By Britta DeVore | Posted
Stanley Kubrick is one of the biggest names in cinema. Of 2001: A Space Odyssey at the brilliant at Full Metal Jacketand even the most modern Eyes wide closed, the director’s name is synonymous with a multitude of award-winning, highly successful and highly selected projects. While many of his films, including the aforementioned Eyes wide closed, drew criticism from critics and audiences alike for their themes, one film, in particular, received a tremendous amount of backlash. And now this feature – A clockwork orange – is about to make its way to Netflix. That’s right, starting September 1, you can stream one of the most talked about features of Kubrick’s career.
A clockwork orange landed in theaters in 1971 and would soon prove to be both a blessing and a curse for Kubrick. Based on the novel of the same name by Anthony Burgess, the plot follows Alex (Malcolm McDowell), an incredibly troubled teenager. Throughout the film, the Beethoven-loving offender commits a series of violent crimes, including rape and robbery, alongside his band of sadistic and maniacal cronies: Pete (Michael Tarn), Georgie (James Marcus) and Dim ( Warren Clarke). Narrated by Alex, the film chronicles the unmanageable teenager through his preposterous crime spree, arrest, and unsuccessful psychological rehabilitation. The film featured an ensemble cast consisting of Anthony Sharp, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, John Clive, Adrienne Corri, Carl Duering, Paul Farrell, Clive Francis, Michael Gover, Miriam Karlin, Aubrey Morris, Godfrey Quigley, Sheila Raynor, Madge Ryan, John Savident, Philip Stone, Pauline Taylor, Margaret Tyzack, Steven Berkoff, David Prowse and Carol Drinkwater.
One of the main themes and questions raised by A clockwork orange focuses on whether behavioral psychology, therapy, and psychological conditioning actually work, or if they are just another means of control. Audiences watched as Alex, despite numerous therapies, never really redeemed himself in his own brain – quickly returning to the evil that has always driven his life. Through intense and sometimes hard-to-watch moments, the film’s main character is forced to stifle new “moral” ideas in an attempt to wipe his brain clean.
Receiving mixed reviews from critics, many called the film a dangerous film that could glorify Alex’s actions rather than damn them. Another common complaint and observation was that the film was nothing more than a way to promote the idea that women are just objects and should be treated as such. Another setback included the United States giving A clockwork orange an X rating when first released, forcing Kubrick to change a sexually explicit scene to something that would instead give him an R rating. An American version of the book also omitted the final chapter, where Alex is essentially “cured”.
And things across the pond were no better. In the UK, the film has been used as the backbone of several criminal cases against young men who committed heinous crimes. In one case, a 14-year-old boy was tried for manslaughter against one of his school friends, his lawyer saying that A clockwork orange influenced his client’s crime. Another allegation has been made against a 16-year-old who admitted his guilt after murdering an elderly man claiming he was inspired by the film. Kubrick’s bloody play even had a hard time with the Catholic Church which banned Roman Catholics from seeing the film for 10 years until they got rid of their own church-wide rating system. church.
Globally, A clockwork orange rose to rank as one of – if not number one – the most controversial films in the history of major feature films. Kubrick’s vision of bringing Burgess’s novel to life on screen turned out to be something we would talk about for years. As with many projects of the same variety, it seems that bad press can become the best press. Making its way into classrooms and college courses, the film still delivers the shock value it became famous for in the first place. And now you can check it out from the comfort of your own couch on Netflix – but be sure to do so soon. As with any film as controversial as this, you never know when critics will come out and rip it off.