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"I was cured, all right."
Alex

A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 film by Stanley Kubrick based on a 1962 novella by Anthony Burgess. In a dystopic future where street crime is rampant and youths are uncontrollable, teenage sociopath Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his "droogs" prowl the night spreading terror and destruction wherever they go. By night, they do fun things like gang fights, burglarizing, raping women and brutally beating homeless men. By daybreak, Alex returns home to his vapid parents, who turn a blind eye to his activities, and enjoys his second favorite thing in the world: classical music (he considers Ludwig Van Beethoven's 9th Symphony as his favourite in the movie).

Things are going swimmingly for Alex until his gang begins to chafe under his leadership. Alex is still content with pointless violence, but the gang is starting to grow up and think about making a profit. After a fight for supremacy, he reasserts himself as the leader, but bows to the gang's interest in robbing a wealthy widow's house. Alex takes the lead in the robbery, but the widow discovers him, leading to a fight. As the gang flees, they betray Alex and leave him for the police to apprehend. At the station, the police inform Alex that the widow died of her injuries, making him a murderer. He is quickly sentenced to a lengthy prison term.

In prison, Alex settles into his old habits, pretending to be a model prisoner while plotting his return to violence. When he discovers that the government is planning to test an experimental treatment on a prisoner in exchange for freedom, Alex jumps at the opportunity. The prison chaplain warns him not to volunteer, claiming that no external force can turn a man good, but Alex is only interested in getting free and returning to his murderous ways.

The treatment turns out to be a nightmare. Alex is constantly injected with drugs that make him sick while watching scenes of violence in a theater. His mind soon associates violence with the sickness, causing a Pavlovian response. Particularly abhorrent to him is the classical music on the soundtrack, which he inadvertently relates with the sickness as well. When the procedure is complete, Alex cannot even think about violence, physical or sexual, without suffering from crippling illness, rendering him harmless to society. He also can't listen to his favorite music without intense pain.

Alex's case is controversial. His own prison chaplain argues against the procedure, and other critics agree that removing Alex's capacity for moral choice has not turned him good, but reduced him into a programmable machine. The government, however, is only interested in the bottom line of cutting down crime. They release Alex into the world, still evil to his core, but without the ability to defend himself against all his enemies and former victims. His fate ultimately proves the self-defeating nature of the government's program.


Tropes used in A Clockwork Orange (film) include:
  • Adults Are Useless: Alex's parents.
  • Age Lift: Alex is 15 at the start of the book. In the film, he's played by 27-year-old Malcolm McDowell, though he's supposed to still be of school age.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Mr. Deltoid seems just a tad too enthusiastic to hold Alex in his arms, cradle him on a bed, and grab his genitals, all whilst Alex is in incredibly tight briefs.
  • An Aesop: Human goodness must come from free will; as such it is intrinsically wrong to deny even the vilest of individuals their capacity for moral choice.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: One of the film's taglines.

 Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven.

