Review: Stanley Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange' Shocks and Stuns in 4K

by Sam Cohen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday September 21, 2021

Despite spawning legions who completely misunderstood the point of its shocking violence and commentary on an oppressive society that denies free will, "A Clockwork Orange" still stands as an incredibly distinct work that has yet to be equaled. And while that may be for the better, that hasn't stopped filmmakers from citing exact frames from the film in their own work, naturally for morally dubious purposes.

The author of the source material has gone so far as to disown his novel because of the misguided fandom surrounding the film, but even that condemnation can't silence the power of Stanley Kubrick's adaptation: A depiction of a future where people and their environments are frequently disconnected, lacking the free will to overcome that disconnect. The dehumanization by power structures is writ large and bolstered by an even more scathing depiction of the violence that sprouts from a bunch of rudderless youths.

Warner Brothers Home Entertainment upgrades "A Clockwork Orange" to 4K Ultra HD with a new 4K Blu-ray release that blows the previous Blu-ray right out of the water. The uptick in grain density and color depth can't be overstated, plus the new 4K presentation is given even more power with HDR10 in its stead. That being said, there are no new special features found here, with this release simply carrying over the features from Warner's previous Blu-ray releases of the film. In addition, the older mono audio track has been included here, although it's encoded at a very low bitrate. The newer DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack is better for home theater systems.

Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) is a volatile teenager living in a futuristic Britain who leads a gang of "droogs" — Georgie (James Marcus), Dim (Warren Clarke), and Pete (Michael Tarn). The boys love a bit of the ultraviolence, fashioning full-white outfits with suspenders and attacking unwitting people with incredible force. But when his fellow droogs wish for crimes that yield more money, Alex strikes them down to assert his authority. Later on, the quad of delinquents robs a wealthy man's house, then rapes and eventually murders the man's wife. When the sirens grow closer, the other droogs strike down Alex and leave him to take the hit. Little does Alex know that his rehabilitation in a screwy justice system has only just begun.

"A Clockwork Orange" has been picked apart, assessed, put back together, and grafted onto other works endlessly. But what those facsimiles don't get quite right about the source material, and Kubrick's approach, is that Alex's rehabilitation is both an oppression of free will and a somewhat-deserved consequence for causing so much damage. Alex's wit and candor are a mask over pure evil, with the force of totalitarianism coming down to not only oppress, but also redirect those energies to be socially profitable for the existing caste system.

If you're a fan of "A Clockwork Orange," you'd be remiss to not buy this new 4K Blu-ray immediately. You'll see Kubrick's classic in a way you've never seen, even if you've previously watched in film in a theater. And even with the audio and special feature shortcomings, I recommend picking up this release.

Special features include:

• Audio commentary with Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman
• "Malcolm McDowell Looks Back"
• "Turning Like Clockwork"
• "Channel Four Documentary 'Still Tickin': The Return of Clockwork Orange' "
• "Great Bolshy Yarblockos! — Making 'A Clockwork Orange' "
• Theatrical Trailer

"A Clockwork Orange" is now available on 4K Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.