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A Clockwork Orange is a British darkly satirical science fiction film adaptation of Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel of the same name. The film concerns Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell), a charismatic, psychopathic delinquent whose pleasures are classical music (especially Beethoven), rape, and ultra-violence. He leads a small gang of thugs (Pete, Georgie, and Dim), whom he calls his droogs (from the Russian друг, “friend”, “buddy”). The film tells the horrific crime spree of his gang, his capture, and attempted rehabilitation via a controversial psychological conditioning technique. Alex narrates most of the film in Nadsat, a fractured, contemporary adolescent argot comprising Slavic (especially Russian), English, and Cockney rhyming slang.

This cinematic adaptation was produced, directed, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. It features disturbing, violent images, to facilitate social commentary about psychiatry, youth gangs, and other contemporary social, political, and economic subjects in a dystopian, future Britain. A Clockwork Orange features a soundtrack comprising mostly classical music selections and Moog synthesizer compositions by Wendy Carlos. A notable exception is “Singin’ in the Rain”, chosen because it was a song whose lyrics actor Malcolm McDowell knew. The now-iconic poster of A Clockwork Orange, and its images, were created by designer Bill Gold. The film also holds the record in the Guinness World Records for being the first movie in media history using the Dolby Sound system.


Set in London, England in the near-future and narrated by Alex DeLarge, the film opens on Alex and his friends, "the droogs"; Pete (Michael Tarn), Georgie (James Marcus), and Dim (Warren Clarke), partaking of mescaline-spiked milk at the Korova Milk Bar prior to an evening of "the old ultra-violence". They proceed to beat up an elderly vagrant under a motorway and interrupt an attempted gang rape of a woman in an abandoned theatre by a rival gang led by Billyboy (Richard Connaught). They subsequently get in a brawl with their rivals. Upon hearing the sounds of police sirens, Alex and his gang flees, stealing a car and driving into the countryside. They then gain entry to the home of Mr. Alexander, a writer, under false pretenses and assault him while violently raping his wife (Adrienne Corri), all while Alex sings Singing' in the Rain. When they return to the milk bar, Alex chides Dim when he interrupts a female patron while she sings a selection of Beethoven, a composer Alex admires.

The next day, Alex skips school and has an encounter with social worker Mr. Deltoid. Deltoid is exasperated with Alex and talks about all his hard work with him. Deltoid is simultaneously the one person who easily sees through Alex' lies, while he also may have sexual feelings for him and touches him inappropriately. After picking up and having sex with two girls from a record shop, Alex regroups with his droogs in his building lobby who now challenge his authority: with Georgie insisting the gang be run in a "new way" that entails less power for Alex and more ambitious crimes. As they walk along a canal, Alex attacks his droogs in order to re-establish his leadership.

That night, the gang attempts to invade the home of a woman (Miriam Karlin) who lives alone with her cats and runs a health farm. In the process, she gets into a fight with Alex, and Alex mortally bludgeons her with a phallus-shaped statue. As they flee the scene, Dim smashes a milk bottle across Alex's face, temporarily blinding him and leaving him to be found by the police. During his interrogation, Alex is told by Mr. Deltoid that he is now a murderer, because the woman died from her injuries. To add insult to injury, Deltoid simply spits on Alex in sheer disgust.

After a trial, Alex is convicted of the murder and sentened to 14 years in prison. He arrives from the courthouse where he is strip-searched and given a prison number which he must memorize. Two years later, Alex becomes friends with the prison chaplain and takes a keen interest in the Bible, but primarily in the more violent characters. When the Minister of the Interior (Anthony Sharp) arrives at the prison looking for volunteers for the Ludovico technique, an experimental aversion therapy for rehabilitating criminals, Alex eagerly steps forward, much to the disgust of Chief Officer Barnes (Michael Bates). At the Ludovico facility, Alex is placed in a straitjacket and forced to watch films containing scenes of extreme violence while being given drugs to induce reactions of revulsion. The films include one of real scenes in Nazi Germany, which includes a soundtrack of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Alex realises this will likely condition him against Beethoven's music and makes an agonised though unsuccessful attempt to have the treatment end prematurely before the conditioning sets in. Alex is forced to watch two of these violent films a day. Two weeks later, after the treatment is finished, Alex's reformed behaviour is demonstrated for the audience. He is unable to respond back to an Irish actor (John Clive) shouting insults and picking a fight with him, and a feeling of sickness attacks him when he is presented with a young naked woman who sexually arouses him. The Minister declares Alex to be cured, but the chaplain asserts that Alex no longer has any free will.

