Continuing the Year of Pop Culture (thought I forgot about that, huh?), may I present Alex and his three droogs: Pete, Georgie and Dim; the protagonists of A Clockwork Orange (the book) and Clockwork Orange (the film). Clockwork Orange is best known to the general public through the infamous 1971 Stanley Kubrick film starring Malcolm McDowell as Alex, a role that would forever typecast him as a psychotic villain (although Caligula didn’t help his career much in that regard, either). Erudite folks like me have also read the novel by Anthony Burgess. Watching the film is difficult for many people as it originally received an X rating due to the violence and strong sexual content. Burgess himself seems to have hated it; I can only speculate the reason may be because there was not enough distance between the character and the audience. We were able to watch, in graphic detail without the shielding of words, every horrific act Alex and his friends visited upon others. Despite Burgess’s feelings, the film is quite faithful to the book; at least to the version of the book that was, until about 25 years ago or so, the only version available in America. Until then, to the rest of the world, A Clockwork Orange ended quite differently. Now the American versions contain the elusive “twenty-first chapter”, which finally offers the complete tale of Alex.
In an unspecified future just around the corner, Alex and his small band commits acts of astounding depravity and atrocity on a nightly basis: rape, robbery, assault and battery are all activities they enjoy. They’re really not nice guys. Eventually, their crimes lead to murder, and Alex is sent away to prison, where he undergoes aversion therapy to cure him of his savage impulses. Alex is given a slow-acting drug in his food and then made to watch pornographic and/or violent films depicting the kinds of things he enjoyed; i.e. rape, beatings and general mayhem. The drug makes him severely nauseous; soon he begins to associate the sickness with the activities he watches on film. After a while, Alex can’t even think about the things he used to enjoy without becoming sick. He is pronounced cured, and set free.
The weird thing is that although we (hopefully) deplore Alex’s behavior, we eventually come to care about him and identify with him. Alex actually becomes likeable; no mean feat considering his character. And so, after his release, it’s with something like sympathy that we watch the “new” Alex receive his comeuppance at the hands of those he has wronged, powerless to fight back against they who would have their revenge.
The question at the end of both the book and the film is, “Is Alex cured?” The Kubrick film leaves that open to speculation, but the clear implication is no. The complete book, on the other hand, gives a definite answer. If you’ve only seen the film, you haven’t got the whole story.
The appearance and outfits of Alex and his droogs differed a great deal between the book and the movie. In the book, the gang wore black outfits with white cravats, and each one wore a unique novelty codpiece. In the film, they wear white boiler suits with unique hats. In addition, three of the droogs wear some kind of makeup: Dim wears lipstick, Pete wears eyeshadow under his left eye, and Alex has his iconic false eyelash on his right eyelid.
These miniatures by Crooked Dice are clearly representations of the character depictions in the movie, and like most Crooked Dice miniatures, they’re awesome. Painting them was very easy, as you might expect. Prime the boiler suits white, wash black and highlight. I I tried to include the makeup as well.
Despite the subject matter, Clockwork Orange is one of my favorite films with one of the greatest soundtracks in movie history. I first encountered it in college as a Psychology student; I had to watch it (and other highly controversial films, like Titticut Follies) while studying aversion therapy and negative reinforcement techniques. I’ve probably seen it about a dozen times, with the most recent viewing a little over a year ago on Netflix.
Up next: More Pop Culture!