With “A Clockwork Orange,” Stanley Kubrick set forth a high bar and standard upon which all future gang warfare films would be based on. It’s a surprising fact considering “A Clockwork Orange” is not entirely about gang warfare at all. It’s a science fiction, dystopic, thriller about a predator of humanity who gets a taste of his own medicine a hundred fold once he is rehabilitated into a docile animal of society. Or so that’s what we’re led to believe up until the very ambiguous climax where Alex reverts to his classic recurring orgy fantasy.
Alex DeLarge (almost like Scarface or Jack from “Fight Club”) has become a considerable icon (or anti-icon) for the European neo-sixties chic society of pop culture. His trademark derby, cane, accentuated lashes, and codpiece represent everything perverse and yet, alluring about DeLarge and why he commands so much authority over the people in hios life. Stanley Kubrick’s ideas and imagery have remained in the consciousness of film lovers for decades (much like “The Shining” and “Full Metal Jacket,” et al.), and have yet to age a day, especially as he seems to capture worlds that are without the restraints of aging or anachronisms.
Everything he films is stuck in place, and the same can be said for “A Clockwork Orange.” Adapted from the wonky novel by Anthony Burgess, Kubrick’s own vision is very heavy mod, neo-fascist picture. It’s a world of anarchy with a young man who has society and the elite by the balls, and is a veritable god in his own consciousness. Once he’s taken in to be transformed by an experimental government program, he discovers he’s become yet another victim, another sufferer, and another crying voice being ravaged by the corrupt medical system.
Said system is run wholesale by the sadistic rich and absolutely corrupt law enforcement. From the get go there’s that air of menace and sheer nihilism that Kubrick paints into every film cell, warning us of the surreal carnage that will soon ensue. DeLarge lives like a king in a small world. He leads a vicious gang, has random threesomes whenever and however he likes, and lives off of his parents without a flash of a judgmental brow to bring him to his knees. As exemplified by a hazy wet dream, he’s a vampire on the jugular of society.
While insanely likable (thanks to Malcolm McDowell’s stellar performance) he’s a leech who must be dealt with. Malcolm McDowell’s performance as the legendary Alex DeLarge is a pure tour De Force. He’s a maelstrom of sly witticisms, devious sociopathic tendencies, and a furiously sharp delivery of “Nadsat”: some of the most unusual and incoherent sixties colloquialisms that are hard to translate, but so damn cool to hear him mutter at every turn. Kubrick saves some of his most demented sequences to reflect Alex’s world.
There’s also the iconic scene of brainwashing as Alex watches with eyes forced open, howling in agony, remains a powerful and pivotal turn in the story. Notable about Kubrick’s thriller is the memorable appearance of David Prowse (the body actor for Darth Vader), who plays the barrel chested caretaker to DeLarge’s equally sociopathic ward. As a twisted turn of fate, after being victimized by local tramps, DeLarge seeks refuge at a local mansion. The mansion happens to be owned by the very man (Patrick McGee, who is always great) whose life he destroyed years earlier.
The final half of “A Clockwork Orange” is the world repaying Alex for all his crimes and pain. Every time Alex is convinced he’s escaped their torment, he is always proven wrong and made a beautiful example of karma. “A Clockwork Orange” is a milestone that Kubrick would consistently deliver to his fans and film goers throughout his career.