Alex is let free from prison two years after his sentencing. He returns home only to find that his parents have rented out his room to a lodger named Joe (Clive Francis), leaving him on his own. On the street, Alex comes across the same vagrant he had assaulted before the treatment, who calls in his friends and they attack Alex. Two policemen arrive to break up the fight, but Alex discovers the policemen to be his former droogs, Dim and Georgie. They drag Alex out to the countryside, where they brutally assault and half-drown him in a vat of water before leaving him for dead.

Battered and bruised, Alex wanders to the home of Mr. Alexander, who does not recognize him from two years prior, due to Alex’ wearing a mask at the time. Mr. Alexander is revealed to have been crippled by the attack two years earlier and now lives with a personal bodyguard, manservant, and physical trainer named Julian. Mr. Alexander takes Alex into his home, aware that he had undergone the Ludovico treatment due to the story published in all of the country's newspapers. Mr. Alexander tends to Alex's wounds, but the memories of his assault return when Alex sings "Singin' in the Rain" while he is taking a bath. Mr. Alexander drugs Alex, locks him in the upper floor of his home and plays Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at full volume through a powerful stereo on the floor below, knowing that the Ludovico treatment will cause immense pain to Alex. In order to escape the torture, Alex becomes suicidal and throws himself out of the room's window.

Alex recovers consciousness days later to find himself in traction, with dreams about doctors messing around inside his head. Through a series of psychological tests, Alex finds that he no longer has a revulsion to violence. The Minister of the Interior comes to Alex and apologises for subjecting him to the treatment, and informs him that Mr. Alexander has been "put away". The Minister then offers Alex an important government job and, as a show of goodwill, has a stereo wheeled to his bedside playing Beethoven's Ninth. Alex then realises that instead of an adverse reaction to the music, he sees images of sexual pleasure. He then states (in a sarcastic and menacing voice-over) "I was cured, all right!"




The film’s central moral question (as in many of Burgess’ books), is the definition of “Goodness”. After aversion therapy, Alex behaves like a good member of society, but not by choice. His goodness is involuntary; he has become the titular clockwork orange — organic on the outside, mechanical on the inside. In the prison, after witnessing the Technique in action in Alex, the chaplain criticises it as false, arguing that true goodness must come from within. This leads to the theme of abusing liberties — personal, governmental, civil — by Alex, the Government, and the Dissidents manipulating him for their political ends. Concording with Kantian ethics, this critically portrays the “conservative” and “liberal” parties as equal, for using Alex as a means to their ends: the writer Frank Alexander — a victim of Alex and gang — wants revenge against Alex and sees him as a means of definitively turning the populace against the incumbent government and its new régime. Mr Alexander fears the new government; in telephonic conversation, he says:

. . . recruiting brutal young roughs into the police; proposing debilitating and will-sapping techniques of conditioning. Oh, we’ve seen it all before in other countries; the thin end of the wedge! Before we know where we are, we shall have the full apparatus of totalitarianism.

On the other side, the Minister of the Interior (the Government), jails Mr Alexander (the Dissident Intellectual) on excuse of his endangering Alex (the People), rather than the government’s totalitarian régime (described by Mr Alexander). It is unclear whether or not he has been harmed, however, the Minister tells Alex that the writer has been denied the ability to write and produce “subversive” material that is critical of the incumbent government and meant to provoke political unrest.


Ludovico Technique details.
Another critical target is behavioural psychology (popular ca. 1940–60s), as propounded by the psychologists John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner. Novelist Burgess disapproved of behaviourism, calling Skinner’s most popular book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971), “one of the most dangerous books ever written”. Although Watson conceded behaviourism’s limitations, Skinner argued that behaviour modification (systematic reward-and-punishment learned behaviour techniques, which differs from Watsonian conditioning) is the key to an ideal society (see the 1948 utopian novel Walden Two). Dr. Ludovico’s behaviourist technique of conditioning Alex to associate violence with severe physical sickness, to curb his violent nature is akin to the CIA’s Project MKULTRA of the 1950s. Dr. Ludovico's behaviourist technique is based on classical conditioning, and should not be confused with B. F. Skinner's operant conditioning.

In showing the "rehabilitated" Alex repelled by both sex and violence, the film implicitly compares the Ludivico technique to castration, and suggests that, in depriving him of his ability to fend for himself, Alex's moral conditioning via the Ludovico technique dehumanises him, just as Alex's acts of violence in the first part of the film dehumanise his victims.


