The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
As a film lover and someone who considers themselves well-versed in the world of cinema, I’m sad to report this was my first-time watching “A Clockwork Orange.” I feel like no matter how many films you have seen, there are usually a dozen or so that have just slipped through the cracks. This is the 50th anniversary of this Stanley Kubrick classic and, as a first-time viewer, I can’t imagine the impact it had on viewers when it first came out. I know from reading up on it, it was quite controversial and misunderstood, but it ended up gaining a cult following. After watching it last night, I can’t wait to watch it again. Kubrick is truly a genius when it comes to cinema. There is always so much happening in his films, but everything is happening for a specific purpose.
The first forty-five minutes or so of “A Clockwork Orange” are a little out there and a little frustrating from a narrative perspective. The film is set in a dystopian Britain where a group of young gang members run around terrorizing anyone who gets in their path. For example, when they run into a homeless man, they beat him up simply because they find it amusing and comical. In another instance, they go out of their way to create chaos and havoc for a writer and his wife by attacking them in the middle of the night. One night, this group of four young men takes it too far when one of their members, Alex (Malcolm McDowell) ends up killing a wealthy woman. His three fellow gang members leave him behind, the police catch him, and he is sentenced to fourteen years in prison.
The early part of “A Clockwork Orange” is not necessarily hard to watch as I’m used to movie violence, and it takes a lot to upset me or really get under my skin. It’s more so that Alex and his “droogs” are unpleasant to spend time with, which I would venture to guess was Kubrick’s intent as a filmmaker. This film is based on the novel by Anthony Burgess. I think they could have trimmed out some of their antics in the film as, at times, it’s beating the audience over the head with violence and becomes repetitive and dull. However, when Alex is sent to prison, it is when the film becomes really, really interesting and takes off.
After being well-behaved in prison for two years, Alex hears about this experiment which allows someone to be cured almost instantly of their bad thoughts and impulses. They start to think and behave without any lust or violence. The experiment exposes them to footage of violence, rape, and other heinous acts. When they see this footage, they start to become sick. Because of this, if they ever have the urge to misbehave again, it is quickly stopped because of how they feel after the aversion therapy. The prison chaplain tries to warn Alex against it by telling him the good should come from inside of him and the choices he makes.
What happens from there makes for an incredibly thrilling and intense final act. The beauty of a Kubrick film is the details all around you that are happening in a scene. For example, when Alex returns home, the way his house is shot is gorgeous. Kubrick is never afraid to use colors and lots of them. He knows the beauty of imagery, color and scenery, and it makes the scenes much more effective. There is also his use of music. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to “Singing in the Rain” or anything from Beethoven again without thinking of this film. There is a purpose for everything in his films from a visual and audio standpoint.
I could go on and on about “A Clockwork Orange.” The best praise I could give the film is that I want to watch it again and again. Kubrick was a true visionary of cinema. This film also has a lot to say about politics, drugs (think of the milk featured here), violence, sex, karma and so much more. After I woke up today to write this review, the film was still in my head. His films really stay with you and mess with your head in the best possible way. On 4K, the brightness is taken to a whole new level. I know I’m stating the obvious here, but Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” is a masterpiece. I absolutely loved this film. It’s a great reminder of how great movies will always stand the test of time, no matter when they were released.
* * * * out of * * * *
4K/Blu-Ray Info: “A Clockwork Orange” is released on a 4K/Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It comes with the 4K, Blu-ray, and also a digital copy of the film as well. It has a running time of 137 minutes and is rated R.
Video Info: The 4K of the film comes in 2160p Ultra High Definition with a ratio of 16×9 1.66:1. If any film ever deserved the 4K treatment, it is “A Clockwork Orange.” I plan on watching the Blu-ray of the film at some point, but the high dynamic range and the colors are on full-display with the 4K. The film is mesmerizing to watch on 4K. This is the reason why more and more people are getting 4K TV’s and players for films like this. They were made for 4K. There is no other way to watch it at home. The Blu-ray of the film comes in 1080p High Definition with a ratio of 16×9 1.66:1.
Audio Info: The audio for the film is presented in DTS-HD MA: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: English, French and Spanish. Subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish as well. This applies to both the 4K and Blu-ray discs.
Commentary by Malcolm McDowell and Nick Redman
Still Tickin’: The Return of Clockwork Orange [2000 Channel 4 Documentary]
Great Bolshy Yarblockos! Making A Clockwork Orange
Turning Like Clockwork
Malcolm McDowell Looks Back
O Lucky Malcolm!
Should You Buy It?
According to the press release, the special features are the same released on the previous Blu-ray of the film, which is a bit of a bummer. One would have hoped they would have done an updated version of the special features, especially with it being the 50th anniversary of this film. If you haven’t seen “A Clockwork Orange” before, you are missing out! I can vouch for that. This one is a no-brainer to add to your collection for the film itself and the visual aspects of 4K.
This film is going to stay with me for a long, long time, and I get to watch it again on Blu-ray and 4K. I can even watch it on my iPad because of the digital copy which comes with this combo pack. However, as Spike Lee says, do the right thing and watch it on 4K. There will never be another director like Kubrick. Kudos as well to Warner Brothers for their recent upgrades of classic films like “A Clockwork Orange” and “The Shawshank Redemption.” They are on a roll lately!
**Disclaimer** I received a Blu-ray copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free. The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.