Malcolm McDowell’s voice is not forgotten. Impossible to put aside how Stanley Kubrick turned into a movie the most famous work of Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange, a film that has since 1971 achieved a success that will probably continue from generation to generation. A cinematic masterpiece that one doesn’t just watch, but also hear and feel. The director made possible a story in which he is able to shape the moods of the audience thanks to the many technical and narrative innovations that turned it into one of the most influential films of the XXth century and an asbolute classic.
The film tells, through visual and musical intensity, the story of Alex DeLarge, played by Malcolm McDowell, a psychopath who loves Beethoven, ultraviolence, sex and his gang; they’re mad about them. DeLarge is betrayed by his friends and sentenced to spend 14 years in prison guilty of murder, where he decides to undergo the Ludovico process, a treatment in which violent acts are associated with physical discomfort.
Here are 20 essential facts to know About Clockwork Orange:
1. The original title is never mentioned in the film. On the contrary, in the book, the author mentions it twice. Burgess said that he came from a Cockney expression (South London slang) “as queer as a clockwork orange”. However, there is a suspicion that since Burgess had lived in Malaysia, the title would actually be “The mechanical man”, given that “orange” comes from the term Ourang, word with roots from that country, and it means “person”.
2. The story is based on a real life event suffered by Burgess. When the author returned from Malaysia to London in 1944, his wife, who was pregnant, was raped by four American soldiers and because of the beating, she lost the baby. This tragedy in the life of Burgess inspired him to write his masterpiece, and more specifically to recreate the scene of the rape of a woman by a gang.
3. The result of Kubrick’s film had a cost of two million dollars; the release of the movie grossed more than 40. 40 percent of the profits went to the director as he stated in an agreement with Warner: he would have full control over his films.
4. When released in the United States in 1971, Clockwork Orange was rated X. After that the director cut 30 seconds and it was re-released in 1973 with an R rating. Kubrick’s film soon nominated for an Oscar as best film. In 1972 he had his controversial debut in England. Violent content had an impact on viewers and some people committed crimes and murders reenacting scenes from the film; even some dressed as characters. This director forced Warnes Bros to cancel the screening of the film in the UK, and ordered to re-launch only after his death (1999). So in 2000 Clockwork Orange returned to England, and that same year it was released on video and DVD. His wife said one of the main reasons to cancel the display on the big screen was a death threat.
5. The original work was published in the United States; however, the last chapter, in which the protagonist regrets his life of violence, was cut off. Unaware of the existence of this end, Kubrick adapted the script for this latest edition. It was only after a while that he would know about this, however, he never thought about adding this to the film.
6. The scene where Alex sings Singing in the rain while the beating of the the writer and rape of his wife happen, was not in the script. Kubrick asked McDowell to improvise and this was the only song the actor knew. The theme merged perfectly with the ideas of the director, so he bought the rights for $10,000.
7. The droogs, Alex’s gang, drank a type of milk at the Korova Milkbar. This drink had to be changed every hour, because the heat produced by the set lights jellified the milk.
8. The music was provided by Walter Carlos (Wendy Carlos after his sex change). The fusion of original pieces of classical music and the Moog synthesizer, resulted in rhythms that are coupled to the images as if both were one.
9. Sales of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which was used in several scenes of the film, increased after the release of the movie. The melody evoked violence and it became a clear association with the protagonist.
10. The director asked Pink Floyd to use music from the Atom Heart Mother record, however, Kubrick wanted an unlimited permit, so they never reached an agreement.
11. A Clockwork Orange won seven BAFTA nominations, three Golden Globes and four Academy Awards. However, the Oscar for best film that year was for The French Connection; instead the film got smaller prizes.
12. The director gave the protagonist a snake after learning that Malcolm McDowell was afraid of reptiles.
13. The scene in which David Prowse carries in his arms the writer in his wheelchair had to be repeat 30 times; they say that Prowse, who in 1977 would play the famous Darth Vader, ended up exhausted.
14. McDowell proved to be a great actor bringing his work to extremes: during the scene of Alex’s humiliation the actor fractured several ribs.
15. McDowell endangered his life in the film, as in the scene where the policemen, who were once his friends, submerge Alex underwater, his breathing apparatus stopped working and McDowell almost drowned.
16. One of the most dramatic scenes of the film is when the enemy gang rapes a girl. At first, it took many shots so it was very hard for the actress to keep on playing a molested woman, so she quit; Kubrick’s team had to get another girl.
17. Kubrick was always characterized by being a perfectionist: the final scene of Clockwork Orange where the journalists visit Alex in the hospital, was shot 74 times. Kubrick would occasionally say: “I plan the scene as often as possible, every hour, every day of the week and do as many takes as necessary”.
18. One of the best performances in film history was Heath Ledger with the character of the Joker in The Dark Knight; the actor said he was inspired by the character of Alex DeLarge to carry out his interpretation.
19. During the unforgettable scene in which Alex is subjected to watching violent films with open eyes held by hooks, his cornea was injured and lost his sight for some time. In fact, the doctor who appears in the film was a professional applying drops that prevented the dryness of the eyes of the actor, who from this event on never used a saline solution again.
20. The success of Clockwork Orange expanded throughout the world. In an episode of The Simpsons, Bart dresses like DeLarge, but in the animated series, Bart should contain your desire to eat cakes instead of your sexual desire.