My original review from 1998
No film has ever, or will ever touch me like
ACO did. There is nothing more eye opening then to learn that you were
influenced by something that you didn't even know existed. Upon first seeing the
film, it was like I already had seen it. I had always seen it. I knew what was
happen. I had been there already.
I think that everyone who grows up feeling unloved and misunderstood could turn into Alex. I know because I was Alex. I was leading a group and leading myself into self-destruction. I lived only for those times when we would get together and wreak havoc. We thought we were so original when we went out in disguise with masks and costumes. How blown away I was when they had done it in the film over 17 years earlier! And by all those ultra-violent actions from the
beginning of the film
At first I watched it with an evil smirk. I loved the film for all the wrong reasons. Even though I wasn't influenced by the violence, I embraced it. There was someone doing what I had done and with STYLE! Someone to look up to.
Then as things began to go wrong, as they always to when your path is of evil or illegal activities, my eyes opened a bit. Here I was, the leader and like Alex, I was in the middle of the fighting since I had brought everyone together. They turned on me the same way Dim and Georgie did. So there I was, my best friends now my worst enemies. Everything I thought I knew was a lie.
So right away I knew Malcolm McDowell's performance was nothing short of godlike. I couldn't believe he didn't grow up the way I did. For someone to play Alex in the perfect manner, they must be the greatest actor in history. This one performance changed my life completely. I eagerly hunted down everything to do with him. The same would hold true for the director Stanley Kubrick. Of course nothing else either man ever did before or after could hold up to ACO.
It's weird to think of ACO as the future even though it was made so long ago. Was I the future they were predicting? That's what it felt like. I vowed never to spend my life in jail. I turned away from the dark and destructive side.
It is also hard to believe that only three sets were built for the film. So that means it was almost all real places. Another reason why it was so real. If it was all made on sets it would have lost the extreme hold it has on reality.
If there's one thing that brings the film to another level, it is the soundtrack. The music does more than just provide background. It is in the foreground, it gives all the scenes a powerful new meaning. Who can ever hear the 'William Tell Overture' again and not think of the menage-a-trois scene? Or 'The Thieving Magpie' and not picture the fight at the derelict casino and the Durango 95? Or the 'Glorious 9th' and the fantasy sequence or the end sequence? The music has become entwined with the film. Every time I hear the 9th, it is impossible for me not to think about the film, the first time I watched it and every time after that.
Kubrick had moderate success with the music of '2001' and in ACO he made his masterpiece. No other film has achieved the amazing results that ACO's film score did The supporting actors, all except Michael Tarn, turned in brilliant performances as well. James Marcus and Warren Clarke were perfect as Georgie and Dim. Aubrey Morris turned in an unforgettable performance as P.R. Deltoid. He makes saying yesssss an art form. I never fail to get laughs from his role. The late Michael Bates as the Chief Guard who shouts everything was classic. With lines like, "Shut your
bleeding hole!!!" at 100db he gets some of the biggest laughs of the film. And who could ever forget the writer turned psychopath, Patrick McGee as Mr. Alexander? His acting is even more incredible when you've seen him playing in straight in films like "Dementia 13". The crazed look he has when he realizes who Alex really is, is priceless. One of the most unforgettable looks in cinema history. It is an absolute joy to watch him at the table when Alex is eating. A man passed the brink of madness who turns simple lines like, "Try the wine" into classics. It also fun to think of Julian, his bodyguard, as Darth Vader, the role he would play for many years afterwards. Even Miriam Karlin is great as Miss Weathers AKA the Catlady. She has some great lines like, "I'll teach you to break into real people's houses." And who could miss the irony of her attacking Alex with a bust of Beethoven?
And of course who could forget all of Malcolm's brilliant scenes. Once you watch the "Singin' in the Rain" scene you will never forget it. Even his simple narration is mesmerizing. It's hard to believe that his dialogue in the beginning is so slow. Calm, cool, confident. Like he has all the time in the world. Smooth and lovely. He makes nearly every line in the film a classic from, "There was me, that is Alex" to "I was cured all right." How could anyone be so good?
Plus to think of the tortures of the damned he endured making the film. The multiple takes, including almost a week on the rape scene. Almost losing his sight from blowing out a cornea in the Ludovico scene. Getting his ribs stomped so hard that the cracked when he was on stage with
Lardface, to almost drowning when the breathing apparatus didn't work in the water trough. Maybe all this pain brought him to a new level.
The ending was perfect for many reasons. His parents coming back after treating him like dirt and he tells them off, his aversion to the 9th was gone and how he was ready to go back to the way it was. Because after you go through all those thinks you feel like you can do anything, so why not return to those evil ways? Eventually you will grow tired of them, but familiarity is comforting. The only film that is perfect in every way and has stood up for over 25 years.
Here is a review I wrote in 1997 about my 1991 experience.
People who have never seen ACO in the theater always
ask me what the experience is like. Under normal circumstances I would say,
"It doesn't matter where you see a film, at home in the movies on a
wall...if it's a great film, it will always be a great film."So far ACO is my one exception to that rule.
Like everyone else I had seen ACO
on video first time. I did see it on HBO in 1982, but had no idea what was going
on so that doesn't really count. I always remembered visions of Mr. Alexander
with the ball in his mouth, except then I thought he was throwing up. And the
weird march of the wooden soldiers music playing and they moved liked there were
mechanical when they beat him. In 1990 I saw the whole movie on video for
the first time and couldn't figure out where those musical visions came from. A
year later they showed it at what passed for a local art house in my home town.
