Filmsite Movie Review
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
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The Story (continued)

Hearing Rossini's The Thieving Magpie drifting in from an open window, Alex "viddies" what to do - he turns on his pals. First, he spins and strikes Georgie in the crotch with his cane and then thrusts both Georgie and Dim into the water. [The image of Alex leaping with his cane and ape-ing at the camera resembles the man-ape in the opening sequence of Kubrick's own 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).] To impose his will over his followers and subjugate them into submission, he draws his knife from the end of his cane and slices Dim with it across the back of his hand. Later, in the Duke of New York pub, Alex resumes power over them and is acknowledged as their "Master and Leader:"

Alex (voice-over): I had not cut into any of Dim's main cables and so, with the help of a clean tashtook, the red, red krovvy soon stopped, and it did not take long to quieten the two wounded soldiers, down in the snug of the Duke of New York. Now they knew who was Master and Leader. Sheep, thought I, but a real leader knows always when like to give and show generous to his unders.

Alex accepts Georgie's scheme to visit and rob ("it's full up with like gold and silver, and like jewels") an almost-deserted, isolated health farm outside of town "owned by this like very rich ptitsa who lives there with her cats." [Their plan is part of a plot to betray Alex so that he will be caught after the crime.] Before a description of the Woodmere Health Farm is completed, they are knocking on the door of the carpeted facility, wall-papered with gigantic, modern pornographic art (lewd scenes of sexual intensity and bondage), and decorated with garish, decadent art objects. [Note: One of the paintings resembles Mrs. Alexander with her breasts exposed.] The exercise facility is run by a wiry, introverted Englishwoman named Miss Weathers, known as the 'Catlady' (Miriam Karlin) - wearing an emerald-colored leotard, she is exercising on the floor surrounded by dozens of cats when she hears knocking. Cursing, she goes to the door, but rejects Alex's familiar accident/emergency ploy.

Instead of letting him in to call the police, she uses the phone to notify the authorities at the Radlett Police Station, while the droogs put on their masks and sneak around to the rear of the house. Alex enters through an open window on the second floor. When she hangs up the phone, she turns and suddenly sees Alex, who grins: "Hi-hi-hi-hi there!" and calls her giant phallus artifact: "Naughty, naughty, naughty. You filthy old soomka." When Alex sets to rocking her giant, obscene phallus sculpture on its testicles, she screams: "Leave that alone! Don't touch it! It's a very important work of art." Her demands that Alex get out fail, so she picks up a bust of his beloved Beethoven and rushes at him, They duel each other with antagonistic weapons - he holds her off with the oversized phallus, and she thrusts the small bust of Beethoven at him.

The scene, another balletic dance, is filmed with a hand-held camera to emphasize its urgency. When she goes down on the floor, Alex raises the Beethoven sculpture above her and plunges it down into her - filmed from a low angle. As she screams, a close-up of a mouth within another open mouth (from one of the pop paintings in the rooms) flashes on-screen with other dismembered body parts in an orgy of modern art. Alex leaves her senseless and beaten on the floor, mortally wounded by her own sculpture-turned-weapon, when he hears sounds of distant police sirens. As he races out the front door to join his henchmen, Dim - holding a milk bottle behind his back (a visual clue of the impending revolution) clobbers him across the face with the object. Alex is left screaming: "I'm blind, you bastards. I'm blind. I'm blind, you bastards. I can't see. O, you bastards! I'm blind!"

Alex is left to be arrested - and taken to the police station house where he is interrogated in a windowless room by bobbies in uniform - one is a young policeman named Tom (Steven Berkoff). Sporting a bloody-nose bandage, Alex refuses to speak without a lawyer: "I won't say a single solitary slovo unless I have my lawyer here. I know the law, you bastards." The Inspector (Lindsay Campbell) responds: "We'll have to show our little friend Alex here that we know the law too, but that knowing the law isn't everything." After Alex burps into one of the policeman's faces, the man brutally jams his thumb down on Alex's injured nose. Alex grabs the attacker's genitals. In retaliation, Alex is beaten and kicked - his wound is freshly opened and blood is splattered on the immaculate wall of the interrogation room.

Mr. Deltoid, Alex's social worker, appears after being summoned to participate in Alex's questioning in the interview room, but he announces gleefully that it is "the end of the line":

Deltoid: Dear, dear, this boy does look a mess, doesn't he? Just look at the state of him.
Policeman: Love's young nightmare, like.
Inspector: Violence makes violence. He resisted his lawful arrestors.
Deltoid: This is the end of the line for me.

Alex, "love's young nightmare," argues that he is innocent and "was led on by the treachery of others" - he was forced into murdering the Catlady by his "stinking traitorous droogs." In a subjective point-of-view shot, Deltoid bends down and stares into the camera, vindictively telling Alex:

You are now a murderer, little Alex. A murderer...I've just come from the hospital. Your victim has died...It will be your own torture. I hope to God it will torture you to madness.

