A Clockwork Orange
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FAQ Contents

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for A Clockwork Orange can be found here.

British teenager Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell), leader of a gang of 'droogs' -- Pete (Michael Tarn), Georgie (James Marcus), and Dim (Warren Clarke) -- who spend their evenings committing 'ultra-violent' crimes, is apprehended by the police, convicted of rape and murder, and sentenced to 14 years in prison. While incarcerated, Alex volunteers for the Ludovico procedure -- a government-developed program that professes to cure him of his violent tendencies. However, they didn't warn Alex that the cure might be worse than the disease.

A Clockwork Orange is a novel written by English author John Burgess Wilson (pen name: Anthony Burgess) and published in 1962.

Alex mentions that his car is a "Derango '95", Therefore setting the movie around 1995 or later. However, a newspaper later in the film, after the suicide sequence, has what appears to be a deliberately blurred date reading something like "1972". There's also the suggestion then that the film does not take place in the future but in an alternate universe. Further supporting this theory is that little of the technology demonstrated in the film appears to have advanced beyond that of the early 1970s and most differences between the period of the film and that of 70s Britain are merely cultural in nature.

In the book, Alex is 15 at the beginning, 17 when he gets out of jail, and by the time of the book's end, he's 18.

The simple answer is that it is derived from an old English expression "Queer as a Clockwork Orange," meaning something very strange. In the novel, when Alex and his friends attack the writer and his wife, the writer is working on a manuscript entitled "A Clockwork Orange," but this was left out of the movie. However, in a 1986 Introduction to the first American edition of the book to contain the final chapter, Anthony Burgess says "A human being is endowed with free will. He can use this to choose between good and evil. If he can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange - meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil." He goes on to say "the important thing is moral choice." When Alex cannot choose to perform good or evil (after the Ludovico treatment), he has become a clockwork orange. Burgess also states that the Malaysian word "orang" means "man" in English, so "A Clockwork Orange" means "a clockwork man", which is what Alex has become by the end of the film, figuratively.

The milk has drugs in it. If you listen closely, Alex names all the drugs during the opening scene: "The Korova Milk Bar sells Milk Plus: milk plus synthemesc, vellocet, or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This will sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultraviolence." You can also see the names of the drugs spelled out on the walls of the Bar behind them in the first shot. Novelist Anthony Burgess has stated that Alex drinking milk is symbolic of his infantile, child-like nature. "Synthemesc" is synthetic mescaline; "vellocet" is methedrine/speed, and "drencrom" is adrenochrome, all very powerful drugs which would cause the user to lose impulse control. Both mescaline and adrenochrome act as hallucinogens, and in addition, adrenochrome can amplify the effects of methedrine, making them the perfect additives for ultra-violence.

It's called Nadsat. It's a language the author made up for the book, largely comprised of phonetically pronounced Russian words. The word nadsat itself is the Russian suffix for "-teen." Burgess was a linguist, and aware of the evolution of slang, did not want Alex and his Droogs to use (then) contemporary slang terms for fear of the book becoming dated. He used his knowledge of Russian to create the imaginary street-jargon used by the gangs as a way of ensuring that this would not happen. When the book was translated into Russian, the Russian words were replaced with their English counterparts; ironically, at the time, the Russian subculture equivalent to American hippies already spoke in a similar jargon, giving the book another (albeit unintentional) layer. A full list can be found here. Early American mass-market paperback editions of the book had a nadsat glossary in the back. The newer trade-paperback edition eliminated the glossary.

A life sentence in the United Kingdom is 14 years, minimum. After that, the prisoner may be paroled or released at the court's discretion, but until that happens they will remain in prison indefinitely. In extreme cases, life can mean exactly that: life imprisonment, with no chance for parole. As Alex's crime was vicious, he would have served the full 14 year sentence. Because the attack on the woman was premeditated, the charge would have been most likely have been murder, not manslaughter which carries a shorter term of imprisonment. Although the charge theoretically could have been reduced to manslaughter (the assault on the woman was indeed premeditated, but the murder itself was accidental), the fact that Alex was willing to undergo the Ludovico treatment rather than just wait out his sentence points to a murder conviction.

No, they followed Alex back to his room and undressed willingly. The woman at the end is on top, and isn't trying to get away. But in the book, the girls are very young (10 years old), and Alex got them drunk and raped them.

