This 1971, Stanley Kubrick film is easily one of the STRANGEST movies I have ever seen. This movie was adapted from Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, published in 1962. This movie gets special recognition from Hankering for History because it was released into theaters on this day, December 19th, in 1971. A Clockwork Orange was also a cinematic innovator of its time. It achieved the first of many accomplishments. The film was “a first film to” in several categories.
If you are unfamiliar with the film, I will give you a very, very brief rundown. The main character Alex, played by Malcolm McDowell, is a violent, sociopathic delinquent in futuristic Britain. If he was filling out a dating application, his interest would include: classical music, raping women, and hanging out with his gang of thug-buddies; Pete, Georgie, and Dim. Below is a scene from the movie. This is easily one of the most memorable scenes. They are “allowed” in a house, under the false pretense that there is an emergency outside and that they need a phone to call for help. They then attack the homeowners and rape the lady of the house. (This video cuts off before the rape scene.)
For scenes such as this, the movie was rated X. The National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures rated it C (for Condemned). It was re-released at a later date with minor editing and the ratings changed to R and O (for Morally Offensive), respectfully.
For committing a crime–at a later time–Alex is arrested and found guilty. While in prison, Alex hears of an experimental program that would reduce his sentence. This experiment used the Ludovico Technique in hopes of programming an individual to detest violence. The Ludovico Technique consisted of Alex being restrained in a chair, forced to watch films containing violence. His eye’s were pried open, and eye drops were continually dropped into them. (This is a gross simplification.)
From the opening scene to the rolling credits at the end, A Clockwork Orange is jam-packed with history. What movie have you been to in the last several years when you haven’t seen the annoying Dolby Digital introduction video? Oh, you know the one…
A Clockwork Orange was the first film to use Dolby sound; it used Dolby’s noise reduction in the mixing of their soundtrack. This movie was also the first synthesized score to use a vocoder. This film would also be the first to use the common day, joystick zoom control. It wasn’t the first, but one of the first to use radio microphones to record sound. I also found interesting that the vehicle used by Alex and his gang was the “Adams Probe 16.” This vehicle was only one of three ever made in history. (Okay, so maybe that last one wasn’t history; however, the sentence does contain the word “history” in it.)
Okay, so maybe this post isn’t chock-full of history, but I do have two actual-factual, historical tidbits for you.
For this first part to make sense, I need to explain the language in which Alex and his gang spoke. They spoke “Nadsat,” which was primarily English, but had a heavy amount of Russian slang mixed in with it. That being said, Alex’s fellow gang members had the names: Pete, Dim, and Georgie. The most common names of Russian kings and princes of the Empire of the Tsars, from 1462-1917, are Alexander, Peter, and Dimitri. George (Gyorgi in Russian) was their patron saint.
There are those that believe that the Ludovico Technique was supposed to symbolize the CIA’s Project MK Ultra. In the early 1950’s, the CIA tried several methods to manipulate an individual’s mental state. The CIA used abuse, drugs (predominantly LSD), hypnosis, isolation, and other forms of torture in their research. (This is a very interesting topic, maybe deserving of a post at a later date…)
Stankley Kubrick published the following about his film:
…A social satire dealing with the question of whether behavioural psychology and psychological conditioning are dangerous new weapons for a totalitarian government to use to impose vast controls on its citizens and turn them into little more than robots.
In the book, published several years after the starting of CIA Project MK Ultra, Alex and his gang participate in what they call “ultra-violence.” Ultra-violence is “excessive and/or unjustified violence.” CIA program with the name Project MK Ultra…Ultra-violence… Okay, so that is a stretch.
As I proofread this, I am seeing less and less historical relevance. Therefore, I will stop while I am ahead. Than being said, Happy Birthday, A Clockwork Orange (the movie)!