A Clockwork Orange Blu-ray Review

by AVForums
Movies & TV Review

A Clockwork Orange Blu-ray Review
SRP: £17.09

Picture

Originally shown in a rather unusual 1.66:1 ratio this is what we are presented with here, encoded at 1080p VC1. The Region 1 disc I own from the Kubrick box set was weak compared to other films released at the same time and much the same can be said about this new high definition transfer.

Whites are often overblown in some of the outdoor scenes whilst blacks themselves remain pretty tight and deep. The colours are more vibrant than the DVD I own and this was a pleasant improvement, facial tones always spot on; primary colours rich, pure but not always remaining within their borders. Some enhancement also remains which is a great shame. For a print this old there's never any noticable damge to speak of but there is a massive amount of grain, as though Kubrick shot this way for atmospheric reasons. Detracting from this further, alas some noise has crept in. The image itself is generally soft resulting, in some scenes, in a lack of detail; detail we have come to expect from premium releases, old or new.

On a lighter note some other scenes seems to have benefitted greatly from the high def treatment. Alex's beadspread comes across with great depth now showing it's constructed of small colourful pyramids, the detail along the ornaments and posters in his room more than adequate. Detail is again improved in the casino scene where you can feel the decay from the peeling paint, chipped cornicing and abandoned furniture. Alex's trip around a local market place shows further richness in the colours and the detail on offer. The titles of the bands and songs vying for number 1 clearly now raised off the slots they are attached to, not just painted on.

I, as well as many others were hoping for much better from this release. The interview with McDowell on the extras indicates there is a pristine print out there, I only hope that this print can be used for a future re-release.
A Clockwork Orange

Sound

As well as a number of foreign langues tracks, for the English speaking community we have on offer a PCM and and a standard Dolby Digital 5.1. Originally shot in mono with little post production and synching there's little if anything to differentiate these two tracks, both are a product of modern audio reproduction. Dialogue is crisp and fine so whilst you may be rewinding to hear the slang words which Alex and his droogs speak you'll certainly not need to for lack of clarity.

The soundfield is predominantly at the fronts, and this really is acceptable enough. To have all and sundry firing off from which ever way would only have distracted the viewer from the film itself I feel. In saying that though the frontal array at times positively blooms. Once the score kicks in the narrow field on offer from the dialogue and subtle foley sounds expands well offering detail and depth yet experienced from A Clockwork Orange Kubrick has always been acknowledged as a master of musical choice and allowing the stage to open up during these moments certainy brings the viewer more into the frame. LFE is almost non existant apart from brief smatterings during stoick footage of war.

With clear mid and high tones on offer, an expanded front stage, this release certainly is a dramatic improvement in quality over the R1 disc I own. Obviously not the most dynamic nor a multi channel fest, but there's only so much you can do from an original mono offering some 26 years old.
A Clockwork Orange

Extras

Much like other Kubrick releases, previous incarnations of A Clockwork Orange have always been some what lacking in the extras department. So it's good to see once and for all some effort being put into these new high definition transfers.


  • Commentary by Malcolm McDowell and Historian Nick Redman

    You might be familiar with Nick Redman, a noted film historian author of Peckinpah biographies and documentaries. Here he is joined my Malcolm McDowell himself to discuss the filming of A Clockwork Orange. Redman himself mainly stays in the background, interceeding as and when necessary, however an extrovert such as McDowell needs little prompting and this is truly his show. The commentary ranges from initial meetings with Kubrick, additional casting, filming styles including hand held cameras, takes, music and obviously 'Singing in the Rain'. As can bee seen from the following profile 'O Lucky Malcolm!' McDowell comes across as pleasant, funny and certainly calls a spade a spade. Whereas Redman might be choosing his words carefully McDowell jumps right in and calls a set of yarbles, well, yarbles really.