Some people don't believe there is one, but most believe when Alex listens to Beethoven in his room after the rape, he's masturbating. In the book, it's made clear he's naked during this part, but he also says that his hands were behind his head. McDowell's commentary track on the 2007 DVD release sheds a bit more light on this issue: He mentions that he wasn't masturbating and that it wasn't Kubrick's intention. Malcolm says that he was just taking his boots off, hence the movement of his shoulders. However, it can still be implied that Alex was gratifying himself.

It's a method of humiliation. The guards are deliberately making Alex look submissive and are conditioning him to the rules of the prison. If Alex steps out of line, either consciously or unconsciously, he'll be reprimanded or punished.

In the film, Stanley Kubrick originally planned for F. Alexander (Patrick Magee) to discover that Alex was the person who raped his wife by having Alex mention the word "Horrorshow." Alex would have been talking, and would have said "Horrorshow" in the conversation, making F. Alexander suspicious, and finally he would have realized who Alex really was after getting Alex to repeat the word again and again. However, this was changed on set, just before filming. In the book, the writer finds out because Alex has knowledge of the house when he is taken in. Specifically, Alex expresses his surprise when the author says he will call his friends on a telephone (Remember, the first thing said to Alex in the first encounter was that they didn't have a telephone). From there, the author puts the pieces together from further conversation with Alex, finally realizing the truth after Alex gets upset at the mention of the word "dim." This is when F. Alexander starts to become really suspicious -- when Alex mistakenly mentions the word "Dim" and the writer remembers that name.

Alex calls the car a "Durango '95" but it's actually a 1970 M-505 Adams Brothers Probe 16. The car was one of only three prototypes built and is one of the rarest cars in the world. More info on it can be found here and here.

In the film, it is never made clear where Pete ends up. We learn that Georgie and Dim have gone on to become police officers, who take their first opportunity to beat Alex within an inch of his life (post-treatment, Alex can no longer defend himself, which is public knowledge via the newspapers), but the subject of Pete is never revisited. In the original novel (The film version uses the original U.S. issue of the book, that removes chapter 21, the final chapter, which is why you don't see Pete after Alex's treatment in the film), Alex has a chance encounter with Pete (who is almost 20) and finds that his former droog has grown up quite a bit: He's found a woman with whom to settle down and no longer speaks in Nadsat. According to Burgess' vision, this makes Alex question his path and purpose. This takes place after Alex has declared himself 'cured', and has returned to a life of crime with a new set of Droogs. Seeing his old friend Pete all grown up and living a normal life, Alex is driven to consider giving up his days as a thug and cleaning up his act once and for all. This gives the faithful reader a sense of a moral that is not presented in the original U.S. release of the novel, and therefore the film, that "one cannot be forced to change, but one must decide to change on their own". Also, in the novel, Georgie dies whilst Alex is in prison (while trying to escape a robbery, he trips and a man beats him to death), and the other policemen with Dim that beats up Alex is in fact, Billy Boy (the gang leader Alex and his Droogs have a fight with near the start)

It has been written in the past that Malcolm McDowell nearly drowned in the trough scene, where his former droogs, Georgie and Dim, dunk him into an animal trough filled with dirty water and beat him with a nightstick for nearly a minute of screen time. The rumour was that McDowell's breathing apparatus failed. This isn't true. In the Warner Brothers DVD, McDowell does a commentary track and talks about how he used an oxygen tank while he was under the water. He never mentions that it failed or that he almost drowned. Also on one of the documentaries on the DVD, the commentator mentions that McDowell did 28 takes of that scene, so the tank must have been working.

We all know that the improvisation of "Singin' in the Rain" during the rape of the Writer's wife was an on-the-set decision by Malcolm McDowell but why didn't he get sick whenever he absent mindedly began to sing the song while in the bathtub after being brought in to safety into the Writer's house near the end of the film? We have to look at the reason he should have gotten sick in the first place: The Ludevico Treatment. We know that Alex was shocked when, during the treatment sessions, he heard Beethoven's music during the footage of Nazi Germany. That means that Alex's mind began to relate the music of Beethoven to violence. The connection of Beethoven to violence is used by the Writer in the torturing of Alex near the end of the film. But since the Beethoven / violence connection is used, what about "Singin in the Rain"? Should Alex have gotten sick, as it was related to an actual act of sexual violence in the film itself? It is questionable, but Alex should have gotten sick, like the writer quivering in sickness hearing the song from Alex for the second time. This could have been an oversight of Stanley Kubrick himself.

