A Clockwork Orange: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

As a person coming of age, the one thing early in this reviewer’s life that stood was his introduction into film and it started with a decoder box atop the television in the living room. This decoder box was a descrambler for a channel known as Wometco Home Theater aka WHT. Every month, the channel would have a viewing guide (any readers that still have these, contact me) and in this guide were photos and font-type of the many films that would be showing per month. One such pic that intrigued me was the picture of a person with a most unique eyelash, one that looked bigger than the other, and a name for which I was hooked but was warned not to see till later in life. It didn’t take me long until after hearing my brother reading the book that it got this reviewer to finally seeing this film with great font-type and a great pic. This turned out to be Stanley Kubrick’s tale of crime, brainwashing and absolute madness known as A Clockwork Orange.

In a future England, there stood Alex (Malcolm McDowall) and his gang known as the Droogs. They live for a life of crime and ultra violence and away from that life of crime they spend their downtime at the Korova Milk Bar and listening to Beethoven. Unfortunately, during one of their crime sprees Alex is caught and arrested. Fearing that he might be spending his life in jail, he volunteers for an experimental rehabilitation program but unknown to him its one program that may have even more dire consequences than he could possibly imagine.

With the unique fluidity of language and the setting with solid colors and violence and some great camera work, A Clockwork Orange is a study in you can take the crime out of the criminal but you can’t take the criminal out of crime. Alex is a lunatic and his droogs are almost just as crazy as he is. Once the madness is set, they will jump at every moment to get the upper hand most violently. It’s when Alex is caught that he pays for his penalty and starts to see what life is on the other side take on a whole other life when he steps over.

This is a most interesting choice in Kubrick for he goes for a much lesser budget than his previous epic 2001: A Space Odyssey and with all of his shooting around England, he makes a future England with not too many technological advances but more along the approach of the more things change, the more they are the same as some of where the film takes place still exist (but not all).

Clockwork Orange is a different title and one that you can’t get rid of all the pits even when a person is done, As played by Malcolm McDowall, Alex is a commanding character that is in the line of crime and feels that behind bars, he can listen to what any higher up will say. This has dire consequences once the “new” Alex presents himself and McDowall handles all 3 acts nicely in changing of modes.

It is a different trip, it requires repeat viewing and it is a vision unlike any other as Kubrick has another solidifying notch in his career belt with this classic tale from the seventies.

Video: How does it look?

A Clockwork Orange is given its second release on DVD being much wider (1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen) and judging from the picture quality, a far superior visual presentation than its predecessor. There is much less debris on this copy than the first and colors are brighter and much more solid and even though some of the dark scenes look a bit economical, the clarity remains good throughout. Even the slow motion scene with Alex and the Droogs looks so much better here than it did in the first release. Overall, a very good transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

A new sound remix in 5.1 is included here and even though the usual seventies sound flaws are there, the effect has not lessened its improvement as the middle channels get the most out of everything, including from the classical music used throughout the film as the side channels sound better than ever. The separation between all channels is balanced very nicely and the dialogue comes through clearly yet can bet a challenge in a few spots. Other than that, a very good audio track for a film of its time. This disc also has a French 5.1 track along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Where the original disc contained just the theatrical trailer, on this edition it happens to appear as well, but on disc 1. With this Special Edition there are more extras and it starts off with a commentary track on disc one with actor Malcolm McDowall and historian Nick Redman and they have a most entertaining chat as Nick has a few historical references to the film but most of the track is dominated by McDowall and he is a delightful presence as demonstrated on previous discs such as Time After Time with stories and little life experiences mentioned throughout and it results in a very good commentary track throughout the film.

On disc 2, we’re treated to 3 documentaries. The first, Still Tickin: The Return of Clockwork Orange deals primarily with the effect of the film throughout the time of its release in and around England along with reactions from few of its players but more from a few filmmakers and historians and its a good but not great piece and shows a bit of footage with author Anthony Burgess but leaves room for Great Bolshy Yarblockers, Making a Clockwork Orange giving a perspective from many filmmakers and includes a little bit of actor Malcolm McDowall along with a better view of the film than the first documentary.

Alas, the best is saved for last and it is the longer and better piece known as O Lucky Malcolm, which goes into the majority of Malcolm McDowall’s career and tells the many tales of some of his best known films and even though a few are left out, that doesn’t diminish the presence of Malcolm and his reflection on his work which is most entertaining along with some of the filmmakers and friends and their take on him. It’s a great piece and it’s also included on the O Lucky Man DVD as well and is sincerely, in this reviewers mind another great piece made for DVD and one seen almost once a week since its release some time back.

In conclusion, A Clockwork Orange leaves that rebellious mark on film and many years later has never lessened its greatness and is presented in a far superior release along with a majority of fine extras and it comes well recommended for all collections.

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