyway, I’d already read the Burgess book for a high school English class, and I wanted to see the movie version, so I not-so-confidently walked into a theater on Hollywood Boulevard, trying to act eight or nine months older than I was.
I was staggered then by A Clockwork Orange. And I was staggered again this past weekend, when I watched it for the first time in many years. The movie is, by turns, horrifying, edifying, and comedic. Even by today’s film standards, it rattles you. Watching it with much more history behind me, I was struck first by the obvious influence the movie’s had on filmmakers, music, and even clothing trends over the past 36 years. Then I was reminded again of what an angry and devastating polemic it is against bureaucracy and the nanny State, and of how prophetic it was. Malcolm McDowell, then 28, brilliantly plays teenaged Alex, every society’s nightmare — and I think the film’s opening shot on just his face is one of the most memorable in cinematic history.
On a recent list of the top 50 dystopian movies of all time, A Clockwork Orange came in at #2, behind only Fritz Lang’s silent classic Metropolis. It absolutely deserves that placement. If you’ve somehow missed seeing this film, by all means see it, but with this suggestion: Don’t be frightened. It’s only a movie. (Sure it is…)