  • Asshole Victim: The Cat Lady in the first act, and then Alex himself for the rest of the film.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Much of the characters' slang is actually Russian, or at least pseudo-Russian.
  • Black Comedy: Kubrick's film, however, has an overt layer of black comedy, including a number of outright slapstick moments.
  • Blatant Lies: When Alex breaks into the Cat Lady's house in the film, his excuse for being there is that he is taking part in a contest to see which school can sell the most magazines.
  • Blue Eyes: Prominently featured in the opening shot of the film.
  • Book Ends: The film begins with a slow zoom out from Alex's face. Its penultimate shot is a slow zoom in on his face.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The opening shot shows Alex staring directly into the camera. A few scenes later, he whistles to the soundtrack music while walking home.
  • Brown Note: Alex associates his favorite song, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, with the violence of the procedure, so that he gets violently ill whenever he hears it.
  • Collapsed Mid-Speech: Alex falls face-first into his pasta after being slipped a mickey by the writer whose wife he and the Droogs gang-raped in the beginning of the film.
  • Cool Car: the "Durango 95." In the film they use a Probe-16, a real supercar built in 1969.
  • Costume Porn: The "droogs" wear long white underwear, padded briefs, suspenders, and somewhat effeminate makeup, and they wield canes as weapons. (Also see Nice Hat.) A rival gang with whom they brawl has a Nazi/military sartorial theme.
  • Crapsack World
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Well, she's not so much "crazy" as she is ill-tempered and into really kinky art.
  • Creator Backlash: The film was the subject of much media hype linking it to violent crimes. After Stanley Kubrick received death threats, he withdrew the film from screening in the UK, even suing arthouse theatres that tried to show it. The ban was only lifted after Kubrick's death.
  • Dawson Casting: Malcolm McDowell was 27 during filming. Though Alex's age is never given, he's still supposed to be attending school in the beginning of the film. According to the DVD Commentary, Michael Tarn, who played Pete, was the only actor of the four droogs who was still a teenager, being 19 at the time of filming.
  • Driven to Suicide
  • Dystopia
  • Enforced Method Acting: Malcolm McDowell had actually scratched his Cornea during filming, and thus the man with the Eye drops during the Ludovico Technique was an actual medical practitioner. Malcolm McDowell developed a lasting hatred for eye-drops from filming this scene.
  • Eye Scream: During the treatment, Alex attached to an apparatus that holds his eyelids open while being forced to watch the movies. This is actually performed without special effects in the film. The doctor administering eyedrops to actor Malcolm McDowell was a real doctor, yet the ordeal still temporarily blinded him.
  • Fanservice Extra: Alex's fantasies tend to involve beautiful naked women. Then there's the very good-looking woman who's brought out onstage to demonstrate the effect of the Ludovico Treatment on Alex.
  • Fast-Forward Gag: Used in the three-way sex scene.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Our hero, of course.
  • The Film of the Book: An interesting example. Anthony Burgess's novel included a closing chapter in which Alex matures and grows out of his sociopathy. However, the American edition of the novel did not include that chapter, and that version is what Kubrick filmed.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • For the Evulz: A bit of the old ultraviolence.
  • Forced to Watch:
    • The Ludovico Treatment involves forcing Alex to watch films by locking his head in place and holding his eyelids open. This scene is parodied quite a bit.
    • Alex's droogs force Mr. Alexander to watch his wife being raped.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Alex is melancholic, Georgie is choleric, Pete is phlegmatic, and Dim is Sanguine
  • Go Mad From the Revelation: There's a very unsettling low-angle shot of Frank Alexander's face contorting in horror when he realizes who Alex really is. This is no doubt part of his motivation for torturing Alex with Beethoven's Ninth.
  • Grapes of Luxury: In one of Alex's fantasies.
  • Groin Attack
  • Happily Ever Before: An example of the "cut the happier ending" variant. As noted, the book ended with Alex straightening himself out and settling down. The film strongly implies that he'll continue his criminal, sociopathic ways.
  • Heel Face Brainwashing
  • Heel Faith Turn: Subverted. The audience is set up to believe that Alex is experiencing a religious epiphany in prison, only to find that he is actually fantasizing about participating in the battles, tortures and sex described in parts of the Bible.
  • Hide Your Children: The film ages up several of the female rape victims from young girls of ten or twelve years of age up to late teenagers or full grown women.
  • I Kiss Your Foot: To demonstrate just how tamed Alex is.
  • Idiot Ball: In the film, he sings "Singin' in the Rain" in the bath, having sung it during the attack which triggers off an almost Pavlovian response in the writer. He then proceeds to drink the wine that he rightly suspects has been drugged or poisoned, and tells the writer's associates about his weakness for Beethoven's Ninth, which they immediately put to use against him.
  • Kick the Dog: The first act of the film is one sustained kick the dog moment for Alex to contrast with his Woobie status in the third act.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: The last third of the film examines the complex moral footing of Alex's former enemies brutalizing him while he is unable to defend himself due to the Ludovico Treatment. Alex deserves punishment, but is this really justice?
  • Kubrick Stare:
    • This film is one of the trope namers. The opening shot is a close-up of Alex's face, sneering at the camera from beneath his eyebrows while a synthesized funeral march blares in the soundtrack.