During the filming of the Ludovico Technique scene, Malcolm McDowell scratched a cornea and was temporarily blinded. The doctor standing next to him in the scene, dropping saline solution into Alex’s forced-open eyes, was a real physician present to prevent the actor’s eyes from drying. McDowell also cracked some ribs filming the humiliation stage show.

Special effects-wise, when Alex suicidally jumps out the window, the viewer (Alex) sees the ground approaching the camera until collision. This effect was achieved by dropping an Eyemo clockwork camera in a box, lens-first, from the third story of the Corus Hotel, thus the realistic jumper’s perspective; the camera survived three takes to Kubrick's surprise.


The cinematic adaptation of A Clockwork Orange (1962), by Anthony Burgess, was accidental. Screenplay writer Terry Southern gave director Stanley Kubrick a copy of the novel; he put it aside, as he was developing a Napoleon Bonaparte project. Rebounding from the cancellation of Napoleon, he happened on the novel; it had an immediate impact. Of his enthusiasm for the project, 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”.

The novelist’s response

Anthony Burgess had mixed feelings about the cinema version of his novel, publicly saying he loved Malcolm McDowell and Michael Bates, and the use of music; he praised it as “brilliant”, even so brilliant, it might be dangerous. His initial response to the cinematic A Clockwork Orange was very enthusiastic; his only bother was the deletion of the story’s last chapter of redemption, an absence he blamed upon his U.S. publisher (this final chapter was omitted in all U.S. editions of the novel prior to 1986) and not director Kubrick.

In his autobiography, You’ve Had Your Time (1990) Burgess reports getting along very well with Kubrick, because they held like philosophic and political views; both were very interested in literature, cinema, music, and Napoleon Bonaparte. Later, Burgess dedicated the Napoleon Symphony (1974) novel to Kubrick. Their relationship soured when Kubrick left it to Burgess to defend the film from accusations of glorifying violence. As a (lapsed) Catholic, Burgess many times tried explaining the Christian moral points of the story to outraged Christian organisations who felt it a Satanic social influence; to defend it against newspaper accusations that it supported fascist dogma; and even to receive Kubrick’s awards in his stead.

Burgess was deeply hurt, feeling Kubrick had used him as a film publicity pawn. Malcolm McDowell, on publicity tour with Burgess, shared his feelings, and, at times, spoke harshly about Kubrick. As evidence, novelist and actor cited Kubrick’s uncontrolled ego manifest in the film credits — only Kubrick appears in authorial credit. Later, Burgess spoofed Kubrick’s image: in the musical version of A Clockwork Orange (a Kubrickesque character is beaten); in the The Clockwork Testament (1974) novel (the poet FX Enderby is attacked for “glorifying” violence in a film adaptation); and in the Earthly Powers (1980) novel (as crafty director Sidney Labrick).

Previous film versions

The first dramatization of A Clockwork Orange, featuring only the story’s first three chapters, was made for the BBC programme Tonight, broadcast soon after the novel's original publication in 1962; no recording is known to exist. Six years before Stanley Kubrick’s film, Andy Warhol made Vinyl, a low-budget version of the work. Reportedly, only two scenes are recognizable: “Victor” (Alex) wreaking havoc and undergoing the Ludovico treatment.


Director Stanley Kubrick was a perfectionist of meticulous research (with thousands of photographs taken of potential locations), many scene takes - however per Malcolm McDowell, he usually “got it right” early on, so there were few takes. Filming took place between September 1970 and April 1971, marking A Clockwork Orange as his quickest film shoot in the later part of his career. Technically, to achieve and convey the fantastic, dream-like quality of the story, he filmed with extreme wide-angle lenses such as the Kinoptik Tegea 9.8mm for 35mm Arriflex cameras, and used fast- and slow motion to convey the mechanical nature of its bedroom sex scene or stylize the violence as per the influence of Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses (1969).


