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Even half a century on, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is still one of the darkest and most haunting of dystopian films about the near future. A bitter satire on the inability of judgment-free modern society to deal seriously with violent crime, it premiered in New York City fifty years ago this week, on December 19, 1971. As a student writer at NYU, I was able to see it a week early at a press and critics screening at the Cinema 1 Theater. Getting there that night was no joy; riding the graffiti’d-up Lexington Ave. subway, and watching your back on the dark, crime-ridden winter streets of Manhattan. It was a good prologue for seeing the film.
A month into its release, Malcolm McDowell gave an interview to The New York Times: “Liberals, they hate Clockwork because they’re dreamers and it shows them realities, shows ‘em not tomorrow but now. Cringe, don’t they, when faced with the bloody truth?”
The Times journalist asks about the effects of movie violence. McDowell drily noted that New York had 88 rapes a day. “I hate violence, but it is a fact, the human condition…Movies don’t alter the world, they pose questions and warnings. The Clockwork violence is stylized, surreal. Kubrick uses it only to warn us.”