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A Clockwork Orange (Remastered)
Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 131 mins . R . PAL


One of the most controversial films of its time, Kubrick’s 1971 filming of the Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange was surprising for more than a few reasons - not least of which was that this, a dark and violent diatribe satirising the lengths to which society will go to tame and control those that don’t fit in, served as the director’s follow-up film to 2001: A Space Odyssey, a movie that many saw as gentle, positive and full of hope (it wasn’t, of course - but we’ll leave that discussion for the appropriate review). Of course, Kubrick made it a virtual career policy to not do the same kind of movie twice, but it’s amusing to think of 2001 fans queuing to see the admittedly futuristic A Clockwork Orange only to be confronted by a nightmarish satire that pulled no punches and left nothing unsaid.

Surprising for many, too, were the liberties Kubrick (as screenwriter) took with the original novel; however, that too is nothing out of the ordinary for a man for whom the word “adapt” was almost synonymous with the phrase “freely interpret”.

A Clockwork Orange tells the story of young troublemaker Alex (Malcolm McDowell in his most famous role), the leader of a gang of “droogs”. Well-spoken, intelligent Alex and his somewhat less brain-equipped friends make it their calling in life - when not hanging out at the Korova Milk Bar - to have a fun time causing mayhem and misery to just about anyone that crosses their path. Beatings, vandalism, rape, torture - it’s all just part of a good day. But Alex’s leadership of his gang is called into question by the other members, and after no small amount of dissent and power-play, Alex is double-crossed by his former friends and is arrested. The authorities, though, have plans for Alex that don’t involve letting him rot in prison. He is to be their guinea pig - they can, it seems, “cure” him.

Uncompromising and unashamedly blatant in its satire, A Clockwork Orange may not be as bloody or as confronting as some of today’s films, but its apparent celebration of our hero’s violent ways left many at the time of release feeling assaulted and outraged (as, indeed, did the novel when it first appeared). Kubrick’s dispassionate, almost voyeuristic direction allows events to play out in a paradoxically elegant manner throughout, but the underlying tone of utter sarcasm is hard to miss. However, miss it some did at the time; following a spate of “copycat” crimes perpetrated by some who’d seen the film in the UK, Kubrick pulled it from release in that country for many years. But ironically, the visually striking A Clockwork Orange - still absolutely compelling even 30 years after it was made - is anything but an endorsement of or incitement to crime. Indeed, as governments’ attempts to control their citizens and make moral judgements on their behalf become more and more a fact of everyday life, A Clockwork Orange might well have been written and filmed today.


Intentionally produced using an unconventional colour palette, A Clockwork Orange shapes up extremely well on this newly-remastered DVD. Presented at Kubrick’s preferred aspect ratio of 1.66:1, the transfer belies the 30-year age of the film and looks, for the most part, quite remarkable. As with the other titles in this newly-minted Kubrick set, Warner appear to have gone back to the most pristine source material possible - we’d assume the cut negative itself - and done an exemplary job in transferring the film to video. The picture if crisp and loaded with detail throughout, and one only has to look at scenes with a predominance of solid colours (or, for that matter, the opening and closing credits themselves!) to appreciate the accuracy of this transfer as well as the undeniable benefits of watching it on DVD. Some minor compression problems arise on complex surfaces such as “glitter” walls, and there is some occasional, very minor aliasing present, but none of this is likely to be of concern to anyone but the most over-fussy. This transfer is, incidentally, not 16:9 enhanced, but as the material is hardly suited to widescreen displays (and, of course, benefits from the extra resolution of PAL on the local version) this won’t be a problem for most. The layer change is slightly jarring in its placement, but quickly negotiated.

The audio, originally mixed in mono (and the first film soundtrack to make use of Dolby noise reduction), has been given the 5.1 remix treatment - but purists need not panic, as this has been done with the utmost care and respect for the original soundtrack. Dialogue and most effects are still panned front and centre, but the music score (which, typically for Kubrick, uses classical works as well as interpretations of classics, the latter in this case done electronically by Walter Carlos - later to score The Shining for Kubrick as Wendy Carlos) is presented in stereo with surround information extrapolated to the rear channels. Fidelity varies, particularly on location dialogue - remember, everything here was recorded prior to 1971 - but overall, it’s a big improvement over the original mono track for today’s home theatre systems.

The only extras here are a Pythonesque theatrical trailer (full frame with mono audio) and five text screens listing the various awards the movie had bestowed upon it.

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  •   And I quote...
    "...still absolutely compelling even 30 years after it was made..."
    - Anthony Horan
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