I thought I’d probably seen every episode of ‘The Simpsons’ to date, so I pleasantly surprised when I came across a Halloween Special that I’d never watched before. In my opinion the show is the king of parodies and they have put their yellow magic on some of the prominent films featured in the American Film Institute’s top 100 films of all time – from ‘Rear Window’(1954: AFI 1998 #42, 2007 #48) to ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941: AFI 1998 #1, 2007 #1). This time they took their spin on classic horror ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971: 1998 #46, 2007 #70) with the programme’s darkest character Moe befittingly playing disturbed Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick’s terrifying British (but partly funded by an American studio which explains why it is eligible for the AFI list) masterpiece.
For the American Film Institute to consider a movie for their 1998 and 2007 coveted list it has to have significant and lasting cultural impact – ‘A Clockwork Orange’ definitely fits into this category with artists like Kylie Minogue (yup, it doesn’t get more commercial than that), My Chemical Romance and Blur paying homage to the terrifying villain played so well by Malcolm McDowell. The film which is set in a futuristic London centers around lead character Alex and his group of thugs called ‘ Droogs’ who perform violent crimes including rape whilst high on drugs. When his luck runs out and he gets caught for murdering a woman the sociopath is sent to prison where he is a participant of an experiment to cure his bad behaviour. This involves him being subjected to hours of violent footage and images whilst having his eyes clamped open.
‘A Clockwork Orange’ movie trailer from 1971
Unsurprisingly the film was surrounded by controversy when it was released and it’s still pretty shocking by today’s standards – the rape scene is pretty gruesome, only Kubrick can take an innocent and cheery song like ‘Singing in the rain’ that is beloved by millions of people including me and totally change the mood of the song as McDowell eerily sings it whilst torturing his female victims. Apparently Gene Kelly was so disgusted by Alex DeLarge’s rendition of the classic musical number he ignored MacDowell when he approached him at some showbiz event they both attended.
But violence is key to explaining the plot of the movie, without it you will never get a sense of how twisted the lead character is. We are in an age where films are brutal for the thrill or shock factor without adding anything particularly to a piece – take for example ‘American Psycho’(2000). For years my friend told me the film was a masterpiece and it was a must see (although he did use to show me some disturbing violent videos on his computer when I went around to his for tea after school – the film must have been pretty tame by his twisted standards) so this weekend me and my brother, Sati decided to watch it. It was highly entertaining and Christian Bale did a fine job playing disturbed Patrick Bateman but the ending of the movie left us feeling unsatisfied. Did he or did he not really kill those people in the over the top, unrealistic fashion or was it in his imagination? If it was the latter than the gory violence seems pointless and the film appears to be lazy because there are so many things left unexplained – it all seems rather pointless.
Malcolm McDowell speaks on the genius of Stanley Kubrick
With ‘American Psycho’ you begin to question whether the villain is in fact a victim of capitalist society, but in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ the answer more definite especially with Alex’s final words. The movie feels more complete, there are no loose ends and hence the piece has more purpose than a majority of the bloodstained and brutal flicks that have been released in recent years. For the gripping plot and Kubrick’s attempt to answer the ever relevant question ‘can someone be cured of evil?’ I give this movie a 5 out 5.