A Clockwork Orange was photographed mostly on location in metropolitan London, with little studio filming, except for the Korova Milk bar, Prison Check-in and Alex taking a bath in F. Alexander's house as well as its hallway. These four sets were built at an old factory on Bullhead Road, Elstree and also served as the production office.
  • The attack on the tramp was filmed at the southern underpass below Wandsworth Bridgemarker roundabout, Londonmarker.
  • The Billyboy gang fight occurs at the now-demolished casino on Taggs Island, Kingston upon Thamesmarker.
  • Alex’s apartment is on the top floor of Century House tower block Borehamwoodmarker. An exterior plaque and mosaic at ground level commemorates the film's location.
  • The record shop is the now defunct 'Chelsea Drugstore' located in the basement of a McDonalds on Kings Road, Chelsea.
  • The writer’s house, site of the rape and beating, was filmed at three different locations: The arrival in the 'Durango 95' by the 'HOME' sign was shot in School Lane, Brickett Wood (as was the trough/beating scene). The house's garden with the footbridge over the pond is Milton Grundy's famous Japanese garden in Shipton-under-Wychwood and the interior is Skybreak house, in The Warren, Radlettmarker, Hertfordshiremarker, designed by Team 4, which included Norman Foster, Wendy Foster, Richard Rogers and Su Rogers.
  • Alex throws Dim and Georgie into a lake at the Thamesmead South Housing Estatemarker, London. This is the same location where Alex walks home at night kicking rubbish.
  • The house where Alex is caught by police is Shenley Lodgemarker, in Hertfordshire, at Blackhorse Lane.
  • The prison’s exterior is HMP Wandsworth, its interior is the demolished Woolwich Barracksmarker.
  • The check-in at Ludovico Medical Clinic entrance, the brain washing film theatre, Alex's house lobby with the broken elevator, Alex's hospital bedroom and police interrogation room is Brunel Universitymarker.
  • The Minister's presentation to the media of Alex's 'cure' takes place at the Nettlefold Hall inside West Norwood Library.
  • Alex’s suicide bid leap and corresponding billiard room were at the old Edgewarebury Country Club, Elstreemarker.
  • The hospital where Alex recovers, and the Ludovico effects reverse, is Princess Alexandra Hospital marker.
  • The final rape fantasy was shot at the demolished Handley Page Ltd's hangars in Radlett.


Despite critical praise, the film had notable detractors. Chicago movie reviewer Roger Ebert gave A Clockwork Orange two stars out of four, calling it an “ideological mess” and “talky and boring”. In the New Yorker magazine review “Stanley Strangelove”, Pauline Kael called it pornographic, because of how it dehumanised Alex’s victims, while highlighting the sufferings of the protagonist. Also noting that the cinematic Alex no longer enjoyed running-over small animals or raping under-aged girls, and argued that violent scenes — the Billyboy’s gang extended stripping of the very buxom woman they intend to rape — were offered for titillation; “Stanley Strangelove” is in Deeper into Movies (1974) a collection of her film criticism.

John Simon noted that the novel’s most ambitious effects were based on language and the alienating effect of the narrator’s Nadsat slang, making it a poor choice for a film. Concurring with some of Kael’s criticisms, about the depiction of Alex’s victims, Simon noted that the writer character (young and like-able in the novel), was played by Patrick Magee, “a very quirky and middle-aged actor who specialises in being repellent”. Moreover complaining, “Kubrick over-directs the basically excessive Magee until his eyes erupt, like missiles from their silos, and his face turns every shade of a Technicolor sunset.”; the review is in Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Films (1982) a criticism collection.

A Clockwork Orange was critically well-received, and nominated for several prizes, including the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar (awarded to The French Connection), nevertheless, it re-invigorated sales of L.V. Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony”. Currently, A Clockwork Orange earns a 91 percent “Fresh” rating in the Rotten Tomatoes movie review website.

Responses and controversy

Along with Bonnie and Clyde , The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs , the film is considered a landmark in the relaxation of control on violence in the cinema. In the United Kingdommarker, A Clockwork Orange was very controversial, and withdrawn from release. By the year 2000, its re-release time, cinephiles had conferred it Cult Film status. It is 21st in the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills and number 46 in the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies, although in the second listing it is ranked 70th of 100. “Alex De Large” is listed 12th in the villains section of the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains. In 2008, the AFI's 10 Top 10 rated A Clockwork Orange as the 4th-greatest science-fiction movie to date.

U.S. censorship

In 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-rated re-release in 1973. Current DVDs present the original X-rated form, and only some of the early '80s VHS editions are the R-rated form.

Moreover, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Film and Broadcasting rated it C (“Condemned”) because of the explicit sex and violence. Conceptually, said rating of condemnation forbade Roman Catholics from seeing A Clockwork Orange. In 1982, the Office abolished the “Condemned” rating; hence, films the Conference of Bishops deem to have unacceptable sex and violence are rated O, “Morally Offensive”.

