Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

A Clockwork Orange


These days, just about everybody makes “science fiction” movies, if you want to call total crap like Transformers and The Green Lantern science fiction. But there are a few who specialize in it, and some of them are pretty good. Ridley Scott and James Cameron come to mind. But before Scott and Cameron there was Kubrick, and he revolutionized several of the most important sub-genres of SF. Before 2001 there had never been a real space travel movie … and for that matter, there still are almost none. He made the best movie about nuclear holocaust. He made (not entirely successfully) a movie about psychic powers. And he took the genre of dystopian futures and made what is still one of the best ones, even in the age of The Matrix, District 13, Minority Report, The Hunger Games, and Children of Men. (I’m not the only one who thinks so. Look at this list, which I think is a pretty good one: 50 Dystopian Movies of All Time.)

Seldom had a film looked so stunningly good, so totally original. There are no spaceships or hovercars or robots. Just a modern city that seems to be falling into ruin, like many places you can see today, 40 years later. Alex’s parents’ tiny, awful little apartment with its clashing colors and his Mum dressed like a teenager. The abandoned casino where the most awesome, choreographed (to The Thieving Magpie) fight scene ever filmed up to that time takes place. Beethoven on the Moog synthesizer. Remember, electronic music was very new and very strange at the time. Scenes of pure genius, like the brutal rape by the droogs while Malcolm McDowell croons “Singin’ in the Rain.” (He claims Kubrick asked him to sing, and that was the only song he knew.) Like the awful image of Alex strapped down with his eyes held open by metal pins, or him licking a boot. Like the fight with the cat woman, surrounded by hypersexual paintings, he armed with a giant plastic penis, she with a bust of his beloved Ludwig Van. Like the insane Korova Milk Bar, where they tune up for a night of ultraviolence drinking milk laced with drugs. And most of all, the costumes they fight in, with the padded crotches, derby hats, and eyeball cufflinks. (Sadly, some idiots took to wearing this stuff while beating people up, even singing, to the point that Kubrick wouldn’t let it be shown in the UK while he was alive.) Maybe most amazing of all, the use of Nadsat, the dialect Anthony Burgess invented for the book, a combination of twisted Russian and various other sources. You can have a glossary at the end of a book, and Burgess did. Not so in a movie. You have to figure it out for yourself, and he made it work wonderfully.