The Droogs are coming! Train your glazzies on the ultraviolence, unless your gulliver says bollocks. One of Kubrick’s more controversial outings, A Clockwork Orange anticipated a kind of punk anarchy coupled to the coming of Margaret Thatcher’s economic implosion in the UK. Yet at its murky bottom, it’s a chillingly precise film about free will versus state control. As the principal delinquent, Alex, played with adrenal glee by Malcolm McDowell, is the demented bad boy, an unvarnished expression of sociopathic lust. But it is the unbridled honesty of his impulses that makes Alex a charismatic leader of lesser thugs. Following an escalating crime spree that includes beating a woman to death with a huge phallus, Alex is sentenced to fourteen years in prison, but will have his incarceration reduced if he submits to the “Ludovico Treatment,” a radical form of aversion therapy. The harsh therapy leaves him “cured” of his antisocial urges, but no longer “a creature capable of moral choice.” Once again a pointed story finds itself pinned to striking visual details: Alex’s singular lengthy eyelash, the fantastical Korova Milkbar with its milk-dispensing statuary, the “lid-locks” used to keep Alex’s eyes open during therapy, the balletic slo-mo beatings. To establish the gangly gangbangers as an autonomous cohort, Kubrick enlists author Anthony Burgess’s “Nadsat,” a slangy alternative lingo. Always talking the talk, A Clockwork Orange is like a punch in the guttiwuts.
• Written by Kubrick, from the novel by Anthony Burgess. Photographed by John Alcott. With Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke. (136 mins, B&W/Color, DCP, From Warner Bros.)