The policeman rests his head on Deltoid's shoulder and invites him to "bash" Alex one final time: "If you'd care to give him a bash in the chops, sir, don't mind us. We'll hold him down. He must be a great disappointment to you, sir." Instead of taking up the policeman's offer, Deltoid opts instead to spit in Alex's face.

An aerial shot of the exterior of the government's prison compound, surrounded by green fields, appears. Following his arrest and conviction by the totalitarian government for first-degree murder, Alex is sentenced to fourteen years in prison, and he melodramatically narrates the next section of the film - "the real weepy and like tragic part":

Alex (voice-over): This is the real weepy and like tragic part of the story beginning. O my brothers and only friends. After a trial with judges and a jury, and some very hard words spoken against your friend and humble narrator, he was sentenced to fourteen years in Staja No. 84F, among smelly perverts and hardened prestoopnicks, the shock sending my dadda beating his bruised and krovvy rookers against unfair Bog in his Heaven, and my mum boohoohooing in her mother's grief, at her only child and son of her bosom like letting everybody down real horrowshow.

In an extended scene, Alex is systematically inducted into H. M. Prison Parkmoor. He is led in handcuffed to a bobby and presented to the Chief Guard (Michael Bates). As he must obey the directive to not cross the white line painted on the floor in front of him, he is given a new identity ("You are now 655321, and it is your duty to memorize that number"), stripped of his clothes (that are packed with mothballs to preserve them) and his personal effects - by confiscation:

  • one bunch of keys on a white metal ring
  • two plastic ball pens - one red, one black
  • one pocket comb - black plastic
  • one address book - imitation red leather
  • one ten penny piece
  • one white metal wristlet watch, "Timawrist", on a white metal expanding bracelet
  • one packet of cigarettes
  • one half-bar of chocolate

The Chief Guard examines Alex's rectal area for VD, crabs, and lice with a flashlight grasped between his teeth, before ordering the new inductee to the bath area.

During a typical service in the prison chapel, two years later, the inmates are threatened by the chaplain/priest (Godfrey Quigley) for their crimes. After the crucial question regarding free, moral choice: "What's it going to be then?", they are assured that they have a choice between Hell's damnation or Heaven's redemption:

What's it going to be then? Is it going to be in and out of institutions like this, though more in than out for most of you? Or are you going to attend to the Divine Word and realize the punishments that await unrepentant sinners in the next world as well as this? A lot of idiots you are, selling your birthright for a saucer of cold porridge, the thrill of theft, of violence, the urge to live easy. Well, I ask you, what is it worth? (One of the homosexual sinners blows kisses at Alex) When we have undeniable proof, yes, incontrovertible evidence that Hell exists. I know, I know, my friends. I have been informed in visions that there is a place darker than any prison, hotter than any flame of human fire, where souls of unrepentant criminal sinners like yourselves. (A convict belches and everyone laughs) Don't you laugh, damn you, don't you laugh. I say like yourselves, scream in endless and unendurable agony. Their skin rotting and peeling, a fireball spinning in their screaming guts. I know, oh yes, I know ...(Someone farts and disrupts the service)

The prisoners are forced bring their discordant voices together and sing, "I Was a Wandering Sheep." Alex participates in the service by cranking the overhead projector for displaying the words of hymns:

I was a wandering sheep, I did not love the fold
I did not love my shepherd's voice. I would not be controlled.
I was a wayward child, I did not love my home.
I did not love my Father's voice, I loved afar to roam.

Alex (voice-over): It had not been edifying, indeed not, being in this hellhole and human zoo for two years now, being kicked and tolchocked by brutal warders, and meeting leering criminals and perverts, ready to dribble all over a luscious young malchick like your storyteller.

Left with only his vivid fantasy life, Alex studiously peruses and reads the Bible in the prison library, imagining the more lurid and violent parts of the Old and New Testaments. The chaplain, the moral voice of the film, misinterprets his sincerity and religiosity when befriending Alex:

Alex (voice-over): It was my rabbit to help the prison charlie (chaplain) with the Sunday service. He was a bolshy great burly bastard, but he was very fond of myself, me being very young, and also now very interested in the big book.

Alex brutally fantasizes about being a Roman guard at the Crucifixion, lashing out and shouting to Jesus in an American accent - like in a bad Hollywood movie: "Move on there!" All that Alex has left to feed his violent and sexual personality are his fantasies of being an Old Testament warrior in battle, and surrounded by half-naked, bare-breasted handmaidens (Jan Adair, Vivienne Chandler, Prudence Drage):

Alex (voice-over): I read all about the scourging and the crowning with thorns and I could viddy myself helping in and even taking charge of the tolchocking and the nailing in, being dressed in the height of Roman fashion. I didn't so much like the latter part of the book, which is more like all preachy talking than fighting and the old in-out. I liked the parts where these old yahoodies tolchock each other and then drink their Hebrew vino, and getting onto the bed with their wives' handmaidens. That kept me going.

