Malcolm McDowell: A Clockwork Orange is like a Disney film now
Malcolm McDowell says ‘A Clockwork Orange’ seems like a “Disney movie” nowadays.
The 75-year-old actor was catapulted to fame by his portrayal of charismatic but antisocial delinquent Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick’s 1972 dystopian film, which is based on Anthony Burgess’ novel of the same name.
In 1973, the movie was withdrawn from British release at the request of Kubrick following a number of copycat crimes committed in the country which were similar to the violent assaults depicted in the film, such as the beating of a vagrant man by Alex and his gang of “droogs”.
Now, 46 years later, Malcolm says the cult hit has “found the audience” it was meant for and can be understood as a black comedy and a satire on society, whilst the violence is tame compared to modern movies.
In an interview with Dazed, he said: “When it first came out people watched it in stony silence. They were shocked by these new kinds of visuals ... In the last 20 years, especially young people, see it for what it is: a black comedy. They laugh all the way through. So, finally, ‘Clockwork’ has found the audience we thought we were making the movie for. I think enough time has gone past that you know the violence on screen is saturated, you can’t go any further. I think when Sam Peckinpah was making really violent movies, that was a slow-motion violence, a ballet. ‘Clockwork’ for this generation is like a Disney movie now.”
One of A Clockwork Orange’s most shocking sequences is when Alex and his gang enter the home of writer F. Alexander and beat him to the point where he is crippled for life and then Alex rapes his wife whilst singing the musical song ‘Singing in the Rain’.
After being imprisoned for his crimes, Alex takes up the offer to try a new aversion therapy which will make him physically sick if he tries to engage in any violent acts in return for an early release from his sentence.
It is the therapy the character receives which becomes the central question of the film, as it robs Alex of his free will and therefore robs him of his humanity as he is not rehabilitated by his own changes.
Malcolm insists when he was acting out some of the more abhorrent scenes he never thought of his alter ego as “evil” but he isn’t sure if he holds any affection for Alex.
He said: “I never thought the character was evil. Listen, I love all the characters I play. Even the horrendous ones, even the ones who are so despicable - they all had mothers, they were all babies - but Alex, I don’t know. Alex is a dichotomy, isn’t he? He’s a guy who loves life. So you gotta love part of him, you gotta kinda love him because anyone who loves life like that - of course, at the expense of others - but, he has sort of mitigating circumstances.”