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Behind The Scenes Of A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange continues to shock audiences half a century after its release with it's graphic violence and controversial themes that led to it being banned in numerous countries, only amplifying its notoriety.

Anthony Burgess sold the film rights to his novel for $500 (approximately $5,000 today) shortly after its 1962 publication. Initially, the film was slated to feature The Rolling Stones, with Mick Jagger eager to play the lead role of Alex DeLarge, and British filmmaker Ken Russell attached to direct. However, due to issues with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), this version never materialised, and the rights eventually passed to Kubrick.

Malcolm McDowell was cast as Alex after Kubrick saw his performance in if.... (1968). When McDowell asked why he was chosen, Kubrick simply replied, "You can exude intelligence on the screen." McDowell also influenced the iconic costume of Alex's gang, suggesting the cricket whites he owned. Kubrick added the distinctive touch of placing the jockstrap on the outside.

The filming process was rigorous and demanding. During the infamous Ludovico Technique scene, McDowell scratched a cornea and experienced temporary blindness. The scene required a real physician on set to apply saline drops to prevent his eyes from drying out. McDowell also cracked some ribs during the filming of the humiliation stage show. In another notable scene, where Alex attempts suicide by jumping out of a window, Kubrick used a unique special effect by dropping a Newman-Sinclair clockwork camera, lens-first, from the third storey of the Corus Hotel. Remarkably, the camera survived six takes.

Kubrick's meticulous nature was evident throughout the production. He conducted exhaustive research, taking thousands of photographs of potential locations and demanding numerous retakes for each scene. McDowell remarked, "If Kubrick hadn’t been a film director, he’d have been a General Chief of Staff of the US Forces. No matter what it is—even if it’s a question of buying a shampoo—it goes through him. He just likes total control." Filming took place between September 1970 and April 1971, with Kubrick employing extreme wide-angle lenses, such as the Kinoptik Tegea 9.8 mm for 35 mm Arriflex cameras, to create the film’s distinctive, dream-like quality.

A Clockwork Orange was a box-office triumph, grossing $41 million in the United States and about $73 million overseas, for a worldwide total of $114 million on a modest $1.3 million budget. The film was also a success in the United Kingdom, running for over a year at the Warner West End in London. By the end of its second year, the film had earned Warner Bros. rentals of $2.5 million in the UK and ranked as the number three film of 1973, behind Live and Let Die and The Godfather.

Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange remains a landmark in cinematic history, its influence and impact undiminished over the decades. The film's ability to provoke and disturb ensures its place as a perennial subject of discussion and analysis.



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