13 ‘A Clockwork Orange’ Behind-the-Scenes Trivia Facts You Won’t Believe!
Some of you know, I’m a HUGE fan of A Clockwork Orange, both the film and the novel. That’s why I decided to take the time and research a few bits of A Clockwork Orange Behind-the-Scenes Trivia just for my readers (wherever you are??)!
Author Anthony Burgess has stated that A Clockwork Orange was, of all the books his written, his least favorite. There’s an irony to that, since the controversial work has been immortalized by Stanley Kubrick’s controversial film adaptation.
Burgess didn’t intend to write merely a piece of ultra-violence, though; he wasn’t a pulp fiction writer.
Instead he meant Clockwork as a philosophical piece and a satire. To an extent those motives come through in the film; even actor Malcolm McDowell, who plays the central character Alex, has stated he’s always viewed the film as black comedy…a viewpoint which has taken viewers years to catch up to. Meanwhile Burgess simply had to live with the success which Clockwork brought him. It was inescapable; the author of A Clockwork Orange got caught in the cogs of his own mechanism. And since the wheels of his unstoppable machine keep spinning, let’s blow off the dust and take a magnifying glass to its inner workings…
NADSAT, the Tongue of the Youth in A Clockwork Orange
Burgess took great care in his construction of the book’s slang, which he labeled Nadsat. Some versions even feature glossaries. Many of the terms were inspired by, or taken directly from Russian. For example, the Korova Milkbar—korova is Russian for cow. And those drinks their drinking, ‘moloko’ peeted with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom? Moloko, in Russian, is of course ‘milk!’ A complete reference guide is at Soomka.com.
The characters names in A Clockwork Orange, too, were inspired by the names of Russian princes. Look at the cast of droogs—Alex (Alexander), the Humble Narrator; Peter; Dim (or Dimitri), and Georgie (as in the patron saint of said princes!).
Real and Invented Future Tech
For the futuristic film, Kubrick relied on many new technologies, during the production and featured within the fil as well. Radio microphones cut down the need for dialogue synching; the Adams Probe 16 automobile starred as the space-age stolen car, referred to as a Durango 95; the Transcriptors Hydraulic Reference Turntable had a cameo as Alex’s stereo; behind the scenes Dolby noise reduction was utilized for the soundtrack, and camera zoom offered Kubrick a greater range of shooting options… All that aside, the film was shot on a micro-budget compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Kubrick relied on real, nearby locations and natural lighting versus building sets. The tactic worked well, lending the movie a gritty realism that fit perfectly with the dystopian, rundown environment of A Clockwork Orange.
Just Singin’ in the Rain?
Famously, it was Malcolm McDowell who incorporated the song and dance of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ to the traumatizing HOME gang-rape scene. After seeing this improve, Kubrick procured the musical rights for $10,000. However, the movie nearly ruined the song for generations to come, and indeed Gene Kelley, the singer and dancer from the original Singin’ in the Rain motion picture was furious over the material’s treatment. He even snubbed McDowell at a party.
Want more A Clockwork Orange Behind-the-Scenes Trivia? I hope so, because gear up for the infamous and brutal rape scene…or rather, a bit of nasty trivia about it.
A Real Redhead?
The actress who portrayed that scene’s rape victim, Adrienne Corri, drolly informed McDowell prior to the shoot, ‘Well, Malcolm, today you’re going to find out I’m a real redhead!’ Classic! But that sense of humor was severely dampened after the numerous exhausting takes the director insisted upon.
A Warning from Scotland Yard!
The gang-rape scene in the film of A Clockwork Orange was but one of the reasons that the movie was given an X-rating in England. In fact two years later the film was pulled from distribution by Kubrick himself, upon recommendation of Scotland Yard itself! Why? The director was getting too many death threats! Nonetheless A Clockwork Orange went on to be one of the most acclaimed and controversial films ever made. Following Kubrick’s death the movie was re-released with an 18-rating. Times, by then, had changed.
A Day in the Salt Mines (on set for A Clockwork Orange)
The movie features a high speed ménage a trois of Alex and two young ladies he’d picked up at a music shop. In real time the scene, filmed in a single continuous shot of the fully nude trio frolicking in multiple sexual positions, took 28 minutes. Hard life, Malcolm!
Toning It Down
The film version sexual trio was very different in the novel; in the movie the two ladies seemed to be of the age of consent, and willing participants, not victims. The novel, however, featured these two as little girls around ten years old, who Alex tricked to come to his place. Then he got them very drunk, injected himself with ‘growling jungle-scat secretion,’ and viciously raped them both.
A Clockwork Orange Behind-the-Scenes Trivia, continued…
Multiple Face Shots
A less pleasurable scene involved Alex being questioned by the authorities. Sitting on the floor with his back to the wall, the bloody-nosed ruffian was spit upon by his Post-Corrective Adviser, P.R. Deltoid. But Kubrick wanted the spit to land a certain way, and, as customary, did several takes…so many, in fact, the actor playing Deltoid—Aubrey Norris—ran out of spit! Luckily another actor volunteered to spit on McDowell’s face as many times as it took.
In a well-publicized anecdote, Kubrick brought in some table tennis to keep Malcolm McDowell amused on the set of A Clockwork Orange. However the actor was far from amused when he discovered his pay had been docked for all the hours he’d spent playing!
Suffering for One’s Art
Actors often suffer for their art, but most don’t suffer cuts to their eyeball. McDowell did, in the infamous Ludovinko treatment scene. The actor’s eyes were literally stretched by medieval-looking contraptions that kept him from blinking. In the movie, the treatment looks so genuinely uncomfortable because it actually was! McDowell’s eyes were anesthetized during filming, and the person standing next to him in the movie was a real doctor. Despite the on-scene attendance, he was temporarily blinded by the equipment.
But What Does It All Mean?
According to Burgess, ‘clockwork orange’ was an existing Cockney slang phrase…but others have disputed this claim, and some believe he invented the phrase himself then later ret-conned its definition. In the Introduction to the 1986 reprinted edition, Burgess wrote ‘If he [Alex] can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange—meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with colour and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil or (since this is increasingly replacing both) the Almighty State.’ That sounds a little complicated to have been a common phrase of Londoners, but you never know…pub discussions do tend to go off on convoluted tangents.
A Book Within a Book
A Clockwork Orange is also the name of a book in the book. One of Alex’s victims is a writer, and Alex destroyed the working manuscript before beating the writer and, with his gang of droogs, raping the man’s wife in front of him. Before ripping apart the book, however, Alex took a moment to skim a bit of it, which read: ‘—The attempt to impose upon man, a creature of growth and capable of sweetness, to ooze juicily at the last round the bearded lips of God, to attempt to impose, I say, laws and conditions appropriate to a mechanical creation, against this I raise my swordpen—’ The droogs mocked this excerpt, read aloud by Alex, but later, back in his own bedroom, Alex to offense to the passage and wished he’d treated the couple even more cruelly.
Those Damned Rolling Stones!!
Allegedly author Anthony Burgess sold the film rights to the novel of A Clockwork Orange for a mere $500…to Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones! In fact the rock stars were in discussions to play the droogs themselves, but alas they didn’t get the satisfaction, so Jagger resold the rights (at a much higher rate than he’d paid).
That’s all, folks! Please let me know your comments on A Clockwork Orange Behind-the-Scenes Trivia, so I can keep writing these posts!