U.K. withdrawal

The British authorities considered the sexual violence extreme, furthermore, there occurred legal claims that the movie A Clockwork Orange had inspired true copycat behaviour, as per press cuttings at the British Film Institute. In March 1972, at trial, the prosecutor accusing the fourteen-year-old-boy defendant of the manslaughter of a classmate, referred to A Clockwork Orange, telling the judge that the case had a macabre relevance to the film. The attacker, a Bletchleymarker boy of sixteen, pleaded guilty after telling police that friends had told him of the film “and the beating up of an old boy like this one”; defence counsel told the trial “the link between this crime and sensational literature, particularly A Clockwork Orange, is established beyond reasonable doubt”. The press also blamed the film for a rape in which the attackers sang “Singin' in the Rain”. Subsequently, Kubrick asked Warner Brothers to withdraw the film from UK distribution.

Popular belief was that those copycat attacks led Kubrick to withdraw the film from distribution in the UK, however, in a television documentary, made after his death, widow Christiane confirmed rumours that he withdrew A Clockwork Orange on police advice, after threats against him and family (the source of the threats is undiscussed). That Warner Bros. acceded to his withdrawal request indicates the good business relations the director had with the studio, especially the executive Terry Semel. The ban was vigorously pursued in Kubrick’s lifetime. One art house cinema that defied the ban in 1993, and was sued and lost, is the Scala cinema at Kings Cross, Londonmarker; the same premises of present-day Scalamarker nightclub. Unable to meet the cost of the defence, the cinema club was forced into receivership.

Whatever the reason for the film's withdrawal, for some 27 years, it was difficult to see in the UK. It reappeared in cinemas, and the first VHS and DVD releases followed soon after Kubrick’s death. On 4 July 2001, the uncut A Clockwork Orange, had its premiere broadcast on Sky TV’s Sky Box Office; the run was until mid-September.

Withdrawal controversy documentary
In 1993, Channel 4 broadcast Forbidden Fruit, a twenty-seven-minute documentary about the controversial withdrawal of the film in Britain. It contains much footage from A Clockwork Orange, thus, marking the only time British audiences could see portions of the film during the twenty-odd-year ban. Kubrick failed to stop the Forbidden Fruit documentary’s use of said footage.

Differences between the film and the novel

Director Stanley Kubrick’s film is relatively faithful to the novel by Anthony Burgess, omitting only the final, positive chapter, wherein, Alex matures and outgrows sociopathy. Whereas the film ends with Alex offered an open-ended government job — implying he remains a sociopath at heart — while the novel ends with Alex’s positive change in character. This plot discrepancy occurred because Kubrick based his screenplay upon the novel's American edition, its final chapter deleted on insistence of the American publisher. He claimed not having read the complete, original version of the novel until he had almost finished writing the screenplay, and that he never considered using it. The introduction to the 1996 edition of A Clockwork Orange, says that Kubrick found the end of the original edition too blandly optimistic and unrealistic.

Thematic alterations of the novel
  • The film includes the phrase "A Clockwork Orange" only once. We see A Clockwork Orange written on a piece of paper in Mr. Alexander's typewriter. The book explains that the author Frank is supposed to have written a political tract by that name (with a passage explaining the title), but this is not mentioned in the movie.
  • As noted above, the last chapter (21) of the novel was not filmed. In this chapter, Alex encounters Pete, the third member of the original gang (who was heavily cut out of the film) who has grown beyond his violent ways and married; Alex realises that he wishes to do the same, but believes his violence was an unavoidable product of his youth. See also "Deleted Scenes" section below.
  • In the novel, the writer whose wife Alex rapes is named "F. Alexander", leading to a coincidental comparison between the two "Alexanders". The film does not mention his surname, though he is called "Mr. Alexander" in the credits. In the film, he is addressed by his first name, "Frank", a detail not revealed in the book. The writer is quite young in the novel, and elderly in the film. The novel is also very overt quite early about his being a political activist. This is strongly hinted at in the film by scattered clues, but not spelled out so clearly.
  • In the film, Alex's surname is spoken as "DeLarge" on arrival at prison; this surname is a pun based on an incident in the book, when Alex (referring to his penis) calls himself "Alexander the Large" (in turn a reference to Alexander the Great). In a close-up shot of multiple newspaper articles, Alex is identified as "Alex Burgess". In the novel, Alex's surname is unknown.

Changes in characterization and motivation
  • Alex's character in the film is more subtly manipulative, as illustrated in a few examples. In the novel, the incarcerated Alex and cell mates brutally beat a man just put in their cell, for being a nuisance. Alex accidentally kills him. For such persistent violence, Alex is selected to undergo the Ludovico Technique. However, in the film, Alex volunteers for the treatment and is chosen in part for his good behaviour in prison.

