TV Cream

Films: C is for...

Clockwork Orange, A

Let’s be honest here, now the thing’s out in the open for all to see at the push of a button, and all the romance of smuggled third-generation VHS copies has been consigned to history, this ‘brutal classic’ stands revealed as really all a bit aimless and poor. And we speak with all the sanctimonious zeal of the reformed junkie – in fact, if you’ll forgive a bit of tedious autobiography, it was while watching this very film for the nth time in about 1994 (and we didn’t refer to it as “Clocky Orange”, as Tony Parsons still does, but we weren’t far off that flat-headed level of inane fandom) that we finally realised it wasn’t actually up to much, and that we’d been studiously overlooking the perpetually slackening pace, the shoddy sound recording, the feeble “comedy” sex scene, and the fact that no-one had bothered to work out a convincing way for Malcolm McDowell and pals to deliver the unrealistically verbose future slang,
resulting in some of the most stilted performances since The Story of the King Who Liked Bananas on Let’s Pretend. The opportunity to raise a knowing glass of milk while saying “viddy well!” and pulling over a bookcase somehow made up for all that, in a self-conscious “If I like this film the big lads at the back of the bus will be my friends” way. Still, we’re duty-bound by the film reviewer’s code here to lament this film’s posthumous unbanning as the end of an era, and then go on to mistily rhapsodise about bootlegs, so we’ll keep it short – eighth generation Tudor VHS copy with no colour and deafening hiss, fairly good colour copy that cuts out halfway through the Miriam Karlin scene, and decent widescreen edition plastered with Dutch subtitles. Ah, the romance of it all! You don’t get that with your region ones. In pin-sharp focus – Patrick ‘Caleb’ Magee, Michael ‘Blamire’ Bates, Adrienne ‘Amelia’ Corri, Aubrey ‘Ziebrecken’ Morris, John ‘Sir Frederick’ Savident, Steven ‘Orlov’ Berkoff, David ‘Dave’ Prowse and Carol ‘my dear, what’ve you got for meeeeee?’ Drinkwater.



  1. Lee James Turnock

    May 21, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Like it or not, it remains a unique experience. And it’s worth remembering that the budget, by Kubrick’s own admission, was peanuts.

  2. Paul

    June 9, 2014 at 3:14 am

    At last someone has said what I thought all along. This film is rubbish and does no justice to the book. I remember getting a pirate copy after reading the book and feeling apprehensive about all the extreme violence, misogyny and grimness of what I was going to see if it was anything approaching the novel. The novel also had a very dark humour which the film just completely misses. Everything about the film is just awful, the acting, the sets, the musical score with awful synth pop, the yoga lady, the awful comedy sex scene which in the novel is pretty brutal, just everything. The opening shot in the milk bar is ok. If this wasn’t a Kubrick film no one would care less about it. It’s just rubbish.

  3. Droogie

    June 9, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    YARBLES! Clockwork Orange is a classic film full of unforgettable images, an awesome Moog soundtrack that would be highly influential on British pop years later( watch the doc Synth Brittania),and with a brilliant central performance by McDowell as one of cinema’s most charismatic bad boys. The iconic slo-mo walk of the Droogs down Thamesmead later “borrowed” by Tarantino for Reservoir Dogs is a classic scene of 70’s cinema.

  4. Richard16378

    June 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    The music was by Wendy (was Walter) Carol of Switch On Bach fame.

    It was one of the first pieces of music to use that voice box Peter Frampton made his own.

    Supposedly Stanley Kubrick wanted to get Pink Floyd to write some music for it.

    Wendy Carlos also worked on the soundtrack to The Shining.

  5. Tom Ronson

    October 27, 2022 at 5:09 am

    Stating the bleedin’ obvious maybe but Stanley Kubrick really was a peculiar fucker, wasn’t he? Large stretches of this feel like a particularly abstract episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Fully agreed about the perpetually slackening pace, too – there are several points where you think the film’s going to end, but it just keeps on going… and going… and going… Also annoying that the extract from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade isn’t on the soundtrack album.

  6. Glenn Aylett

    October 27, 2022 at 9:28 pm

    The housing estate Alex De Large lived on was Thamesmead, that huge modernist sprawl between Woolwich and the Thames, which was very new in 1971 and very much suited the dystopian vision of A Clockwork Orange.

  7. Sidney Balmoral James

    October 27, 2022 at 10:01 pm

    I agree this isn’t up to much as a film. It does look very cheap, coming between the sumptuous 2001 and Barry Lyndon. Wendy Carlos’ score surely is a high point ‘though? Perhaps synth versions of classics are a bit naff these days, but the use of the technology was cutting edge, and she was a serious composer – indeed, the core of the score is Timesteps, an original piece rather than a Moog version of a classic. The score is not however well used in the film – key tracks like Country Lane are rather thrown away. Kubrick was notoriously careless about his scores – I’m sure I’ve read that others were responsible for the selection of tracks for 2001 (for which a full Alex North score was abandoned) and The Shining.

  8. Richardpd

    October 27, 2022 at 10:48 pm

    Somehow I’ve not been able to get round to watching this, but I remember Channel 4 showed it & some other unbanned films like Driller Killer about 20 years ago.

    Fellow video nasty The Exocist also had to be enjoyed by dubious means. I remember reading about someone having a French VHS copy which thanks to the differences between the SECAM & PAL TV systems would only play in black & white, which along with the French dubbing made it feel like a weird art film.

    The Jon Pertwee era Dr Who stories that don’t exist in their original format can feel like either an early 1960s British thriller or a 1980s student film according to Dr Who Magazine.

  9. Sidney Balmoral James

    October 28, 2022 at 6:53 pm

    When I was a student, the Phoenix cinema in Oxford had a print of the Exorcist, which it would occasionally show – it might well have been an original print from 70s, given the scratches etc. and it made the film seem much more strange and unsettling. When it was released again in cinemas in a new print, it seemed far less unsettling, although it is definitely one of those films which is better seen in cinema (indeed, now I think of it, it is the only film I have seen three times in the cinema!)

  10. Richardpd

    October 28, 2022 at 10:09 pm

    I’ve been told 2001: A Space Odyssey looks a lot better on the big screen.

    I heard Anthony Burgess wrote the original novel raise money to settle some debts & didn’t care too much of it.

    I believe he based it on something he read about Soviet model cities where the lack of facilities for teenagers & an apathetic police had lead to a gang culture like the one in the book. Certainly Nadsat is heavily based on Russian.

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