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Warner Home Video presents
A Clockwork Orange: Two-Disc Special Edition (1971)

"We sat in the Korova Milk Bar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova Milk Bar sold milk plus. Milk plus velocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up, and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence."
- Alex (Malcolm McDowell)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: December 14, 2007

Stars: Malcolm McDowell
Other Stars: Patrick Magee, Warren Clarke, Michael Bates, Sheila Raynor, Philip Stone, James Marcus, Michael Tarn, Richard Connaught
Director: Stanley Kubrick

MPAA Rating: R for graphic violence and sexual activity, unsettling content
Run Time: 02h:16m:27s
Release Date: October 23, 2007
UPC: 085391186144
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ AB+B A-

DVD Review

This film caused a lot of rumbling when it was released in 1971, as did the Anthony Burgess book it was based upon. The material was incredibly daring, led by dangerous characters just shy of being labeled sociopaths, all tangled in storyline of societal chaos and experimental treatments designed to cure all of these deadly misfits. The material remains a wicked commentary on society (even now all these years later), where a spiraling reality of depravity and violence has become the norm.

The anti-hero is Alex (Malcolm McDowell), the self-imposed leader of a quartet of thugs, who spend their days drinking drug-tweaked milk and seeking out the next dose of "ultra violence". The unrestrained violence and rape that goes on reaches a dramatic turning point when Alex is doublecrossed by his gang, picked up by the authorities and eventually enrolled in a new treatment meant to build upon bold Pavlov-ian techniques in order to finally quell Alex's evil ways once and for all. The treatment sequences feature some of A Clockwork Orange's most memorable and disturbing imagery, with a technique that over the years has been spoofed countless times.

McDowell takes the Alex character and channels all of that unmitigated aggression into a performance that is able to marry the need for satire and drama into one package. It's a tightrope act, one that McDowell handles without effort, and of all of his varied roles before and since this one is likely his most adventurous and compelling, and certainly one of the most durable. There's nothing to like about Alex, but McDowell does his best to make him somehow remotely likeable, naturally minus all of that incessant raping and beating.

In a 2001 dOc review of an earlier DVD release of A Clockwork Orange, Daniel Hirshleifer wrote:
And yet, no matter how great the performances are, they are all overshadowed by the genius of Kubrick. Who can forget the opening sequence of the film, with the close-up of Alex's face, and the slow tracking shot across the Korova Milk Bar, all set to the threatening electronic music of Walter Carlos? Who cares if Andy Warhol did it first in Vinyl—Kubrick did it better. Or the tracking shot from the writer to his wife, and then the corresponding shot from the writer to Julian, later in the film? And look at the subtleties of the set design, such as the strange chair the wife of the writer is sitting in before she gets up to open the door, or the entire Korova Milk Bar set, complete with scale models of women whose breasts give out real milk. The way Kubrick uses the camera, the music, and the sets is a marvel to behold.

Hirshleifer indeed summed it up quite well there, heaping all manner of due praise on the skill sets of Kubrick. When a director can create such intense waves of emotion with each film project, it becomes apparent that this isn't some fluke or lucky roll of the dice. Kubrick was a real artisan, and the so-called "future shock" reality of A Clockwork Orange that so rattled the film world in 1971 still delivers a gut punch of dark satire and social commentary.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer found here is the first time this one has been issued enhanced for 16x9 sets, so that clearly must be some sort of call for celebration. Colors—so key in Kubrick's vision—look quite vivid throughout, and so many sequences appear brighter and bolder than I recall having seen them before. Edges are somewhat soft, but the print is very good shape.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: The main audio track is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. Not terribly aggressive, with most of the rear channel cues coming from the film's score. There aren't any major complaints, as voice quality is clear, and there is a moderate sense of an .LFE, so there's mistaking this a film from 1971 that has undergone an artificial tweaking.

A French 5.1 dub is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 35 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Malcolm McDowell, Nick Redman
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Disc one has a commentary from actor Malcolm McDowell, paired with historian Nick Redman. McDowell is effusive, and Redman does an excellent job of keeping him on task, and focusing the recollections of the project. The topics run the gamut, such as Kubrick's attempt at recording all audio live (with no post-synch work) in order give the film a documentary feel, butting up against McDowell's acknowledgement of Beethoven as "extra charter". There's a terrific stack of facts and stories throughout, and in case you were wondering, McDowell reveals it took 28-minutes to shoot the sped up three-way sex scene. Disc one concludes with the film's theatrical trailer.

0Still Tickin': The Return Of A Clockwork Orange (43m:37s) is British-made special that pulls comments from an assortment of writers, filmmakers and even a clip or two from Anthony Burgess himself. There's great discussion of the original book, its influence and the translation made by Kubrick. This is a nicely done doc that treats the landmark material (both the book and the film) with proud recollection of just how daring A Clockwork Orange was.

Great Bolshy Yarblockos! Making A Clockwork Orange (28m:15s) is another solid look at how this film came about, similar to the pieces found on some of the other Kubrick rereleases. Folks like Steven Spielberg or Sydney Pollack contribute, but fascinating content like Kubrick's approach to literally use Burgess' book during the filming is just another deep notch on the director's cool scale.

O Lucky Malcolm! (01h:26m:06s) is a whopper, an 86-minute Malcolm McDowell retrospective directed by longtime Kubrick producer Jan Harlan. It may seem a bit more than you ever wanted or needed to know about McDowell, but it's put together in neat chunks, and there's plenty of good storytelling.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

It's been spoofed on The Simpsons (with Bart as Alex), so that must say something about how deep the social tendrils of this one go. Credit Anthony Burgess for writing the brilliant novel, but it's all about the way Kubrick put it together in a futuristic explosion of violence, satire and that distinctive visual texture that all of his films carry. This new 2-disc set gives us the film enhanced for 16x9 televisions, plus includes a commentary from Malcolm McDowell and a trio of worthwhile docs.

Highly recommended.

 


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