  • Still Tickin': The Return of Clockwork Orange - 43:40mins

    Commissioned by Channel 4 this documentary consists of interviews with some of the cast, film critics and other directors. It discusses intially how the book acheived cult status and the same happening with the movie, even more so though when it was finally taken off the market by Kubrick himself.

  • Featurette: Great Bolshy Yarblockos! Making A Clockwork Orange - 28:17mins

    A nippy little documentary showing behind the scenes footage and some discussion on the release of A Clockwork Orange

  • O Lucky Malcolm! - 86:09mins

    Being a personal profile of Malcolm McDowell himself this goes far beyond A Clockwork Orange. It mainly comprises McDowell taking to an interviewer or presenting a discussion to an audience. It covers his intial desire to get into acting, his work on If..., obviously A Clockwork Orange, Oh Lucky Man!, some of his later works and some of his personal history. Friends, colleagues and family all have their say on Malcolm in this extensive documentary... and not all put him in a good light.

  • Trailer

    As it says.


It has to be said that for this movie these extras are worth the price of the disc itself. The commentary is truly facsinating stuff revealing snippets of information that I've never stumbled upon before... for instance, Chaplin used to perform at the deserted casino. The Channel 4 documentary again reveals more information and not just related to the film but to the Anthony Burgess book and the controversy and reported violence that followed the initial movie screenings here in the UK.

If this was not enough then it could be argued that the profile on Malcolm McDowell himself is worth forking out for only because at times he is so damn amusing. He details his contribution to film history and comes across as a genuine, pleasant, strong willed raconteur. When talking he often tries to imitate the person he is discussing at the time, Kubrick in a gruff American slang, but what had me rolling in the isles was his impersonation of Sir John Gielgud when they were both shooting Caligula. Of the many features, commentaries and documentaries I have to sit through I can put hand on heart and say this is over and above by far the best entertainment I have ever had from an extra, I will certainly go back and enjoy McDowell's musings.

A fantastic set of extras then which any fan of Kubrick, or this movie in particular, would be well advised to sit through. I would imagine though that many viewers will watch these more than once and that's unusual for a set of extras. Here though we have a commentary, decent documentary and actor profile which are informative and pertinent to the material in question.
A Clockwork Orange
After running over time and over budget on 2001 Kubrick promised Warner that he could bring in a film on time with limited funds. Shot in just 8 months for the tidy sum of $2,000,000.00 he kept his word without loosing his artistic control or his flare for producing a film which 26 years on still polarises opinion. Along with the so called 'moral majority' (where are these people anyway?) A Clockwork Orange can be viewed as a violent, almost pornographic, feast. Or you can 'read' between the lines and try to understand the underlying themes which Burgess in his original book and Kubrick here are tying to get across.

A sterling performance by McDowell himself on the back of If... sealed his fate as an outstanding actor of our time. Although his range is much more varied than these two films, forever would he be remembered as the brooding, anti establishment character he portrays so well here. McDowell himself admits that most of the films he is cast in are not up to much, at the end of the day it's a job like anything else, but he recognises that every once and while a gem appears and he acknowedlges that A Clockwork Orange is one of these fine jewels. Supporting cast members we've all seen before, predominantly on UK television, but a few went onto bigger if not better things. Steven Berkoff for instance sneaks in a short role and like all the other cast members plays it wonderfully.

Is this one of Kubrick's best films? Yes, but then it's difficult to quantify one over another so varied was his work, so different the genres he worked in. Definitely this is the best version of A Clockwork Orange to hit the shelves, it's just a pity that some more care wasn't taken with the transfer, it's still not what I feel it could be after all the print is not that old and a pristine copy does exist. A superb set of mouth watering extras make up for this failing a litttle though and I really have no hesitation in recommending this to any Kubrick, or any film, lover. I really wanted to give this a 9 overall but feel the video and audio let it down somewhat. Viddy well though brothers... viddy well!
A Clockwork Orange

Scores

Movie

.
9

Picture Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Sound Quality

.
.
.
7

Extras

.
9

Overall

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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