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Interviewees
| Notes | Pictures | My Summary | My Review

Interviewees

Interviewee Profession
Tony Parsons Host
Bill Buford Author
Alexander Walker Film Critic
Wilf Stevenson Director, British Film Institute
Miriam Karlin Actor - Catlady
Steven Berkoff Actor - CID Man

Notes

Pictures

Tony Parsons in Korova
Bill Buford

Alexander Walker

Wilf Stevenson

Miriam Karlin

Steven Berkoff

21st Chapter - reading the paper

21st Chapter - wind up toy

My Summary

    The special opens with an armadillo in a pipe and the words Without Walls above him. Then the show starts just like A Clockwork Orange except in this case is it their own version of the Korova. Tony Parsons is dressed like Alex, holding a glass of milk as he describes what the show is about in a Nadsat fashion. Because the film celebrates how it feels good to be bad and has been banned for 20 years it is still a name which causes fear. Then his head morphs into an orange and the title appears.
    Tony is shown taking a subway to Paris so he can see the film. On the way he is reading the novel and saying how the film is an arthouse classic all across Europe. It is shown every day in Paris, but it is a criminal offense to show it in the UK. The film ran in London for 61 straight weeks, then was pulled and never shown again. Tony has to wait in line at the theater to get in where the film is shown in English with French subtitles.
    He explains how Britain and ACO have a special link. The film touched the youth in a way nothing else had. He describes the invention of Nadsat - the cross of English and Russian words that makes the language of the film unique. He says how much is made of the violence in the first 15 minutes and that is what the film is identified with most.
    A clip of the film is shown, the first time it was ever shown on British TV, and surprisingly it is the fight at the derelict casino complete with the nude girl. Bill Buford explains how people don't want to believe that violence can be a pleasurable experience the same way extremes can be like pornography or even religion. He says not only does the film show that - it celebrates it.
    Alexander Walker says the film is about how good it feels to be bad and there is no denying it. He explains it comes from Malcolm McDowell and the use of Nadsat. The dialog is timeless and almost Shakespearean.
    Tony explains how the novel was conceived in violence and relates the story how Anthony Burgess' first wife was attacked by American Army deserters in WWII. He says Burgess felt sickness at his excitement of writing down the rape scene and that the novelist must be filthy with the filthy. The clip of Alex driving the Durango and going to Home. He says the ambivalence toward violence is the danger of the film - that it might lead people to believe rape and violence is fun. Alexander Walker says that the home invasion is like an American musical with Malcolm doing the "Singin' in the Rain" bit. The horrifying soft shoe dance has made it as musical as "West Side Story." Then the clip is shown.
    Wilf Stevenson says that the people shown in the film are real, are part of society and they need to be shown. How far they go in showing it is a matter of opinion. Miriam Karlin says, "One always finds rape is...the most horrendous, horrendous absolutely the most monstrous thing you can contemplate. I think actually it was handled in the film rather well. In fact, I think it wasn't the amount of gratuitous violence, but people imagined there was. It was all in their own heads. I remember my own scene in which I was fighting for my life and all I had to defend myself was my little statue of Beethoven. He is using my piece, the phallus, and you didn't actually see my death. You just saw my open mouth as he was just about to finish me off." Then they show the clip.
    Bill Buford talks about how real violence looks compared to the film and how the film isn't realistic, but instead is stylized. It isn't pretty like in the film. It is orchestrated and goes to the music. Then the clip of the Korova singer is played. Tony asks is Alex's love of music proof of his class or used as as soundtrack to the violence? He is now in his Korova sophistos tuxedo and talks about the real life violence inspired by the film. A woman beat up to "Singin' the Rain", a tramp assaulted by 16 year olds obsessed by the film. These acts couldn't be chalked up to the tabloids. But would they have been caused without the influence of the film? Wilf Stevenson says it was manipulated by the press at the time, something to pass the blame on to. There was far more violence in other countries and societies, but no one else except for Britain reacted that way.
    Steven Berkoff says, "Art is the greatest possible propaganda influence. So when people say, 'Oh, no it can't have any influence.' You have to be barmy to say advertising has no influence because I've seen people see a great movie about being boxers and heir kids want to box. You see Wimbleton then kids want to play tennis. Of course any kind of stimulus like that is seductive to young people."
    Tony says that while Kubrick has remained silent about the films' violence, Burgess has not. He quotes, "Neither cinema or literature can be blamed for crimes committed in it's name. If literature is to be held responsible for mayhem and murder then the most damnable book of all is the Bible." Then the clip of Alex's Bible fantasy is shown and that Alex's ability to choose to beat Jesus instead of helping him is the heart of the story.  Steven Berkoff says, "The idea of him being like a Roman Centurion is just part of the fun. What Alex sets out to do is to be purely an anarchist and that is all he is. He ridicules and rejects the society in which he is part of."
    Tony says in Britain the film is more than an arthouse classic because it touched a peculiar resonant chord with the youth.  Then vintage clips of young people dancing, talking and carrying on are shown. In the culture that spawned Mods, Rockers, Teddy Boys, Skinheads and Punks ACO seemed like a celebration of all the old teenage cults. It was suggesting a new one, it spoke the language of the tribe, it turned a nobody into a somebody. Before they were ignored, now they were feared. Anyone who wore a uniform of the tribe could relate to Alex. The clip of the droogs walking by the river is shown.
    Bill Buford says the film isn't British as much as it is English since it captured the beer drinking violent island type of male. The clip of the Minister of the Interior selecting Alex is shown. Tony talks about how the government acts during the film by trying to cure the criminals to win the popular vote. Alexander Walker explains that it is a comic allegory and that since the film has come out the major change in the government is how the will of the individual is more controlled.
    The clip of Alex in the chair watching the films at the second day of the Ludovico center is shown. Steven Berkoff says, "I don't actually think Alex is necessarily a bad boy. He is a creative boy. The crux of the film is that you've cured the creative at the same time to knock out the neurosis or you knock out the violence you also knock out the genius. So it is a kind of dilemma."
    The clip of  the Chaplain at the Ludovico Center explaining Alex has no choice is shown. Wilf Stevenson says that the message is an excellent one and is still relevant today. He says politicians today are still trying to do that and the film is a metaphor that works. Bill Buford says the dangerous thing is that you cannot control the urges - they are biological and unstoppable. 
    The clip of Alex dreaming of sex at the end is shown. Alex has escaped the grip of the state and rejoices in feeling how he used to. The film didn't tell the whole story because the 21st chapter of the book is left out. Tony explains how the American edition had 20 chapters and the British version had the full 21 chapters.
    Then the show does their own interpretation of how the 21st chapter might have looked. Alex is sitting in the Korova and reading the paper as he narrates about growing tired of his lifestyle. A wind-up toy is shown going along and then falling over.
    Wilf Stevenson says the film isn't really about violence and is about how politicians manipulate people to get their vote. At the end it switches back to Alex as it wouldn't have worked to stay with the politicians and the press. Tony says that by leaving out the 21st chapter it remains the ultimate film about teenagers acting out rebelling without conscience and that is why teenagers love it. He is shown going into a French bookstore and watching a clip of ACO on video and then getting a copy to buy.
    Tony explains that the film remains banned not by the government or any outside party, but by Kubrick himself. Alexander Walker says not only is it an important film, but a great film. It established Kubrick as the greatest director of the post war era. It is meant to be seen on the big screen, but will not be because of personal reasons. He tells Kubrick every time he talks to him that The Ban is a mistake and the film belongs to the public. Bill Buford says the film is so strong because it pulls no punches and by banning it he shows that got scared.
    Tony summarizes by saying, "But if Stanley Kubrick will not let the British see ACO then he should at least have the moral courage to explain his decision. As Alex would have it, 'It's time to show us your yarbles Mr. Kubrick, if you have an yarbles.' ACO is too good to be buried alive, it is a comic masterpiece, brilliant social prophecy and a dazzling exposition of the adolescent mentality. And as a lost generation of teenagers will testify it's also about how good it sometimes feels to be bad."