When we look at the novel, we get much more of the effects from the administration of the Ludevico Treatment. Alex couldn't listen to any music, of any type, at all. He also couldn't read the Bible any more either, due to the sex and violence contained within the good book, which was the reason that Alex began reading the Bible in jail (before starting the treatment) in the first place. Since many of the goofs in the film are "intentional" goofs by Kubrick himself and intended to disorient the viewer, this one would be an oversight by Kubrick, and not a flaw to confuse people who watch the film.

When it comes to light that the government is responsible for Alex's attempted suicide due to their attempts at brainwashing him as a means of crime reform, the newspapers and public opinion take an unfavorable view of the government's attempt at changing Alex's inherent nature. After a period of psychological manipulation and testing, Alex is visited in the hospital by the Interior Minister (Anthony Sharp), who promises to take good care of him, find him a well-paying job, and compensate him for his suffering. In return, Alex promises to consider the government a friend and to help change public opinion of them. The minister then presents Alex with large bouquets of flowers and a large stereo system blasting Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, while multiple photographers takes photos of alex and the Minster chumming it up together. In the final scene, Alex fantasizes having sex while 'the public' watches and applauds. In a voiceover, Alex exclaims, I was cured, all right!'

It wasn't a dream, the doctors and nurses were in his head, fixing his treatment, so he'd no longer get sick at the thought of sex and violence. The Ludovico treatment was being blasted by the media as inhumane and the doctors were trying to restore Alex to his former demeanor.

That's left ambiguous in the film, however he was given back the power to choose to do good or evil. That's what he means by "I was cured alright." In the book, he joins a new gang of droogs after he was cured, but later decides that it might be time to give up this lifestyle, get married and settle down.

Despite the newspapers giving his last name as "Burgess," it appears that "Alexander DeLarge" is his real name. While some viewers believe Alex to be mocking the prison authorities by giving this as his name, both Mr. Alexander and the Minister of the Interior refer to him as "Mr. DeLarge" at various points in the film, indicating that this is his real name. The "Burgess" seen in newspapers was simply an inside joke by Kubrick, a reference to Anthony Burgess.

No. Julian (David Prowse) is just there because Frank Alexander was afraid to be alone after the rape and death of his wife. Julian was a bodyguard as well as a helpmate strong enough to carry him in his wheelchair. According to Prowse, he and Patrick Magee were not told specifically by Kubrick what their relationship was, so they played it under the assumption that Julian was a close relative, possibly Alexander's nephew.

No. The original version of the book has 21 chapters. Back in 1962, the American publisher decided not to include the last chapter, as the novel would then finish on an ambiguous note. Burgess, whilst not pleased at the interference, accepted the change. Kubrick's film was adapted from the version of the book published in the United States, and therefore the movie has a different ending. The novel was eventually released in a new edition that restored the last chapter.

Contrary to popular belief, A Clockwork Orange was never banned in the UK. The BBFC classified it as an X-rating in 1971. When first released, many people in Britain were disgusted by the film as the sexual violence was considered to be extreme. Throughout 1972 and 1973, several violent crimes in Britain were said to be influenced by the film. These included an old man beaten to death in an underpass, a sixteen year old boy wearing Alex's uniform beating up a younger boy and a young woman raped by men chanting 'Singing in the Rain'. With pressure on director Stanley Kubrick to ban the film, Kubrick withdrew A Clockwork Orange from British cinemas in 1973. He said that the film would only be allowed to be seen after his death. During the 1980's and 1990's, the only way in which British fans could see the film was if they ordered it on VHS from other countries, usually France. In 1993, the Scala Cinema club in London screened the film without Kubrick's permission. At Kubrick's insistence, Warner Bros sued the Scala club causing them to become bankrupt and eventually close. Stanley Kubrick died in 1999 and the movie was re-classified with an 18-rating by the BBFC. A Clockwork Orange was eventually re-released in British cinemas in 2000 and released on VHS and DVD in the UK later that year.

