Malcolm McDowell remains steadfastly proud and defiantly protective of A Clockwork Orange , Stanley Kubrick ’s stylish and subversive 1971 classic in which he starred as the violent criminal antihero experimented on by the government of a dystopian future.
He just doesn’t care to ever see it again, thank you.
“To be honest, I really couldn’t really stomach watching it again,” McDowell tells us during a recent virtual interview promoting the film’s new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release leading up to its 50th anniversary this December. “I mean, give me a break here. It’s still the same movie. It may look a little sharper, the color [might] be a little brighter, but it’s still the same movie.
“But listen, I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I mean, my god, it’s cinema history. Not many actors in their careers can have such an experience.”
The 78-year-old British actor estimates he’s seen A Clockwork Orange about 10 times in the five decades since its release.
“A lot of times it’s been at some festival and I’m stuck watching it. The last time I was stuck watching it was a the Cannes Film Festival, sitting next to one of the head honchos of Warner Bros. because we were celebrating the 40th anniversary. Thank god we don’t have to go to Cannes because I’d be stuck up there watching it again.” Malcolm McDowell attends a Clockwork Orange event at The Alex Theatre on April 1, 2014 in Glendale, Calif. (Photo by Araya Doheny/WireImage) Based on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel of the same name, A Clockwork Orange starred McDowell as Alex DeLarge, a delinquent in his upper-teens who leads his gang of “droogs” on drug-fueled rampages of what he casually dubs “a bit of the old ultra-violence.” Once he’s arrested, Alex is subjected to an experimental aversion therapy called the Ludovico Technique that expels all violent and sexual urges.
“It’s about the freedom of man to choose about which path he desires to take,” says McDowell now. “It may be an immoral one or it may be a moral one, but I think we should have the freedom of choice.”
A Clockwork Orange , which Kubrick intended as a satire and McDowell has called a comedy, is a devoutly revered film among cinephiles — one that’s poster ends up on so many college dorm room walls it’s almost cliché. But its own morals have long been the source of controversies, given the abominable actions of Alex and the droogs (which include implied rape) that have been blamed for copycat crimes over the years. The film drew so much heat that Kubrick ultimately pulled it from circulation ( it was not “banned,” as often misrepresented) from 1973 until his death in 1999.