    Similarly, when Alex's parents visit him in the hospital, Alex threatens them with violence in the novel while in the film, he more subtly plays on their feelings of grief and guilt. Alex's behavior to the prison chaplain is similarly manipulative.
  • Critic Randy Rasmussen has argued that the government in the film is in a considerable shambles and in a state of desperation while the government in the novel is quite strong and self-confident. The former reflects Kubrick's broad preoccupation with the theme of acts of self-interest masked as simply following procedure.

    One example of this would be subtle differences in the portrayal of P.R. Deltoid, Alex's "post-corrective advisor". In the novel, P.R. Deltoid appears to have some moral authority (although not enough to prevent Alex from lying to him or engaging in crime despite his protestations). In the film, Deltoid is a somewhat comical figure who inadvertently drinks from a glass holding dentures and, after delivering a morality lecture to Alex, punches the boy in his crotch.
  • In the film, the "cat lady" whose house Alex breaks into possesses a great deal of sexual artwork, including a rocking penis sculpture with which Alex delivers the (inadvertent) killing strike. None of this artwork is mentioned in the book. The "cat lady" in the novel is elderly, addled, and living in a cat-ridden house of Miss Havisham-style dilapidation; the "cat lady" in the movie is in her early 40s, sharp, and living in a health farm which (according to dialogue) has closed for a week.
Close-up of Beethoven's face.
It's from a poster of Beethoven hanging on the wall of Alex Delarge's home
References to Beethoven
  • While Alex is being tortured by Mr. Alexander's playing of Beethoven on the stereo, Kubrick composes the shot so that the author is transformed into a bust of Beethoven. Even the arrangement of the scarf around his neck suggests the contours of a statuette.
  • In the film, when the Cat Lady assaults Alex, she holds a small bust of Beethoven, while Alex holds a large sculpted penis. In the novel, Alex wields a bust of Beethoven during their fight, while the Cat Lady is largely defenseless. Additionally, in the novel, Alex is attacked by the Cat Lady's cats as he tries to escape.
  • Alex is conditioned against all music in the book, but in the film he is only averse to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. During one of the applications of the Ludovico Technique, Beethoven's Fifth symphony is played, and Alex begs for them to stop. In the movie, it is the Ninth symphony which is played during this scene.
  • Conversely, while Alex appears to be conditioned only against rape by the Ludovico Technique in the book, he appears to be conditioned against all sexuality in the film.

"Deleted scenes" from the novel
  • Two of the attacks in the opening chapters of the novel—the assault on a library patron carrying rare books, and the strong-arm robbery of a shopkeeper and his wife—are not present in the film. On his commentary on the recent DVD edition of the film, Malcolm McDowell says the scenes were filmed but later discarded. Billy Russell, the actor playing the library patron, became ill after the initial production and was not available for the scenes in which Alex re-encounters his old victims.
  • In the novel, Alex and his gang buy drinks and snacks for a group of old ladies, bribing them into providing the police with an alibi to cover a crast (shop burglary). None of this appears in the film; the scene with the old ladies was shot, but not used.
  • In the novel, Alex is beaten by prison guards. The film does not show this, but Alex mentions it in his narration.

Characters added to the film
  • In the novel, F. Alexander lives alone after the death of his wife, and manages most of the housework by himself despite his condition. In the film, he is shown to have hired a bodyguard named Julian to help him around the house and guard the home from future break-ins. The bodyguard is played by former bodybuilder and future Darth Vader, David Prowse in a brief role.
  • In the film Alex has a pet snake. There is no mention of this in the novel. This was added by Kubrick due to Malcolm McDowell's fear of snakes.

Other differences
  • In the novel, Dr. Branom is a male. In the film, the character is female.
  • The film uses the futuristic slang language Nadsat somewhat less often than the book in order to make the film more accessible.