My Review

    Today this special really has no meaning beyond that of a nostalgic one. Due to the untimely death of Stanley Kubrick in 1999 The Ban was lifted and the film can now be shown in Britain. Even worse is the bulk of the youth today do not even get the film. Like The Return of ACO special this remains a look back at The Ban which at the time of the special was around it's 18th anniversary. Overall the special just seems like it was taking a shot a Kubrick, to make him look silly for banning it, in the hopes to get him to lift The Ban. It's amazing to me that they do show a clip of the Billboy fight complete with the nude girl on regular TV.
    One of the highlights of the special is the inclusion of two rare interviews by actors you rarely see talk about the film. Miriam Karlin who played the Cat Lady and Steven Berkoff who played the CID man. This is the first time I had seen the two speak on camera about ACO and it made the whole thing very worthwhile. Once again Kubrick's friend Alexander Walker was on hand to discuss the film.
    The other highlight was a first attempt at filming some of the 21st chapter. Tony sits in their homemade Korova set reading the paper as the narration from the book is played and when Alex talks about a wind-up toy one is shown that even has a bit of a droogie style to it. It is a fun look at what could've been if Kubrick felt as attached to the 21st chapter as I am.
    In conclusion it is way too short, but does cover the all the bases. An interview with Malcolm is greatly missed as well as any official comment by the Kubrick family. Even at the end the host says Kubrick won't even say why he has banned the film so at the time it was all still a mystery. I have to disagree with Walker when he says the film is like a musical. One scene does not a musical make. If he was talking about ACO the play that is another story. As they say it is good as far as it goes even trying to show the futility of the ban. The host is shown reading the book on a bus and going to France to see the film in the theater where it is always playing as well as going into a store and buying the video. This shows how easy it is to obtain the forbidden fruit and bring it back home. He admits the film struck a nerve more with the British than anywhere else upon its' release and that is why they need it back. It seems a bit childish and harsh to call Kubrick out to explain why he banned the film, after all, it wouldn't change anything and it wasn't until after he died we found out.

Rating: 8.5/10

This page 2002-08 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net