    • An interesting inversion appears near the end, with Frank Alexander making a similar facial expression while looking up at the room where Alex is being tortured. This was specifically done to seem reminiscent of portraits of Beethoven.
  • Large Ham: A few minor examples here and there, but the main offender has to be Patrick Magee as the writer, Mr. Alexander -- who seems to have developed a cornucopia of nervous tics after being beaten half to death and watching his wife's rape/murder. Kubrick instructed Magee to exaggerate further and further with every take, to the point that he once leaned over between takes to ask Malcolm McDowell: "I think I'm overdoing it -- is this really what he wants? It feels to me like I'm trying to take a massive shit this whole time!"
  • Lighter and Softer: For all of its reputation for shocking violence, the film is actually lighter than the book. In the book, Alex is even younger and more violently depraved. Most notably, the sex scene in the film was originally between Alex and two 10-year-olds. The film also lightens things up with occasional slapstick humor.
  • Mind Rape: The Ludovico Treatment.
  • Monochrome Casting: Despite the fact that Britain had already become a multiracial society by the 1970s, and that this film is set in the far future, only two black characters are seen: a gang member in the Korova Milk Bar and one of the inmates at the prison.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Alex may be evil incarnate, but haven't you heard? Evil Is Sexy.
  • Nice Hat: Alex and Dim (the Dumb Muscle of the gang) have bowler hats. Georgie (The Dragon) wears a top hat, and Pete sports a beret. In one of the films Alex is forced to watch while in prison, an actor playing a thug and rapist wears a pirate hat.
  • Oireland: The drunken tramp who is beaten by Alex and his gang in the film's first action sequence. The Catholic chaplain at the prison also has an Irish accent.
  • Police Brutality: In the film, Dim and Georgie get jobs as policemen so they can get paid to beat people up.
  • Psychotic Smirk / Slasher Smile: Alex is quite fond of these.
  • Putting on the Reich:
    • The cops at the prison dress vaguely like concentration camp guards, and one particularly sadistic guard, who despises Alex, sports a strikingly Hitler-like moustache.
    • The biker gang who rape the girl in the theater also favor Nazi paraphernalia.
  • The Red Stapler: Sales of Beethoven's 9th Symphony went up after the film. In another version of the trope, a gang sang "Singin' in the Rain" during a rape, arguably as a result of the film's influence. Apparently, it also inspired a murder known as "The Clockwork Orange Murder", where a boy killed his best friend in his backyard.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Alex has a pet snake, Basil. Of course a monster like Alex would not own something cute and cuddly. It's subverted when Alex returns home and is sympathetically upset to learn that his parents have killed Basil. Kubrick supposedly included the snake because McDowell was afraid of them, and when filming the scene where Alex takes Basil out of the drawer for some fresh air, Basil had somehow escaped, causing everyone to freak out.
  • Restraining Bolt: The Ludovico treatment.
  • Shout-Out: Kubrick references a few of his own movies:
    • At the music shop where Alex meets the two girls who who he later takes home, a poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey can be seen hanging from the table.
    • One of the vials used to store the chemicals to help condition Alex is labeled with a command code from Dr. Strangelove.
  • The Sociopath: Alex might be the best example ever committed to film.
  • Something Else Also Rises: The popsicles being sucked by the two girls at the record store. Actually, this film is filled with examples of penis imagery that are in no way subtle.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Alex inadvertently reveals himself when he sings "Singin in The Rain" (which he also did during the rape scene) whilst taking a bath.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Whenever Rossini's "Thieving Magpie" overture starts up on the soundtrack, you know some ultra-violence is coming. Also, the film's most infamous scene features the gang torturing a couple while Alex performs "Singin' in the Rain" While filming the scene, Kubrick decided on a whim to have Alex sing a song, and Malcolm McDowell chose the song simply because he knew all the lyrics.
  • Technology Marches On: Alex scams his way into the cat lady's house by telling her there was a car accident and he needs to use the phone.
  • Three-Way Sex: Played at high speed, to the tune of Rossini's "William Tell Overture".
  • Throw It In: "Singin' in the Rain" was apparently the only song to which McDowell knew all the words, so Kubrick put it in the scene and got the rights to it.
  • Vapor Wear: Unlike most of the other women in the film, Mr. Alexander's wife does not wear underwear. Tragically, this only makes it easier for Alex to rape her.
  • Verbal Tic: Mr. Deltoid, yes?
  • Villain Protagonist: Big time.
  • Villainous Rescue: The Droogs come across a rival gang about to rape a woman in an abandoned theater. They intervene just in time, so that they can fight. The woman escapes in the ensuing chaos, but only because the gangs were focused on each other. The Droogs were obviously motivated not by virtue, but by the opportunity to deny the rivals their pleasure and fight them as well.
  • The Voiceless: Pete has no real lines and is basically just a passive observer during the intra-gang dispute.
  • Wicked Cultured: The droogs travel throughout the city in what appears to be Victorian-era men's underwear, and they carry canes. In addition, Alex enjoys classical music and is known to employ gratuitously highbrow words in his vocabulary.
  • You Are Number Six: Alex is addressed by his number in prison: Six Double-Five Three Two One. This is a slight modification of his number from the book.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Outlandish hair colors are fairly common in this verse.
  • Zeerust: It kind of looks like the future, and it kind of looks like a really freaky 1970s.

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