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May 17, 2024

A Gallery of 50 Amazing Behind the Scenes Photographs From the Making of “A Clockwork Orange” (1971)

Hailed as one of the greatest movies ever made while also standing out as one of the most controversially violent movies ever made, Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange still has the ability to shock half a century after it hit theaters (in a select few countries, as it was banned in a lot of places).

Anthony Burgess sold the film rights of his novel for $500 (equivalent to $5,000 in toay), shortly after its publication in 1962. Originally, the film was projected to star the rock band The Rolling Stones, with the band’s lead singer Mick Jagger expressing interest in playing the lead role of Alex, and British filmmaker Ken Russell attached to direct. However, this never came to fruition due to problems with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), and the rights ultimately fell to Kubrick.

McDowell was chosen for the role of Alex after Kubrick saw him in the film if.... (1968). When asking why he was picked for the role, Kubrick told him: “You can exude intelligence on the screen.” He also helped Kubrick on the uniform of Alex’s gang, when he showed Kubrick the cricket whites he had. Kubrick asked him to put the box (jockstrap) not under but on top of the costume.

During the filming of the Ludovico technique scene, McDowell scratched a cornea and was temporarily blinded. The doctor standing next to him in the scene, dropping saline solution into Alex’s forced-open eyes, was a real physician present to prevent the actor’s eyes from drying. McDowell also cracked some ribs filming the humiliation stage show. A unique special effect technique was used when Alex jumps out of the window in a suicide attempt, showing the camera approaching the ground from Alex’s point of view. This effect was achieved by dropping a Newman-Sinclair clockwork camera in a box, lens-first, from the third storey of the Corus Hotel. To Kubrick’s surprise, the camera survived six takes.

Kubrick was a perfectionist who researched meticulously, with thousands of photographs taken of potential locations, and many scene takes. He was so meticulous that McDowell stated: “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'’ a question of buying a shampoo it goes through him. He just likes total control.” Filming took place between September 1970 and April 1971. Technically, to achieve and convey the fantastic, dream-like quality of the story, he filmed with extreme wide-angle lenses such as the Kinoptik Tegea 9.8 mm for 35 mm Arriflex cameras.

A Clockwork Orange was a box-office success, grossing $41 million in the United States and about $73 million overseas for a worldwide total of $114 million on a budget of $1.3 million. The film was also successful in the United Kingdom, playing for over a year at the Warner West End in London. After two years of release, the film had earned Warner Bros. rentals of $2.5 million in the United Kingdom and was the number three film for 1973 behind Live and Let Die and The Godfather.


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