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YMMV / A Clockwork Orange

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  • Adaptation Displacement:
    • Far more people have seen the film than have read the book, which Burgess himself considered one of his minor works (as do most literary critics, since he was a respected author of Lit Fic and a literary critic in his own right), and whose main resentment was that thanks to the film it became one of his Black Sheep Hit.invoked
    • Most people have never heard the original "Music For the Funeral For Queen Mary".
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    • For some "Singin' in the Rain" is associated with this film, and it still is among a small group of fans, but luckily for Gene Kelly the audience that watches family musicals is always going to be bigger than people who watch Kubrick films.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Did Alex really reform at the end of the novel? Or has he simply grown tired of committing violence himself?
    • How responsible is Alex for his actions? The way he describes the urge to rape the two ten-year-old girls he comes across, it's implied he acts on uncontrollable urges, but he also willingly drinks spiked milk that makes him more violent. This is probably intended by the writer, as the book deals with the concept of free choice, specifically the choice to be violent, and Burgess himself saw it as a weak satire without stuff thought too much in detail.
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  • Anvilicious: The book has multiple characters blather on in endless dialogues about free will and choice. The prison chaplain's speech is especially grating not only for its preachiness but its ineffectiveness (he makes the speech after Alex is submitted to aversion therapy, and not before).
  • Award Snub: Mr. McDowell ultimately didn't win an award for his performance as Alex. He didn't even get nominated!
  • Awesome Music: The iconic film score by Wendy Carlos (performed with Moog synthesizers), particularly her rendition of Purcell's "Music For the Funeral For Queen Mary", which can be considered the unofficial theme music for the movie. And that's not to mention Gioachino Rossini, Edward Elgar and, above all, our old friend Ludwig van.
  • Cant Unhear It: Stanley Kubrick said that this was the reason why he cast Malcolm McDowell as Alex; Kubrick had just come off of watching McDowell's performance in the film If before he read the Anthony Burgess novel, and as a consequence, could not get McDowell's face and voice out of his mind when reading the narration of Alex.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: The scene where Alex kills the Crazy Cat Lady with a phallic object.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: When the novel's main character is a murderer and child rapist, this is inevitable.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: The film is a horrific view of a society crippled by teenage hooligans, but it actually inspired similar crimes throughout the UK, first during its initial release (enough that Warner Brothers pulled it from theaters in England) and then after its DVD release. Some argue that if Kubrick had not made Alex so much more handsome and attractive, or dialed down some of the original evil from the novel (like the rape of two ten-year old girls converted into a consensual threesome with age-appropriate girls), this trope could have been averted entirely.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: The film version of Alex. Kubrick compared him to Richard III.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: The hammy prison guard, whose uptight nature and visible outrage at both Alex and the government's method of treatment for Alex is an amusing foil to the otherwise morally bankrupt cast.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Or Malcolm McDowell was, anyway.
  • Fashion-Victim Villain: Admit it, Alex and his droogs' choice of clothing is rather silly, well... at least in the movie, anyway. In the book, however, their style of clothes is much more stylish and menacing.
  • Fountain of Memes: Alex and his droogs' attire in the first act of the film, the various scenes (the intro, the Power Walk at the marina and the Ludivico Treatment) parodied and paid homage to in other works, the movie poster, and just about everything that comes out of Alex's mouth.
  • Fridge Brilliance: When Georgie and Dim (as policemen) are dragging Alex between them, their numbers are 665 and 667. This puts Alex in the middle: 666.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: There have been a number of times since the film came out when it became a fad for gangs of youths to record themselves accosting and beating up strangers. Notable instances include "Happy Slapping" in the mid-aughts and "The Knock-Out Game" in the mid 2010s. Whatever the name, it's something straight out of Alex's alley.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • The name of their car is the Durango 95, although it's not a truck or an SUV. Ford released a Durango throughout the 1980s, while Dodge Durango SUVs have been around since the mid 1990s.
    • Alex fantasises about being in the decadent Roman times. Malcolm McDowell would later star in Caligula.
    • While he's in the hospital, Alex does a bit of roleplay with Dr. Taylor. At one point, he tells somebody to stick a watch up their ass. Apparently, Captain Koons had the same idea.
    • Its seems likely that Patrick Magee was remembered by a lot of people after the following year of the film's release as a handicapped man who gets brutalised and takes his own brutal revenge later in the script.
      • Speaking of, both Patrick Magee and Alex's actor Malcolm McDowell would both appear in media adaptations of EC Comics' Tales from the Crypt, with Magee in the film adaptation a year after this film and McDowell in an episode of the Tales from the Crypt television show.
    • The method of brainwashing Alex has been through. He would use it against a team of superheroes.
  • Hype Backlash: This film is very divisive, despite being considered a classic, many people despise it for how it looks like it glorifies sex and violence and wants the viewer to sympathize with Alex.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Although Jerkass is a way too nice term to describe Alex, some people see him as this in the second act and the third act, considering what happens to him. A little too sympathetic a label, but his near-rape in prison, his inability to enjoy anything in life, and the merciless beatings at the hands of his victims-turned-victimizers humanize him. Of course, a lot of this falls flat because some viewers note that Alex is made sympathetic because he is made weak and dehumanized. He loses his woobiness, however, when he rapes 10 year old girls.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Ultra-violence."
    • "Well! Well well well! Well well well well well..."
    • "Try the wine!"
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • Burgess described A Clockwork Orange as "a jeu d'esprit knocked off for money in three weeks, and it became known as the raw material for a film which accused of glorifying sex and violence. The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me till I die."
