Great Movies: 'A Clockwork Orange' and the Career of Stanley Kubrick

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Stanley Kubrick 'The Ultimate Trip' Exhibit Open thru March 3.

A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 film adaptation of Anthony Burgess's 1962 novella. The film version was directed by Stanley Kubrick (1928-99). It was criticized for disturbing, violent images, on behalf of its social commentary on psychiatry, youth gangs, and other social, political, and economic subjects in a future Britain.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences  will celebrate the life and career of filmmaker Stanley Kubrick on Wednesday, November 7, at 7:30 p.m. (Pacific Coast Time)  at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, which also has an exhibit open to the public.

Stanley Kubrick at work on BArry LyndonKubrick, pictured at left,  a 13-time Academy Award®–nominated director, writer and producer – who also won an Oscar® for Special Visual Effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey – was one of the world's most visually innovative, thematically operatic and intellectually challenging filmmakers.

His movies, such as Lolita, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut, have consistently defied audiences' expectations and expanded the boundaries of visual storytelling with wit, style, humor and intelligence.

The event launches the Academy's satellite exhibition "Stanley Kubrick: The Ultimate Trip" in the Academy's Grand Lobby Gallery, where it will be on view through March 3, 2013. The installation illuminates Kubrick's creative process through film posters, photographs, advertising trailers, production design drawings, screenplay drafts, correspondence and other original artifacts.

The Nov. 7 tribute to Kubrick is hosted by Malcolm McDowell, the star of A Clockwork Orange, and  the evening features film clips and personal remembrances by his friends and collaborators, including Paul Mazursky, Ryan O'Neal and Matthew Modine. The salute is presented in association with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), leading off its retrospective screening series "2012: A Kubrick Odyssey," and in conjunction with its exhibition "Stanley Kubrick."

Screenshot from A Clockwork OrangeAlex (Malcolm McDowell), the main character, is a charismatic, sociopathic delinquent whose interests include classical music (especially Beethoven), rape, and what is termed "ultra-violence." He leads a small gang of thugs (Pete, Georgie, and Dim), whom he calls his droogs (from the Russian, "friend," "buddy"). The film chronicles the horrific crime spree of his gang, his capture, and attempted rehabilitation via controversial psychological conditioning. Alex narrates most of the film in Nadsat, a fractured adolescent slang comprising Slavic (especially Russian), English, and Cockney rhyming slang.

The cinematic adaptation of  A Clockwork Orange (1962) was accidental. Screenplay writer Terry Southern gave Kubrick a copy of the novel, but, as he was developing a Napoleon Bonaparte-related project, Kubrick put it aside. Soon afterward, however, the Bonaparte project was canceled and, sometime later, Kubrick happened upon the novel. It had an immediate impact. Kubrick said, "I was excited by everything about it, the plot, the ideas, the characters and of course the language... The story functions, of course, on several levels, political, sociological, philosophical and, what's most important, on a dreamlike psychological-symbolic level."

Kubrick wrote a screenplay faithful to the novel, saying, "I think whatever Burgess had to say about the story was said in the book, but I did invent a few useful narrative ideas and reshape some of the scenes". Kubrick based the script on the shortened U.S. edition of the book, which missed the final chapter (restored in 1986).

A Clockwork Orange was a hit with American audiences and was critically well received and nominated for several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. It also boosted sales of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Roger Ebert gave A Clockwork Orange two stars out of four, calling it an "ideological mess." In the New Yorker' review titled "Stanley Strangelove," Pauline Kael called it pornographic, because of how it de-humanized Alex's victims, while highlighting the sufferings of the protagonist. Kael derided Kubrick as a "bad pornographer," noting the Billyboy's gang extended stripping of the very buxom woman they intend to rape, claiming it was offered for titillation.

Along with Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Wild Bunch (1969), Dirty Harry (1971) and Straw Dogs (1971), the film is considered a landmark in the relaxation of control on violence in the cinema.

DVD cover: A Clockwork OrangeIn the United States, A Clockwork Orange was rated X in its original release form. Kubrick later, voluntarily, replaced some 30 seconds of sexually explicit footage, from two scenes, with less bawdy action, for an R rating re-release in 1973. Current DVDs present the original X-rated form, and only some of the early 1980s VHS editions are the R-rated form.

The current exhibition now on display at the Academy of Motion Pictures in Beverly Hills has materials from A Clockwork Orange and are drawn from the collections of the Stanley Kubrick Archive, the Mark E. Blunck Collection and the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library, in collaboration with the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt am Main, and LACMA. Viewing hours for "Stanley Kubrick: The Ultimate Trip" are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on weekends from noon to 6 p.m. Admission is free.

Tickets for "An Academy Salute to Stanley Kubrick" are sold out; however, a standby line will form on the day of the event, and standby numbers will be assigned starting at approximately 5:30 p.m. The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For more information and guest updates, call (310) 247-3600 or visit


Visit your local library to obtain these resources:


A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess,  (1978).

A Clockwork Orange (DVD)
Stanley Kubrick, (1971).

Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange
Stuart Y. McDougal, (2003).

Stanley Kubrick, Drama and Shadows: Photographs 1945–1950
Rainer Crone and Stanley Kubrick (2005).

The Complete Kubrick
David Hughes (2000).

Stanley Kubrick: Seven Films Analyzed
Randy Rasmussen,  (2005).



1.Article illustration: Screenshot: Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.

2.Original publicity photograph taken of Stanley Kubrick during the filming of Barry Lyndon. 1975

3.Screenshot: Malcolm McDowell with droogs  (Pete, Georgie, and Dim) in A Clockwork Orange.

4.DVD cover: A Clockwork Orange.

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