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August 25, 2010

Midnight Top Five - Why Hasn't That Clockwork Orange Movie Been Mentioned in FMWL's '70s Cult Project?

When FMWL's '70s Cult Project began as a simple discussion on a social networking site, one of the first films that came up when I asked others for the most essential cult films of the 1970s was Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.  I must admit, I'd have never thought to consider this film on my own.  The reason for that, as awful as it is to admit, is because I hadn't ever gotten around to seeing that movie.

You hopefully noticed the past tense in that past statement, because tonight I - finally - resolved that issue.  While I admit that Kubrick just isn't entirely my thing (not to cut on the guy, who had immense talent...I'm just a Hitchcock guy...this heart's not big enough for both of 'em), I was taken by the nightmarish qualities of this one and found myself enthralled for most of the film's second half.  And yet, at the end of the day, I wondered...why aren't we listing this among the cult movies of that decade?  To answer, let's take a look at five factors I've come up with.

(By the way, I have to admit that this is one of those few movies that I've intentionally avoided reading about throughout my career as a film fan.  I wanted to go into it fresh, and I definitely achieved that.  So I apologize if anything I say here is a bit obtuse. I am completely a Clockwork N00B.)
The Director - I don't think I'm breaking new ground when I call Stanley Kubrick one of the most respected, lauded, and loved directors in cinematic history.  And there aren't many who initially connect that with the "cult" film scene.  Like some of the most popular '70s films - Taxi Driver comes to mind - the director's name and long-term reputation has lifted this one out of that conversation.
The Beethoven - I don't know, maybe I'm wrong on this one.  But Kubrick's use of Ludwig Von as a plot point seems to give the film some instant credibility.  Plus there's the Singin' in the Rain bits added in later, too.  To some, the use of such lauded mainstream music could be seen as a subversion, which moves the film more toward a cult audience, and I get that.  But it still reminded me of the "big time" forces behind the movie, particularly the fact that studio giant Warner Bros. was behind this whole thing the whole time.
The Cast - Or perhaps the lack thereof.  While Malcolm McDowell has become a minor cult figure over the decades, A Clockwork Orange has a cast that pales in comparison to many of the cult classics of this decade.  I have to wonder - what if Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, or Peter Cushing were added to this cast?  Would it have more of a cult following?  I think it probably would.  Without any of the beloved B-Movie A-Listers of the era, Kubrick's film again slips into a different conversation.
The Competition - The easiest argument to make in regard to most bloggers disregarding Kubrick's film in this discussion is the one in favor of the films it's competing with it.  This is a near two-and-a-half hour film that's an event to watch, while the '70s are full of 80-100 minute audience pleasers with similar amounts of violence, sleaze, dystopia, and sex.  A Clockwork Orange does play like an essential film, but it doesn't seem like the film a rabid fanbase would pick as their fallback favorite when there are so many other options.
The Reputation - OK, maybe this point is a sum-up of what I've discussed so far.  But the fact remains.  A Clockwork Orange might have been viewed as a cult sensation when it debuted, but its legend has grown exponentially during the past 40 years.  Like Taxi Driver or the unstoppable force known as Star Wars, this is simply a film whose influence and presence in the story of cinema grew too big for the cult label.  While the cult shoe might fit Kubrick's film's plot, the final product is expected to wear something a bit more classy these days.  It's a cinematic rags to riches story.  That's not a bad thing (it's a fantastic film that's worthy of the praise it receives), and I can understand and respect these reasons for fans of genre cinema to slip away from it and into some less known favorites. 

Did I miss your reasons for feeling the same way?  If so, you know where to comment!  Meanwhile, at The Mike Cave, I'm gonna ponder this one further.  Be well, my droogs.


oducerproducer said...

Son of a bitch! This would've been my number five, i totally spaced it, big overlook on my part.

Emily Louise Church said...

Never liked this movie, everyone seems to rave about it and I've watched it twice but to no avail. I don't think I'll be becoming a fan anytime soon...

Liam [Less Than Three Film] said...

I think A Clockwork Orange still fits it's cult labelling, for the controversy surrounding it if nothing else. It was very hard to get hold of in Britian for a period of time due to Kubrick withdrawing it after him and his family received death threats.

Personally, I like the film and I can see why it is now regarded as a classic - but it's lacking a certain charm found within other 70s cult cinema.

Hey! Look Behind You! said...

It's on my list!

I need to hurry up and finish before you out any of my other movies :(

Jeremy [Retro] said...

Greetings HBA Member,
With the recent attention to the Horror Blogger Alliance and updates, I thought would be good to build a database for [over 350] the group.

For More Info:

Please Update Soon... and if you have updated your information, please disregard.

Jeremy [iZombie]
HBA Staff

Michele (TheGirlWhoLovesHorror) said...

I have always loved Clockwork, since a friend introduced me to the book in high school. This also reminds me that I have a Japanese poster for this that I need to frame...

Anyway. Yes, this film is fantastic and the music, message and imagery are absolutely haunting. Political, sure, but not too preachy and the concept leaves much room for discussion.

And this may sound weird, but the frenzied sex scene is one of my favorites. Craziness.

Anonymous said...

I was too wasted on milk to remember to add it to my list ;)
Dreaded Dreams
Petunia Scareum

Enbrethiliel said...


I've never seen this movie, but I studied the novel in uni and have considered it one of my favourites ever since. So please don't hate me for nerding out on you with some backstory on the Beethoven.

When Anthony Burgess was writing the novel, there were some theories floating around that said people could be "made" good or bad by the right conditioning. Apparently, some people thought that all you had to do was play classical music to children all day long, and they'd grow up angelic. Burgess subverts that by making Alex a great appreciator of classical music.

I believe one of the rapes in the novel takes place while Beethoven's Ode to Joy is blasting from the speakers. My professor pointed out that you can actually sing some of the lines as if they were lyrics to the choral part.

One last thing: it was Burgess who showed Kubrick that Ode to Joy and Singin' in the Rain can be played in counterpoint. Cool, aye? =D

And one more tiny thing that's not nerdy, I promise! . . . I had a Japanese friend in uni who wanted to talk about this movie when he learned I was reading the book. When I asked him what drew him to such an odd (i.e. cult) choice, he replied, "I thought it would help me practice my English."

Bwahahahahaha! I nearly died laughing. =P

Nick Cato said...

If you're in the NYC area, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE will screen at the IFC Center @ midnight the weekend of September 10th. See you there!