Moments later, Alex tells the chaplain of his "genuine desire to reform," and the kindly chaplain is taken in by Alex's phony contrition. Patronizing the chaplain, he presses for information about a new, experimental, brain-washing reprogramming treatment called "aversion therapy," the Ludovico Treatment Technique. Alex wants to be civilized and "good" and believes that this new form of enforced therapy will work and be effective for him - "this new treatment that gets you out of prison in no time at all and makes sure you never get back in again...all I know (is) that it gets you out quickly." The chaplain of the prison doubts the expedient treatment methods of the State to cure anti-social behavior, considering them dangerous because they scientifically would deprive him of his humanity. He warns Alex against volunteering - it is a powerful theological statement of the importance of free will and moral choice:

Chaplain: The Governor has grave doubts about it and I have heard that there are very serious dangers involved.
Alex: I don't care about the dangers, Father. I just want to be good. I want for the rest of my life to be one act of goodness.
Chaplain: The question is whether or not this technique really makes a man good. Goodness comes from within. Goodness is chosen. When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.
Alex: I don't understand about the whys and wherefores, Father. I only know I want to be good.
Chaplain: Be patient, my son. Put your trust in the Lord.

During an exercise yard session, the inmates circle the yard. To the sounds of Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" March, the Minister of the Interior (Anthony Sharp) visits the prison and glances into the interior of Alex's cell, picking up a bust of Beethoven and noting the sexy pin-ups on the wall. During the inspection, the 'law-and-order' Minister lectures the Prison Governor (Michael Gover) about overcrowded prisons. He advocates the imposition of the Ludovico Technique to clear the prison of mere "common criminals" so that there may be more room for "political offenders":

Minister: Cram criminals together and what do you get - concentrated criminality, crime in the midst of punishment.
Governor: I agree, sir, what we need are larger prisons - more money.
Minister: Not a chance, my dear fellow. The Government can't be concerned any longer with outmoded penological theories. Soon we may be needing all our prison space for political offenders. Common criminals like these are best dealt with on a purely curative basis. Kill the criminal reflex, that's all. Full implementation in a year's time. Punishment means nothing to them, you can see that. They enjoy their so-called punishment.

When Alex blurts out: "You're absolutely right, sir," he is asked about his specific crime: "The accidental killing of a person, sir." Because he is the perfect guinea-pig candidate ("he's enterprising, aggressive, outgoing, young, bold, vicious"), Alex is chosen for the controversial rehabilitation treatment which is designed to curb violence and sexual behavior and enable a prisoner to leave after only two weeks. But Alex doesn't realize the consequences of the government's desperate and brutal attempt to deal with its hoodlums with a harsh conditioning treatment: "This vicious young hoodlum will be transformed out of all recognition."

Alex is signed out of the prison and volunteers willingly, although the Prison Governor theorizes that new treatment methods are displacing the 'eye-for-an-eye, a tooth-for-a-tooth" retributive form of justice: "The new ridiculous ideas have come at last and orders are orders...The new view is that we turn the bad into good. All of which seems to me to be grossly unjust...You are to be reformed." Alex is transferred to the Ludovico Medical Center from Parkmoor the next morning, where the dark-dressed, 'by-the-book' prison guards are replaced with the white-coated medical staff at the Ludovico clinic. As they accept him, the prison guard prophetically warns them: "You'll have to watch this one. A right brutal bastard he has been and will be again, in spite of all his sucking up to the prison Chaplain, and reading the Bible."

The young subject is injected by a hypodermic needle filled with an experimental serum No. 114 (filmed in gigantic closeup) by female Dr. Branom (Madge Ryan). He is then strait-jacketed and transported to a screening room where he is tied down in a seat and made a captive audience. Alex is forced to watch films with his eyelids clamped open with pitiless clamps, while an assistant lubricates his bulging pupils at various intervals. His tortured face and head are wrapped in straps, and connected with electrodes and wires. The scenes of violence consciously follow the succession of crimes that Alex committed with his droogs: first, the bloody violence of a beating by a group of teenage thugs, and then a gang rape. In the rear of the theatre, the group of white-jacketed doctors with Dr. Brodsky (Carl Duering) watch his reactions and record his behavior on scientific instruments.

