A Clockwork Orange (Anniversary Edition)
Release Date: May 31, 2011
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Two-disc "Digi-Book"
Running Time: 2:17:30
|THE FEATURE||SPECIAL FEATURES|
|Video||1080p high definition 1.66:1||Standard and high definition|
|Audio||DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 5.1, German 5.1, Italian 5.1, Spanish 5.1, Castellano 5.1, Portuguese 5.1||Stereo|
|Subtitles||English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Castellano, Dutch, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish||Variable|
The Feature: 5/5
Gangs of ruffians keen on physical assault, rape and robbery have been terrorizing the citizens of London. A particularly brutal band is lead by Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell), a young man from a modest if largely un-influential family. Despite their wanton criminality, Alex and his friends (or “droogs” in their vernacular) have so far managed to elude arrest, but a home invasion that goes too far (and a well-timed betrayal) ultimately lands Alex in prison for his deeds. Though he has things pretty easy there - being a favorite with the prison chaplain - his life is also the very definition of dull. When he learns of a special program that could shorten his sentence, he jumps on the chance, even though he knows very little about the process that will supposedly transform him into an upstanding citizen. The chaplain warns him that undergoing the procedure could mean giving up the very thing that makes him human, though if that means a better life for Alex and the society he returns to, isn’t that worth the sacrifice?
Director Stanley Kubrick’s darkly satirical film, adapted from Anthony Burgess’s novel by the same name, caused quite a stir when it came out in 1971. Its depictions of violence unsettled audiences and - in a case of convenient scapegoating - were credited for inspiring a series of similar crimes committed by young men. It ultimately lead to Kubrick pulling the film from British theaters, though American audiences still got to see it, albeit a version with less explicit sexual content. By today’s standards, the film of course seems tame, though no less incisive given there is an obvious point behind the stylized violence, unlike some of today’s films that depict mayhem for its own sake. Unfortunately it can take extremes like a “Saw” or “Hostel” to throw something like “Clockwork” into sharp relief, making it obvious as both a work of art and a keenly observant social commentary. Its themes around free will, psychotherapy, politics and even violence itself remain insightful and relevant, though that’s not a total surprise. Kubrick - from the projects he chose to the methods he employed to bring them to fruition - was always a director ahead of his time.
Video Quality: 4/5
The film is accurately framed at 1.66:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. Past reviews of the title on both Blu-ray and HD-DVD have noted the image’s softness or haziness. Indeed, there are times when the picture simply isn’t sharp, especially by today’s standards and expectations; but we also must keep in mind Kubrick’s love of experimentation with camera optics and photographic processes. So it’s reasonable to assume the film’s sometimes indistinct qualities were either intentional or acceptable byproducts of whatever equipment the director was keen on at the time. Other aspects of the image are more consistent - particularly black levels and color, which are deep and well rendered, though contrast can be also be a bit variable. The transfer contains no artifacts from excessive digital tinkering, however, preserving image characteristics that are ultimately inherent to the source.
Audio Quality: 4/5
Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is consistently clear and intelligible. The surrounds provide light to moderate levels of support for the film score, with only slight use of those channels for directional or environmental effects. LFE is non-existent, but the track has decent depth and fullness during the synthesized elements of the score.
Special Features: 5/5
The extras include the items from the 2007 single-disc Blu-ray edition, with a few additional items, the most significant of which is the in-depth documentary "Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures." That piece was previously available in a DVD boxed set, so there may be some overlap of extras for Kubrick fans. Within the set of extras itself there is some unavoidable repetition of content given the sheer amount of material, but there’s no denying the special features contain a wealth of information.
The following includes content from HTF's review of the 2007 single-disc Blu-ray edition, by Kevin Koster.
Collectible Book integrated into the packaging includes numerous production stills, cast and crew biographies, trivia, a novel vs. film comparison, and an essay about the film’s development and production.
Digital Copy download through a website. The offer expires March 27, 2012.