Changes in plot details (in chronological order)
  • In the film, Alex and his droogs beat a tramp, who later recognizes him and, with other homeless people, assaults him after his treatment. In the book, Alex beats an old man carrying library books, who later recognizes him and (with other aged people) assaults him in a library after his treatment. Alex and his droogs also beat a tramp in the book, but Alex does not encounter him again.
  • Alex's weapon of choice in the book is a britva (razor); in the film, he wields a cane with a knife concealed in the handle (similar to a Victorian London dagger cane).
  • The girl that is about to be raped by Billyboy's gang is ten in the book, but a young woman in the film.
  • In the film, the car seen before the home invasion is the M-505 Adams Brothers Probe 16, in the novel (and in the film's narration) however, it is referred to as Durango 95. Only three were produced. In the TV-program Top Gear (Season 2004, 2nd episode, aired 31 October 2004), the one used in the film was nominated for restoration in the Restoration Rip-off feature.
  • In the novel, Alex takes home and rapes two ten-year-old girls, Marty and Sonietta, after meeting them in a record shop. In the film, the girls are teenagers, and their sexual encounter with Alex appears to be (at least mostly) consensual. Also, in the book, Alex buys the girls ice cream and food prior to raping them, while this scene is not included in the film (though, in the film, the girls are shown slurping on popsicles at the record shop).
  • When trying to escape from the cat lady's house, Alex is stopped by Dim, who attacks him and leaves him for the police. In the novel, Dim uses his "oozy" (or chain) to whip Alex across the face. In the film, Dim smashes a milk bottle across the side of Alex's head.
  • In the novel, Alex's prisoner number is 6655321; in the film, it is 655321.
  • In the novel, an imprisoned Alex learns of the death of his former droog Georgie during a botched burglary. In the film, Alex meets with Georgie after being freed from prison (see below).
  • In the novel, Alex is beaten by his former droog, Dim, and his former rival, Billyboy, who have both joined the police. The beating itself is not described, though Alex subsequently notes soreness and several teeth knocked loose (he also believes himself to be covered with cuts and bruises). In the film, Billyboy is replaced in this scene by Georgie, another former droog (who had died in the novel); they take Alex down a wood path to a watering trough, where Dim forces Alex's head underwater, and Georgie beats him with his truncheon.
  • In the novel, F. Alexander recognises Alex through a number of careless references to the previous attack (e.g., his wife then claiming they did not have a telephone). In the film Alex is recognised when singing the song 'Singing in the Rain' in the bath, which he hauntingly had done whilst attacking F. Alexander's wife. The song does not appear at all in the book, as it was an improvisation by actor Malcolm McDowell when Kubrick complained that the rape scene was too "stiff".

Kubrick film references


The music is a thematic extension of Alex’s (and the viewer’s) psychological conditioning. The soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange comprises classical music and electronic synthetic music composed by Walter Carlos, a.k.a. Wendy Carlos. Some of the music is heard only as excerpts, e.g. Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 (aka Land of Hope and Glory) ironically heralding a politician’s appearance at the prison. The main theme is an electronic transcription of Henry Purcell’s Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, composed in 1695, for the procession of Queen Mary’s cortège through London en route to Westminster Abbeymarker. “March from A Clockwork Orange” was the first recorded song featuring a vocoder for the singing; synthpop bands often cite it as their inspiration. Neither the end-credits, nor the soundtrack album, name the orchestra playing the Ninth Symphony excerpts, however, in Alex’s bedroom, there is a close-up of a microcassette tape labeled: Deutsche Grammophon – Ludwig van Beethoven – Symphonie Nr. 9 d-moll, op. 125 – Berliner Philharmoniker – Chor der St. Hedwigskathedrale – Ferenc Fricsay – Irmgard Seefried, Maureen Forrester, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Ernst Haefliger.

In the novel, Alex is conditioned against all classical music, but in the film, only against L.V. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the soundtrack of a violent Ludovico Technique film. The audience do not see every violent film Alex is forced to view during Ludovico conditioning, yet the symphony’s fourth movement is heard. Later, using the symphony’s second movement, Mr Alexander, and fellow plotters, impel Alex to suicide by defenestration.

Track listing
  1. “The Funeral of Queen Mary”, Wendy Carlos
  2. "The Thieving Magpie (Rossini, Abridged)", A Deutsche Grammophon Recording
  3. "Theme from A Clockwork Orange (Beethoviana)", Wendy Carlos
  4. "Ninth Symphony, Second Movement (Abridged)", A Deutsche Grammophon Recording conducted by Ferenc Fricsay.
  5. "March from A Clockwork Orange (Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement, Abridged)", Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind
  6. "William Tell Overture ", Wendy Carlos
  7. "Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1", Sir Edward Elgar
  8. "Pomp and Circumstance March No. IV (Abridged)", Sir Edward Elgar
  9. "Timesteps (Excerpt)", Wendy Carlos
  10. "Overture to the Sun", Terry Tucker (instrumental from Sound of Sunforest [1969] album of the group, Sunforest)
  11. "I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper", Erika Eigen (from Sound of Sunforest, the 1969 album of her group, Sunforest - the film version is different from the soundtrack version)
  12. "William Tell Overture (Abridged)", A Deutsche Grammophon Recording
  13. "Suicide Scherzo (Ninth Symphony, Second Movement, Abridged)", Wendy Carlos
  14. "Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement, (Abridged)", A Deutsche Grammophon Recording (Von Karajan, 1963, uncredited)
  15. "Singin' in the Rain", Gene Kelly, lyrics by Arthur Freed, music by Nacio Herb Brown.