Alex (voice-over): And viddy films, I would. Where I was taken to, brothers, was like no sinny I ever viddied before. I was bound up in a straitjacket and my gulliver was strapped to a headrest with like wires running away from it. Then they clamped like lidlocks on my eyes so that I could not shut them no matter how hard I tried. It seemed a bit crazy to me, but I let them get on with what they wanted to get on with. If I was to be a free young malchick again in a fortnight's time, I would put up with much in the meantime, O my brothers. So far, the first film was a very good, professional piece of sinny, like it was done in Hollywood. The sounds were real horrorshow. You could slooshy the screams and moans very realistic, and you could even get the heavy breathing and panting of the tolchocking malchicks at the same time. And then, what do you know, soon our dear old friend, the red, red vino on tap, the same in all places like it's put out by the same big firm, began to flow. It was beautiful. It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen. Now all the time I was watching this, I was beginning to get very aware of like not feeling all that well, and this I put down to all the rich food and vitamins, but I tried to forget this, concentrating on the next film which jumped right away on a young devotchka who was being given the old in-out, in-out first by one malchick, then another, then another...When it came to the sixth or seventh malchick, leering and smecking and then going into it, I began to feel really sick. But I could not shut my glazzies. And even if I tried to move my glazz-balls about, I still could not get out of the line of fire of this picture.

The images of violence in the films are environmentally paired to an induced, convulsive nausea caused by the injections, part of the behavioral theory of conditioned-reflex therapy. As he watches, a feeling of revulsion passes over him and slowly engulfs him, as predicted by Dr. Brodsky - "Very soon now, the drug will cause the subject to experience a death-like paralysis, together with deep feelings of terror and helplessness. One of our early test subjects described it as being like death, a sense of stifling or drowning, and it is during this period we have found that the subject will make his most rewarding associations between his catastrophic experience-environment and the violence he sees."

Later, Dr. Branom assures Alex that he has "made a very positive response" to the conditioning, but there will now be two sessions per day instead of one. Alex is on his way toward a cure: "Violence is a very horrible thing. That's what you're learning now. Your body is learning it...You felt ill this afternoon because you're getting better. You see, when we are healthy, we respond to the presence of the hateful with fear and nausea. You're becoming healthy, that's all. By this time tomorrow, you'll be healthier still."

The next day, scenes of Nazi atrocities are screened in the film theatre. Newsreels of Hitler's sturmtroopers, seig-heiling, and the blitzkrieg with the background music the classical soundtrack of the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony cause agonizing revulsion in Alex, and he screams to his doctors to stop:

Alex (voice-over): It was the next day, brothers, and I had truly done my best, morning and afternoon, to play it their way and sit, like a horrorshow co-operative malchick, in the chair of torture, while they flashed nasty bits of ultra-violence on the screen. Though not on the soundtrack, my brothers. The only sound being music. Then I noticed in all my pain and sickness what music it was that like cracked and boomed - it was Ludwig van - Ninth Symphony, fourth movement.

Alex pleads for them to stop playing his favorite piece of music - Beethoven ("It's a sin..using Ludwig van like that"), since Beethoven created only beautiful music: "He did no harm to anyone. Beethoven just wrote music...." Dr. Brodsky responds to the accidental contact of the music with the treatment: "(To Dr. Branom) It can't be helped. Here's the punishment element perhaps. The Governor ought to be pleased...I'm sorry, Alex, this is for your own good. You'll have to bear with us for a while." Dr. Brodsky wants the treatment to proceed and Alex must see it through to the end - as he ironically chose: "You must take your chance, boy. The choice has been all yours."

At the breaking point, Alex admits and confesses that he is being cured of his anti-social tendencies:

You've proved to me that all this ultra-violence and killing is wrong, wrong, and terribly wrong. I've learned my lesson, sir. I see now what I've never seen before. I'm cured, praise God!...I see that it's wrong! It's wrong because it's like against society. It's wrong because everybody has the right to live and be happy without being tolchocked and knifed.

Made "a free man" and trained to become docile and harmless, Alex is destructively robbed of his individuality, personality and humanity by being transformed into a 'clockwork orange' - a compliant and mind-numbed citizen. He is brought - after two weeks - to an auditorium and subjected to an unusual graduation ceremony. With his arms crossed, the Minister of the Interior introduces a shy, smiling Alex to the packed lecture hall and announces his political motivations to achieve law and order, and how the treatment changed a "wretched hoodlum" into a well-behaved saint ("undrugged" and "unhypnotized"):

Tomorrow, we send him out with confidence into the world again, as decent a lad as you would meet on a May morning. What a change is here, ladies and gentlemen, from the wretched hoodlum the State committed to unprofitable punishment some two years ago. Unchanged after two years. Unchanged, do I say? - not quite. Prison taught him the false smile, the rubbed hand of hypocrisy, the fawning, greased obsequious leer. Other vices it taught him, as well as confirming in those he had long practiced before. Our party promised to restore law and order and to make the streets safe again for the ordinary peace-loving citizen. This pledge is now about to become a reality. Ladies and gentlemen, today is an historic moment. The problem of criminal violence is soon to be a thing of the past. But enough of words. Actions speak louder than. Action now. Observe all.

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