Commentary by Malcolm McDowell and Historian Nick Redman is essentially an interview of McDowell by Redmond as they watch the film with us. There’s some great stuff here, and McDowell has a great recall for the people he was working with, both in front of the camera and behind it. McDowell provides a lot of gems throughout, including an acknowledgement that his opening toast to the audience was his way of saying “You’re in for one hell of a ride.” Another highlight is his recall of meeting Gene Kelly with both men knowing what McDowell had done to Kelly’s signature song in the movie. [Kevin Koster]
Still Tickin': The Return of Clockwork Orange (43:42, SD) SPOILER WARNING ON THIS ONE: WATCH THE MOVIE OR READ THE BOOK BEFORE READING THIS. This documentary was actually made for British television several years ago, to coincide with the re-release of the film in British cinemas after Kubrick’s death. It’s an interesting piece of work, containing a history of the book and the film, and containing several criticisms of Kubrick. In the first place, Kubrick is criticized for not including the ending to Burgess’ book, in which Alex chooses to reform himself. This is passed off as the result of Kubrick only reading the American printing of the book, which omits that chapter – but that idea has been disproven by other sources which say that Kubrick didn’t like that ending and chose to end the film the way he did. Another criticism is raised regarding the film being pulled from British cinemas after violence erupted, but not being pulled from cinemas or video release anywhere else. The long-standing story of this is that Kubrick was upset by the copycat violence that broke out and did not wish to encourage it. This documentary follows a different thought – that Kubrick was warned that the copycats might actually seek him out at his remote estate. As you may gather, this is prickly stuff – and it really falls on the viewer to make up their own mind about the material. But it certainly makes for nearly 45 minutes of interesting viewing. [Kevin Koster]
Great Bolshy Yarblockos! Makin A Clockwork Orange (28:19, SD) acts as a counterpoint to the Channel Four documentary, re-asserting Kubrick’s creative choices and discussing how he made the film on a lower budget and achieved his results. There’s great stuff in here, including discussions about the costuming and lighting, and an account of what happened when McDowell panicked during the filming of the infamous brainwashing sequence. It’s probably best to watch both documentaries together, to get the full picture. My only complaint here, is that this featurette, for some reason, is not anamorphically encoded, unlike everything else on the disc. It’s not a big thing – just a bit disconcerting. [Kevin Koster]
Turning like Clockwork (26:19, HD) is a new featurette that analyzes the film’s depiction of violence - the role it served, how the public and media responded to it at the time, and how it compares to today’s films and media.
Malcolm McDowell Looks Back (10:30, HD) is another new piece that features McDowell reminiscing about the film, spurred on by various bits of “Clockwork” photographic memorabilia. His most lengthy story is about shooting the brainwashing scene, which may be somewhat different from what’s related in other pieces.
Original Theatrical Trailer (1:03, SD)
Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2:22:15, SD) is an in-depth and fascinating look at Kubrick’s career, from his early work as a photographer for Look Magazine to his films, starting with the documentary short “Day of the Fight” to his most notable features like “Paths of Glory,” “Spartacus,” “Lolita,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “2001” and “A Clockwork Orange.” The piece includes numerous interviews with colleagues, families and friends sharing anecdotes - some of them around his personal life, debunking much of his reputation as a recluse - but focused mostly on his professional work. Directed by Kubrick’s brother-in-law Jan Harlan, the 2001 documentary is narrated by Tom Cruise and presented in 4:3 aspect ratio with most film clips matted in their original aspect ratio. The piece was previously included in the “Stanley Kubrick Director’s Series” DVD boxed set.
O Lucky Malcolm! (1:26:12, HD) is a feature-length overview of Malcolm McDowell’s career. It consists of video interview clips with McDowell, intercut with interviews of other filmmakers and wives and friends, as well as with clips from his movies. The overview jumps a bit from McDowell’s early career to his appearance in Time After Time, to a discussion of his work on Caligula, and then jumps over the 80’s and 90’s almost completely. (If you’re looking for an in-depth discussion of his work on Blue Thunder or Star Trek: Generations, you won’t find it here) McDowell comes across as a bit of a raconteur, continually coming up with amusing stories, some of which may actually stretch the truth a bit. And it’s a bit sobering to see the man suddenly age from a vibrant young man to the grizzled older man we see today. [Kevin Koster]
The Feature: 5/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5
Warner Home Video turns in a fine presentation of Stanley Kubrick’s darkly satirical film that comments on everything from crime and violence to psychotherapy methods. The special features are sizable and in-depth, including items from past releases along with a few significant additions. Those who own one of the previous high definition releases will want to consider a purchase, especially for the documentary “Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures,” which was previously only available in a DVD boxed set. For those looking to add the title to their collections for the first time, the Anniversary Edition is the preferred release.