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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Crime and Punishment

A Clockwork

Plot Overview

In the near future (from 1971) British teenager Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell), pooh-bah of the droogs, along with his three minions, engage in one of their drugged-up nights of indis­criminate violence. They bludgeon the stuffing out of an old wino they encounter (“It's a stinking world because there's no law and order any­more!”), then they fight a rival gang (“Let's get 'em, boys!”). From there they go to “playing hogs of the road” in a stolen car down a country road, and they end the night with a home invasion (“the surprise visit”) to replenish their cash reserves and have some fun with the lady of the house.

The next morning Alex wheedles his permissive parents into letting him skip school (again), he shines on his hobbled truant wallah, does some shopping for records, and meets up with his cronies for an even more ambitious evening. Events take a tragic turn, though, and Alex ends up in the slammer where he sucks up to the chaplain, then ingratiates him­self to the visiting Minister of the Interior who selects him for an experimental Skinnerian aversion therapy cure to his criminal behavior.

Soon a "rehabilitated" Alex is released, going from the frying pan into the fire where he will encounter a new rival and some old enemies who want to extract that elemental “eye for an eye.”


The title A Clockwork Orange is open to multiple interpretations, but I am going to look at the light­house one, where its clockworks regulate the beacon that from a distance may look orange depending on weather conditions. There is in fact a song played on the radio upon Alex's arrival home from the Ludovico Medical Facility: “I Want to Marry a Light­house Keeper,” in which a woman cheerily sings about wanting to help him warn the ships at sea away from danger. That corresponds to the prison chapel services song: “I Was a Wandering Sheep” where, “Until I heard the shepherd's voice,/ I could not be controlled.” Alex in fact attaches him­self to the chaplain (Godfrey Quigley) helping him with the services by running the projector, performing secretarial duties in the library, and wearing a red arm band in the yard, designating his pseudo-clerical status. This marriage to the chaplain, how­ever, doesn't do his soul much good. Though he is “very interested now in the big Book,” he uses it to excuse his behavior, blaming his companions, Prov. 4:14-17, his weak flesh, Prov. 24:10, and his permissive parents, Prov. 29:17.

The chaplain is a hell-fire preacher telling the cons to “attend to the divine world, the next world,” because, “hell exists,” he knows because he's been “informed in visions.” Since Alex was so bent on beating up anyone he lays eyes on, he'll need a “new treatment” the Ludovico technique, scripturally corresponding to, (Mark 9:47) “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.” Cinema­graphic­ally, this was intimated from the very first frame, a lingering closeup of Alex where we see him sporting a false eyelash over his right eye, which he plucks out later when going to bed. The Ludovico technique will involve headgear fixing his head forward and forcing his eyes open to watch violent movies while he experiences a chemically induced nausea. The association is supposed to make violence repellent to him.

There was a glitch. Dr Horowitz has written that, “silent films … come across as kind of flat” (164). The clinic added Beethoven's Fifth Symphony “providing an under­lying psycho­logical flow to the story with­out having to give specific inform­ation about the action or environ­ment. One of the most basic tech­niques is to use a theme song or anthem …. An anthem uses properly composed music to ensure strong emotional association with the visual and narrative aspects of the film” (Horowitz 165). But it's like the song the tramp sung about Molly Malone: “As she wheel'd her wheel barrow, / Thro' streets broad and narrow, / Crying ‘Cockles and mussels alive alive O!’” Ludwig van's music was a favorite of Alex making it further punishment for him to be programmed against it now, ultimately defeating the therapy once he got out. He needed an internal regeneration, not just an external conditioning.

But it also got him some well deserved punishment for the rape he'd committed that one night. The cinema­graphic violence serves the purpose of putting it into perspective with its punish­ment. When rival gang's Billy Boy attempted an “in and out” with a naked girl, she was squirming, bucking and screaming; we could tell she was about to be raped. Alex's ménage à trois with two birds he picked up at the record store was speeded up on film, and the voices were taken out. It looked like a roll in the hay rather than any kind of rape. When Alex confronted the woman in her home, with a knife, she was also about to be raped, but we'd hardly expect her to provoke her armed attacker with resistance. The courts in this “stinking world” where “there's no law and order” give men the benefit of the doubt if an “in and out” doesn't look like a rape. How­ever, the punish­ment in the after­life is sure and thorough, and Alex even experienced some additional after his release from the institution.

The American version of the novel on which this movie was based had left off the last chapter that its Christian author had written to demonstrate Christian forgiveness to the repentant. To the non-repentant there is just punishment, sure in the next life if some­what iffy in this one.

Production Values

“A Clockwork Orange” (1971) was written and directed by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. What was in the book intended to depict Christian forgive­ness, Kubrick turned into social satire. Kubrick, of course, was very visual in his presentation of decor and colors, and not letting up on violent scenes. If you can survive the first third of the movie, you should be okay. The gang members use their own patois, but we can figure out their meaning.

It stars Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, and Michael Bates. McDowell as Alex nails the part, and the rest of them hold up, as well. The muscular manservant Julian in a house where Alex seeks shelter, he was played by David Prowse who was Star Wars' own Darth Vader—except some­body else's voice was dubbed in SW. Here he looks scary even with­out the mask or the “for­bid­ding horns of the ‘Imperial Death March’” (Horowitz 166). The gang colors were white on white with black bowler hats. “A Clockwork Orange” was originally rated X for Sex & Nudity, but after all of twenty seconds were removed, it received an R rating on appeal, this for strong brutal violence including sequences of rape through­out, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug-related material, and some language. Some people may want to skip this one.

Beethoven's music, especially the Ninth Symphony, was featured in the film, but the “Ninth” at times comes across as a strange, distorted synthesizer arrangement. Kubrick's wide-angle shots and expansive long shots depict a futuristic design of his own artistic vision. The set designs were gorgeous to an artsy fartsy fault.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I liked “Clockwork” after having the patience to see what the point of the violence was (to give punishment some perspective.) Not every­body is as tolerant as I, so you'll have to decide for your­self. Definitely not for kids. It was well made, so I'm rating it pretty high, even though it won't be every­body's cup of tea.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture (Mark 9:47) quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Horowitz, Seth S., Ph.D. The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind. New York: Bloomsbury, 2012. Print.