At the time it was released, the ratings system was quite different than it is now. The only ratings were "G (General)," "M (Mature)," "R (Restricted)," and "X." "M" and "R" were roughly synonymous-- both denoted "adult" content, with anyone being admitted to M rated films and R rated films requiring an adult to accompany anyone under 16. "X" rated films were those considered "too extreme" for anyone under 16, and denoted that theaters were not to permit anyone under the age of 16 even with a guardian. To this end, the sexual violence featured in the first thirty minutes of the film, and the "Ludovico Treatment" rape footage, were considered too graphic for anyone under 16 to see, hence the "X" rating. Because the X rating was not copyrighted by the MPAA, it could be used by any film distributor, and the adult film industry began to self-rate its own films "X" in order to avoid having to submit them to the MPAA for rating and face the films being banned outright due to anti-pornography laws in the early 1970s. Soon, the "X" became a marketing tool for the pornography industry, with (imaginary) ratings of XX and XXX being given to adult films by their producers to denote levels of sexual "extremity." In response, the MPAA, for all intents and purposes, ceased using the X rating for non-pornographic films; "A Clockwork Orange" and "Midnight Cowboy," two mainstream films which had been given the X rating for sexually explicit content (only to win rave critical reviews) were summarily re-rated R without any changes made to their content. In 1972, the "M" rating was replaced by "PG," marking a clearer middle-ground between "G" and "R" than the "M" rating had indicated.

The person drawn is Alex, and he is holding his britva (razor). And he is leaning through an enlarged "A" (to complete the title "A Clockwork Orange") with a removed eye as a cufflink (you can spot it throughout the movie) in the same hand as the razor. In the arch below the "A" is one of the Korova Milkbar mannequins.

"Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary" by Henry Purcell, adapted by Wendy Carlos - This is heard during the films opening titles; it is played again immediately after the rape scene at the beginning; also when the topless girl appears before Alex onstage and when the police (his former droogs) beat him up. See here. There is a second version that is played when Alex returns to his parent's apartment towards the beginning. The second version is heard again when the newspaper headlines are shown regarding Alex's suicide attempt. See here.

"La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie)" by Gioachino Rossini - This is played when Alex and his droogs have the rumble with Billyboy and take their drive in the country. It is also heard when Alex knocks Dim, and Georgie into the lake and when the droogs break into the catlady's home. See here.

"9th symphony, 2nd movement" by Ludwig van Beethoven - This is the music Alex plays in his room. See here. An adapted electronic (suicide scherzo) version is also played in the writer's home just before Alex attempts suicide. See here.

"9th symphony, 4th movement" by Ludwig van Beethoven, - This adapted electronic version is heard when Alex is in the music store talking with the two girls and is played again during the Ludovico technique when he has his catharsis. See here. Another orchestral/choral segment is heard at the end when the newspaper photographers come to take pictures of him at the hospital. See here.

"William Tell Overture" by Gioachino Rossini - An adapted electronic version is played during the threesome in Alex's bedroom. See here. An orchestral segment of it is played when Alex is informed by his parent's that his old room has been rented out to a boarder and his snake has died. See here.

"Scheherazade: The Story of the Kalandar Prince" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Played during Alex's biblical fantasy.

"Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D major" by Edward Elgar. - This is heard when the minister of the interior visits the prison. See here.

"Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4 in G major" by Edward Elgar. - This is played when Alex is taken to the Ludovico facility by the prison guard. See here.

"Timesteps" by Wendy Carlos - This is heard during Alex's first session of the Ludovico technique. See here.

"Overture to the Sun" by Terry Tucker - This is played during the stage demonstration where Alex is assaulted by a man and made to lick his shoe. See here.

"I Want to Marry A Lighthouse Keeper" by Erika Eigen - This is heard when Alex returns home to his parent's apartment after being released from state custody. See here.

"Singin' in the Rain" by Nacio Herb Brown, performed by Gene Kelly - This is played during the closing credits. See here.

The times and scenes these songs were played in the movie can be found at 'what-song'

Yes, the original movie poster features a naked woman - the statue of the Korova Milk Bar. For the American poster the woman is wearing bra and panties. Later on this statue was completely removed. A detailed comparison between the censored and uncensored versions can be found here.


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