    • Kubrick himself felt that the film was a sophisticated and cold satire about institutions and it was making a case for radical free will in a very artificial and stylized context, but in fact the audience latched on to Alex because he embodied and lives out in full the adolescent male fantasy of guilt-free sex and violence, and who the film's premise allows audiences to see him as a counter-cultural rebel, completely missing the ending where he becomes a Rule-Abiding Rebel co-opted by the establisment. Kubrick pulled out the film from theatres upon hearing of copycat crimes and getting unwanted attention from people who didn't get what the movie was doing.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Alex did quite a few bad things, but as soon as he raped a woman in the Singing in the Rain scene, he was beyond redemption. This is partly why the twenty-first chapter is so controversial — a lot of readers think it's simply not in his character to suddenly reform.
    • The Minister of the Interior arguably crosses this by signing off on the Ludovico Technique in the first place. While he could be seen as well-intentioned here, he's clearly doing it for self-serving reasons, and it's pointed out that the treatment may very well be turned on anyone who resists the government. He's only concerned about crime in the first place because of overcrowding in prisons, seeing as he plans to imprison political dissidents. He's certainly crossed it by the end, when he covers up the whole incident with Alex's cooperation, essentially making a Deal with the Devil to protect himself.
  • Narm:
    • The face that the old man makes when he remembers who Alex is; it's supposed to be twisted in rage and horror, but the angle of the shot and the fact that he's convulsing while bent completely forward makes it look a bit silly.
      • In general, Patrick Magee's performance in the film's third act is quite narmy, since he plays the character as something of a Large Ham. One might view this as a sign of the character's mental instability following his trauma and the death of his wife, but seeing him twitch madly while playing Beethoven for Alex is enough to take one out of the film somewhat.
    • The speech given by the chaplain in the prison. Kubrick intended it to be sincere, and in his interviews he said it was, but the film makes it absurd, especially because it follows the scene where a naked girl in a purple wig comes on stage in front of everyone's attendance to demonstrate that Alex's sexual urges are under control. It's not a context that serves a good speech.
  • Older Than They Think: The first adaptation of A Clockwork Orange was in 1965, the film Vinyl by Andy Warhol. That film is some 60 minutes long, and is composed of long takes, changed the names of the characters and invented its own slang, "scum-baby" mostly, and it also used popular music ("Nowhere to Run", along with music by The Kinks and The Rolling Stones). It is however considered a masterpiece of avant-garde cinema, and it does make explicit the S&M subtext of the Burgess novel and which is also there in the Kubrick film.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • A young Warren Clarke plays Dim.
    • Julian, Mr. Alexander's nurse/protection, is played by a young weightlifter and wrestler named David Prowse. After seeing the movie, George Lucas was so impressed with his size that he offered him the part of Darth Vader.
    • The Korova milkbar bouncer standing next to Alex’s droogs in the opening scene is Pat Roach, better known for his various roles in the Indiana Jones films.
  • Signature Scene: Either the opening oner, the Ludovico technique scene, or the "Singin' in the Rain" rape scene.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The novel hammers the point that you can't force a person to reform, even with advanced technology. Change has to come from within to make it genuine, and so that the person can actually do good.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • Needless to say, the fate of all of Alex's victims deserves this mention.
    • As much as Alex deserved it, you can't feel bad for the poor boy when, after he's released, he has no home due to a lodger staying in his room, he's left at the mercy of his previous victims, former gang members and rivals and he can't do anything to stop them because the treatment has left him unable to perform violence even to defend himself.
    • In a meta sense, the origin of the novel is no slouch, either: Burgess wrote the novel inspired by the robbery and sexual assault his wife suffered from U.S. Army deserters.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Mrs. Alexander (Adrienne Corri), who got raped by Alex and the Droogs, apparently died of the trauma offscreen (or from pneumonia in the film) if you believe her husband, Mr. Alexander. Having her Stuffed into the Fridge to serve as her husband's motivation feels cheap to modern readers, and likewise it would have made the story much more gray and ambiguous if it was her at the end receiving and welcoming Alex and deciding to either kill him or help him out of her objections to the Ludovico technique rather than her husband, which would be missing the point of the film since she was the Morality Chain of Frank.
  • True Art Is Angsty: When the book was originally brought over to American shores, the last "Happy Ending" chapter was left out, since the publishers didn't think Americans would like it. When Kubrick began writing his screenplay, he was unaware of that chapter's existence; he read it only when he was nearly finished, and he decided to leave it out because he thought it would ruin the film's message. (The chapter was added back into the American version in 1986.)
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Despite Kubrick's camera tricks (especially fisheye lenses) and the defenestration of Alex, it's pretty hard for a good portion of the audience to forgive Alex for his rather heinous crimes. Mostly because most of the enemies are Strawman characters deliberately made grotesque by the film's satirical focus, so it makes it pretty obvious that the film is telling us what to think and feel, and some audiences don't like that.
  • Values Dissonance: Alex is a man who is a rapist, attacks old people, and shows no remorse until he undergoes a controversial technique to make him harmless, to the point that it makes him miserable because the world hasn't forgiven him for his crimes. In the 2010s, being known as someone who raped two children would get his ass kicked in prison, as many inmates believe in Wouldn't Hurt a Child and in light of the #MeToo Movement. Not to mention with the advent of social media, many people would protest having a convicted murderer getting off with a slap-on-the-wrist sentence; if Brock Turner's rape sentencing is any indication.
  • Values Resonance: On the other hand, prison reform has become a serious topic in the 2010s, especially with Orange is the New Black talking about how even nonviolent nuns are put in with thieves, murderers, and desperate drug addicts, and that it's hard for recently-released inmates to build a normal life. It also hammers home that someone has to want to become a better person and forcing the change on them will have negative consequences.


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