They showed one film a week and it was a horrorshow experience.
I had a great time watching old 3D films like "It came from Outer Space" and "Creature from the Black Lagoon." Also classics like "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" played there. Every time I went I slipped a note about ACO in the suggestion box. Soon after my efforts paid off and ACO was announced. Bliss and heaven thought I. I was prepared to just watch and quote the movie like I would at home. I wore my bowler, my ACO T-shirt and brought my cane and sat
in the middle of the front row. As soon as the music started I knew that it was going to be different. It was very loud, at a much different level than a video taped copy. I had a smile on my face the whole time, it was incredible. Even though this theater only held 75, it was the big screen to me. It was far from sold out, maybe 30% full, but I didn't care. It seemed to move it slow motion at time with the dialogue, but the 137 minutes flew right by. The main thing I noticed were things you couldn't see at home too well. The newspapers that Alex appeared on were very clear and you could read the words, even the smaller ones. The sign on the back of the police truck (Divert) was clearly visible, the teeth in the glass Deltoid drinks from were extremely obvious, the sounds of the storm when he was at Home the second time were very loud, the shots of the Durango pulling up to Home were clear, dialogue in the background was easier to hear.
The sounds accompanying Alex being tolchocked by Georgie were downright painful. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. Do not pass up a change if you ever get one to see it in the theater.
This was written before an ACO DVD was a reality
Scan of the Ticket Stub and Flyer
Seven years after 1st seeing ACO in the theater I
posted information about the WB 75th Anniversary Festival of Classics featuring
ACO. Like any fan I was excited about seeing ACO on the big, big screen, but for
another reason. The WB brochure contained the magic words, "an
unforgettable array of classic films in brand-new prints". What did this
mean? Lost scenes? Cut footage? THX restored like the Star Wars Special
Editions? The possibilities were promising indeed. The worst part was the three
month wait for it to come to my area.
I got in touch with the theater the week before and they assured me that it would be big and it would sell out so I had better get tickets ASAP. Well, I had no way to get there so I called them up three hours before show time and they had 400 tickets left, so I had no worry that I would get in. Regardless I got there an hour earlier just in case. But before I left I got completely decked out in full Alex regalia. From my gulliver to me sabogs including the bowler hat, eyelashes, sword-cane, white outfit with bloody eyes on the cufflinks, suspenders and codpiece with sellotape and rubber balls inside, and black paratrooper boots. I was in the height of ACO fashion! I wondered how into it others would be and was shocked to see no one else had dressed up, not even an ACO T-shirt to be seen. It must have made a helluva sight to see Alex pumping gas that night.
The theater was very non descript. If you didn't know ACO was going to be there, you would have had no idea. The letters on the marquee read WB Film Fest, nothing else, no posters, nothing. We got there and they wouldn't let us buy tickets so we had to hang out. Suddenly people just started appearing, mostly the college crowd. Before I knew it there were more than 50 people hanging out waiting to get it. It was fun because many wanted to know about the costume I had made and where I got it, like you could buy something like that in a party store!? Even the inside lobby wasn't made really made up, it was like it was a secret or something. Finally after midnight they made an announcement thanking us for the turnout and that because of it they would to more things like this and that there was still a line and the film would start in another ten minutes. It didn't start until 12:20, before the night was over I would have stayed up for over 22 straight hours.
The music started, soon followed by the familiar red screen. I knew I had been ripped off immediately because of the popping and hairs in the film. There was no way in HELL that this was a new print, I was very disappointed to know I would be seeing nothing new, but was prepared to make the best of it. When the second title card came up "A Stanley Kubrick production" the crowd broke into a thunderous applause, maybe it would turn out to be a good night after all.
The screen was four times bigger than the last time I had seen it so that was another plus. Once again I sat front row center to get the full effect. The sound certainly did not disappoint, it was even louder than before due to the superior sound system. Now I have always maintained that this was a comedy, no matter what the video stores would have you to believe by filing it under Sci-fi or drama. The comedy was very apparent this time, highlighted by the fact that many in the crowd had never seen the film before. Deltoid, the Chief Guard and post-rape Mr. Alexander were definite crowd pleasers with their over the top performances. When the Chief Guard screams classic lines like "Shut your bleeding hole!!!" It is so unbelievably loud that it is completely hilarious. Deltoid was funnier than ever, the way he extends those yes's cracked all of us up. "No time, no time yeeesss?"
In the Kubrick book by Baxter they alluded to Deltoid being a homosexual. Now I NEVER, EVER had thought in my life, but after watching it again, I'm starting to lean in that direction. It seemed very noticeable when he pulls Alex back onto the bed which culminates in grabbing his yarbles. I mean why would a grown man show up at a students house that early in the day? Do you really think he paid that much attention to every single bad student in a society obviously gone rampant?
The part of the crowd that wasn't asleep was having a great time until about 2:20 when Alex was about to snuff it. That's when the film broke. After 5 minutes the lights when up and the announcement came, "The film broke, it's a very old print and it's pretty bad. There's no way to fix it. You can get a free pass for another show. We're sorry." What a horrible ending with barely 10 minutes to go. The people who were really upset were the ones one hadn't seen the movie before! One lady even stopped me outside to ask me how it all turned out, since she hadn't seen it before and had only read the novel...
This page © 1997-2010 by Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net