A Clockwork Orange in 4k – Ultra High Def is Viddy Well

Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 follow-up to his legendary space picture 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY has always been a curiosity to me, in that the master auteur goes from the most influential sci-fi movie ever made to a much smaller picture that rests in the small but powerful catalogue of Kubrick’s work. It’s one that I feel like I appreciate more than love. Based on Anthony Burgess novel, it focuses on a not-to-distant future starring Malcolm McDowell as Alex, the leader of a group of thugs who terrorize everyone around them while enjoying some drugged up milk in-between sessions. He also likes his Mozart and singing Gene Kelly tunes. When finally caught and put under, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE becomes really interesting when Alex is “reformed” by way of a controversial brainwashing technique that believes it will cure his evil ways, but it takes on another life of its own. 

One aspect that I have reacted to differently over the years is Alex’s treatment of “curing” his violent ways. Kubrick always intended this all to be satire by pushing the performances of many of the people around Alex over the edge, all the way to Patrick Magee intentionally over-acting to Alex when he is pulling a fast one on him, or the “British Way” of police reform in the prison sequences. 

If I had to rank Kubrick’s outstanding filmography A CLOCKWORK ORANGE would be at the bottom of it. It’s the one that I have “loved” the least, which I know makes no sense, however it is one that has its brilliance even though it’s very difficult to watch at times. The level of violence, both physical and sexual, was so difficult for audiences to watch at the time and that along with a lot of the awkward dialogue and performances DO tend to miss at times for me. There’s also just an overall ugly look and feel to a lot of it, and its VERY talky at times, letting some sequences drag on to push its 137 minute runtime. 

Still, I can’t deny the effect the movie has had on our culture and it’s still one that I rewatch every couple of years just to appreciate one of Kubrick’s strangest pictures. He only made four movies after this until his death in 1999 but they all emulated A CLOCKWORK ORANGE’S center-weighted, wide-angle look and feel. 

About the 4k release: 

One of the most fascinating things about this 4k release is not only getting to see a full restoration but also how this UHD release really does “expose” the movie’s original photography and intended look and it’s a visual design that might put off some viewers. Kubrick has always been known to take years to make his movies and obsessing over the look and design, yet A CLOCKWORK ORANGE was his speediest project, going from photography to release in a little over a year. He made this on a very low budget and designed the exterior settings to be cold and distant but the interiors colourful and futuristic (for the time). It’s a truly bizarre design. 

A lot of the movie is shot with wide and ultra wide angle lenses, and there’s also a lot of diffusion around the edges of the frame, all of which is intentional. This 4k transfer showcases the 35mm Arriflex photography incredibly well, despite all my comments on its look and feel. I have seen this movie on many home video formats over the years, and this one I think is the closest we will get to an original 35mm print. The aspect ratio is also locked at 1.66 instead of 1.78 in earlier transfers, even though this was framed at 1.85 for North American cinemas. This is a great decision as the taller composition really suits the material. 

The soundtrack is an interesting one. While you have a remastered DTS Master audio track in 5.1, I opted to play the mono track as with the picture, I like the sound all locked in and coming from one direction. It’s a perfectly suitable soundtrack for the storyline. I did sample some of the 5.1 DTS-Master Audio track and it’s only the music that stands out a bit and nothing else 

The bonus features here are all ported from one of the previous Blu Ray releases and aside from a Malcolm McDowell commentary track on both discs, the documentaries and trailer can all be found on the Blu Ray disc. The digital copy provided here redeems to Google Play in Canada and DOES upgrade to 4k on my Chromecast, despite the packaging saying otherwise.

If you are a Kubrick aficionado like me, this is an easy addition to your collection and even though I have always had problems with A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, this is a movie with such historical significance that it needs to be in my collection either way. Viddy well! 

Jason Whyte | Get Reel Movies

Over the next few weeks we will post reviews of more Kubrick 4k discs including SPARTACUS, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, DR. STRANGELOVE and FULL METAL JACKET. Many thanks to Warner PR for sending along a copy for review. 

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