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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Science Fiction > Politics > Philosophy > Fascism > Comedy > A Clockwork Orange 4K (1971/Kubrick/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

A Clockwork Orange 4K (1971/Kubrick/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B- Sound: B- Extras: B Film: A-

To recap what I said about this all time classic many years ago (with some updates,) Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange 4K (1971) is the ever-imitated film of Anthony Burgess' book about freedom of choice, society, sex, violence and how rotten an autocratic future with no individual expression causes new complications for all involved. Malcolm McDowell had already made a name for himself in the ''angry young man'' cycle of British films in the 1960s when he was cast as gang leader Alex, including suggestions (from the screenplay by Kubrick) that he is a leader because he can see beyond what most can as defined by his love of Beethoven. He has free reign in a great situation partly of his creation, but the loose ends start to catch up with him and he becomes subject to his own deadly journey of torture, politics, conformity, fascism and deeper truths many who celebrate film on a shallow level always miss.

Several films of the time (science fiction in particular, but some think that might be limiting; it is not) were dealing with technology (computer, chemical, etc.) and ideologically (societies being gutted out of its arts and wealth to make people easier to manipulate) such as Godard's Alphaville (1965), Truffaut's underrated adaption of Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and the hideously under-seen and brilliant Peter Watkins gem Privilege (1967) which influenced a key scene in Clockwork Orange, which you can read more about at this link:


Of course, this film does take place in a future rendered generic, with a society that has decay in some places (read poverty) and wealth and a future for some (the modernist buildings and homes we see throughout, including sexual images badly substituting for art) and here's Alex in the middle of its ultra-violence and blatant sex still loving Beethoven. Does this give him some kind of special, unintended he when he faces the worst parts of his harrowing journey in the film?

With winks at 2001, possibly Lawrence Of Arabia and the director himself in a free new mode, it is a film that was originally rated X on arrival, banned for violence in some countries, pulled by Kubrick himself when violence was blamed on the film as if it were inspiring copycat behavior and is still one of the most attacked films ever made by far Left & Right types. Energy, pace and irony contribute to its endurance, while the at-the-time otherworldly electronic music that tended to cut down the majesty of several Classical masterworks is now as common and everyday as anything, not speaking well to our society, perhaps. He followed this up with Barry Lyndon, as a brilliant substitute for his Napoleon epic that was lost ins finances after Waterloo with Rod Steiger was released and bombed hugely.

Since I last reviewed the film over a decade ago, its popularity has only increased, many films and TV shows still try imitating it, as well as music videos that usually fall flat (the video for Blur's great hit ''The Universal'' being an extremely rare exception, capturing the look of this film shockingly well) while McDowell's career has continued to endure, continue, even gain steam and continue to have its share of surprises.

Most important, Kubrick asking about free will in the face of easy Fascism and authoritarianism (leftist Stalin-style evil, for example) is now more relevant than ever. When the film arrived in the middle of the counterculture movement that eventually ended Vietnam, led to Watergate, an explosion of Civil Rights and explosion of the arts, some thought it odd he could see everything backsliding. Wow, we he correct, as was Burgess, even if he was not always happy with the film. Clockwork Orange remains a classic because most people have only just begun to grasp it and if they are laughing too much, they are missing the point. In 4K, it will make the film clearer than ever and not just in playback on a Ultra HDTV.

The 2160p HECV/H.265, 1.66 X 1, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image looks like a slightly older HD master, which would explain why we did not get any 12-bit Dolby Vision color, but I thought it was one of the most accurate Kubrick films on 4K, with less errors than 2001 4K and The Shining 4K, but just surpassed by Full Metal Jacket 4K (reviewed elsewhere on this site, we'll catch up to Dr. Strangelove 4K soon) so this is very color consistent, has some good detail and since Kubrick and Director of Photography John Alcott, B.S.C. (the first of three films he would lens for Kubrick) with no filters and using lenses without coating on them.

There are some shots a little softer than they maybe should be and some haloing, but some of it is part of the film. This also has no scratches or debris, but being this is one of the most well-photographed, imitated and celebrated films of all time, plenty of essays will soon surface about how accurate this one is. I have seen it on 35mm several times and think it is solid here in 4K, but the film is so vividly shot, there is more in the original camera negative, so know a few more flaws and limits are here despite this being four-times sharper than regular HD. Then it is a classic, so...

Patrick Magee, Warren Clarke, Adrienne Corri, Michael Bates, Clive Francis, Aubrey Morris, Carl Duering, Godfrey Quigley, Anthony Sharp, Stephen Berkoff, Peter Burton, Craig Hunter, an uncredited George Coulouris and David Prowse round out the supporting cast.

The 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image on the Blu-ray is older and a little softer than I remembered, as this is the same exact Blu-ray hat has been in print for over a decade. It is passable at best, but no match for the 4K by any means.

The film was the first film of any kind to use analog Dolby noise reduction and it was originally a monophonic sound release (Kubrick mad at how badly his 6-track sound on 2001 had been badly played back at too many theaters, he went back to mono starting here) and had the film upgraded to a 5.1 mix a while ago. Both discs here offer that updated soundmaster in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless audio, but you can still tell the sound is often monophonic when it shows its age and is a little too much in the center channel. Still, it is the best this film will ever sound and since the 4K disc is the much newer pressing, the sound is more vivid and palpable than on the old Blu-ray disc.

Extras include the ever-impressive feature-length audio commentary with McDowell and the late, great Film Historian Nick Redman on both discs, while the older Blu-ray adds an Original Theatrical Trailer, the Channel 4 British TV documentary
Still Tickin': The Return Of Clockwork Orange, featurette Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange and a career profile of McDowell called O Lucky Malcolm!

- Nicholas Sheffo


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