Onscreen Insanity: A Clockwork Orange

Nathan Chandler

Who directed "A Clockwork Orange"?

Stanley Kubrick was no stranger to dark material. He directed the ominous action in "Clockwork," as well as "The Shining," and "Dr. Strangelove."

What's the main character's name?

The movie's primary character is named Alex. As the movie begins, we see that Alex is a crazed thug who has very little regard for other human beings.

What actor portrayed Alex?

McDowell was nominated for a Golden Globe for his work in the film.

What sort of pet does Alex have?

Alex is an unsavory, cold-blooded character. So perhaps it's no surprise that he keeps a snake as a pet.

"A Clockwork Orange" is based on what?

The movie is based on the novel written by Anthony Burgess. The author wrote numerous other books, but "Clockwork" was by far his most popular, in large part thanks to the movie's success.

In what year was "A Clockwork Orange" released in the United States?

The movie was released in 1972. The novel that inspired it was published about a decade earlier, in 1962.

What are "droogs"?

In the movie, Alex is the leader of a band of droogs, a gang that wanders the city in search of mayhem.

Alex and his droogs like to take drugs suspended in what liquid?

Alex and his fellow thugs chug drug-laced milk. The drugs heighten the pleasure that they derive from their horrific crimes.

Alex and his gang are fond of what?

Alex and his gang often hit the streets in anticipation of what they call "ultraviolence." They physically hurt other people just for the fun of it.

Before its release in the United States, what rating did the film receive?

The movie received an X rating due to its over-the-top sexual content. Kubrick replaced some scenes the following year so that the movie would earn an R rating upon re-release.

How much footage did Kubrick have to trim from the film to move the film from an X rating to an R rating?

Kubrick removed about half a minute of footage to satisfy the film rating board. The censored content was all sexual in nature.

During one famous assault scene, Alex sings which uplifiting song?

At one point in the film, Alex brutally assaults a woman while singing Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain." The contrast between the on-screen action and the song creates a truly surreal and disturbing scene.

What is the "Ludovico technique"?

The authorities arrest Alex for murder and force him to undergo the Ludovico technique, a type of aversion therapy that's meant to stop his criminal behavior. Then he is released back into society.

What happened to McDowell during the scene where he is subjected to the Ludovico technique?

The Ludovico technique required the use of an antique eyelid lock that forced McDowell's eyes open. The device cut into one of his corneas and cut shooting short for the day.

As they subject Alex to the Ludovico technique, what sort of music do the authorities play?

The authorities condition Alex to have negative responses to his favorite music, which happens to be classical. He's particularly fond of Beethoven.

Who played the part of Mrs. Mary Alexander?

Adrienne Corri, a Scottish-Italian actress, landed the role as Alex's much-abused wife. It was one of the smaller parts of her career, but it’s the one that made her famous.

How many Academy Award nominations did the film receive?

In spite of its controversial content, "Clockwork" was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Despite four nominations, "A Clockwork Orange" won no Academy Awards. What film won the award for Best Picture in 1972?

"The French Connection" beat out "A Clockwork Orange," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Nicholas and Alexandra," and "The Last Picture Show."

How did McDowell feel about Kubrick being hired to direct the film?

McDowell had no clue who Kubrick was before filming started. Good thing the two got along -- Kubrick loved the actor's work and probably would have ditched the project if McDowell had opted out of the film.

Most of the film was shot in and around what city?

Due to the limited budget, Kubrick was looking to save as much money as possible. So the film crew used many locations in and around London.

In one memorable scene, Alex jumps from a building in an attempt to commit suicide. How did Kubrick manage the scene's dizzying camera angles?

To truly capture the sensation of Alex's free fall, Kubrick threw a camera from the building, fully expecting the camera to break. Instead, the camera survived and the film crew created several takes.

In the book, how old is Alex?

The book indicates that Alex is 15. Given his heinous actions, for the film, he's made to be an older teenager so as to avoid controversy. In real life, Malcolm McDowell was 27.

How did the final screenplay compare to the original novel?

Kubrick fell in love with the book and used it as the foundation for the screenplay. Some of the film crew simply carried the novel as a reference point during shooting.

During post-production, McDowell spent weeks performing voiceover work for the film. How did he pass his idle time?

McDowell often went stir-crazy during the long hours of voiceover work. He took frequent breaks to play ping pong.

How much money did the film earn at the box office?

Stanley Kubrick didn't have a lot of money to work with here -- the budget was only about $2 million. The film earned more than $25 million at North American box offices alone.

The film was banned in Britain for its unacceptable levels of violence and sex.

One widespread rumor is that English authorities banned the film, but this actually never happened. The film's negative press took a toll on the director, who saw the movie as art.

How much money did author Anthony Burgess make from the film adaption of his book?

The contract stipulated that Burgess would receive $500 for rights to make the film. Fortunately for him, the movie helped spark many more sales of his famous novel.

How did Kubrick discover the novel in the first place?

Kubrick had a copy of the book but didn't read it. His wife, however, did read the book and her enthusiasm for the story was infectious.

Compared to the book, how does the movie end?

At the end of the book, it seems as though maybe there's hope for Alex to turn around his life. In the movie, the final chapter is omitted and it looks like Alex will always be a mean-spirited sociopath.

How did Kubrick feel about the film when it was finally completed and in theaters?

Kubrick was a perfectionist by nature and had a hard time pleasing his inner editor. But when it came to "Clockwork," he was satisfied. He said he could find no real flaws in the film.

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About This Quiz

When the droogs come knocking, you'd better be gone. In "A Clockwork Orange," the world is a terrifying place that's filled with random violence and oppressive authoritarian rule. The film explores human nature and our attempts to reshape notions of free will to fit a supposedly better purpose. How much do you know about this disturbing classic?

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