Second version

Three months after the official soundtrack's release, composer Wendy Carlos released Wendy Carlos's Clockwork Orange (1972) (Columbia KC 31480), a second version of the soundtrack containing unused cues and musical elements unheard in the film. For example, Kubrick used only part of “Timesteps”, and a short version of the synthesiser transcription of the Ninth Symphony’s Scherzo. The second soundtrack album contains a synthesiser version of Rossini's “La Gazza Ladra” (The Thieving Magpie); the film contains an orchestral version. In 1998, a digitally-remastered album edition, with tracks of the synthesiser music was released. It contains Carlos’s compositions, including those unused in the film, and the “Biblical Daydreams” and “Orange Minuet” cues excluded from the 1972 edition.

Carlos composed the first three minutes of “Timesteps” before reading the novel A Clockwork Orange. Originally intending it as the introduction to a vocoder rendition of the Ninth Symphony’s Choral movement; it was completed approximately when Kubrick completed the photography; “Timesteps” and the vocoder Ninth Symphony were the foundation for the Carlos–Kubrick collaboration.

Moreover, Stanley Kubrick reportedly asked permission of Roger Waters (Pink Floyd’s bassist–lyricist) to use elements of the Atom Heart Mother (1970) suite; Waters refused. Later, Waters asked Kubrick if he could use sounds from 2001: A Space Odyssey; Kubrick refused.

Awards and honours

  • BAFTA Awards
    • BAFTA Film Award Best Art Direction - John Barry
    • Best Cinematography - John Alcott
    • Best Direction - Stanley Kubrick
    • Best Film
    • Best Film Editing - William Butler
    • Best Screenplay - Stanley Kubrick
    • Best Sound Track - Brian Blamey, John Jordan, Bill Rowe

  • Golden Globes
    • nominated 1972 Nominated Golden Globe Best Director: Motion Picture - Stanley Kubrick
    • nominated Best Motion Picture - Drama
    • nominated Best Motion Picture Actor: Drama - Malcolm McDowell

  • Writers Guild of America, USA
    • 1972 Nominated WGA Award (Screen) Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium - Stanley Kubrick

American Film Institute recognition

DVD releases

In 2000, the film was released on videotape and DVD, both individually and as part of The Stanley Kubrick Collection DVD set. Consequent to negative comments from fans, Warner Bros re-released the film, its image digitally restored and its soundtrack remastered. A limited-edition collector's set with a soundtrack disc, movie poster, booklet and film strip followed, but later was discontinued. In 2005, a UK re-release, packaged as an "Iconic Film" in a limited-edition slipcase was published, identical to the remastered DVD set, except for different package cover art. In 2006, Warner Bros announced the September publication of a two-disc special edition featuring a Malcolm McDowell commentary, and the releases of other two-disc sets of Stanley Kubrick films. Several UK retailers had set the release date as 6 November 2006; the release was delayed and re-announced for 2007 Holiday Season.An HD DVD, Blu-ray, and DVD re-release version of the film was released on 23 October 2007. The release accompanies four other Kubrick classics. 1080p video transfers and remixed Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (for HD DVD) and uncompressed 5.1 PCM (for Blu-ray) audio tracks are on both the Blu-ray and HD DVD editions. Unlike the previous version, the DVD re-release edition is anamorphically enhanced.

In popular culture

See also



  1. IMDb page
  2. Both Burgess' novel and Stanley Kubrick's published movie script have this character's name as one word "Billyboy" although the Internet Movie Database lists him in the credits with two words "Billy Boy".
  3. Filming Locations, accessed 2007-07-22
  4. Ebert, R: A Clockwork Orange, Chicago Sun-Times, 11 February 1972
  5. Ian MacDonald, Revolution in the Head, Pimlico, p.235
  6. "Serious pockets of violence at London school, QC says", The Times, 21 March 1972.
  7. “ ‘Clockwork Orange’ link with boy’s crime”, The Times, 4 July 1973.
  8. Kubrick: Seven Films Analyzed by Randy Rasmussen p. 112
  9. Stanley Kubrick by John Baxter p. 255
  10. Stanley Kubrick by Vincent Lobrutto p. 365-6 and Stanley Kubrick, director by Alexander Walker, Sybil Taylor, Ulrich Ruchti p. 204


  • Burgess, Anthony. 1978. "A Clockwork Orange". In his 1985 . London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-136080-3

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