A Clockwork Orange appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This turned into a good representation of the source.
Overall sharpness worked well. Some of the original photography leaned a little soft, but those instances remained minor, so the flick usually displayed solid accuracy and delineation.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, though, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. With a nice layer of grain, I didn’t suspect any issues related to noise reduction, and the movie lacked print flaws.
Colors came across well within the film’s production design, as this was a film that usually went with a somewhat sickly sense of hues. The tones tended toward the ugly side of the street, and the disc replicated those values accurately. The disc’s HDR added impact and range to the colors.
Black levels consistently appeared deep and rich, as the film’s many dark tones came across well. Shadow detail seemed clear and concise as well.
HDR gave whites and contrast extra oomph. Nothing about Clockwork made it a visual showcase, but this 4K UHD displayed it in a very positive manner.
I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix of A Clockwork Orange, as the remix didn’t reinvent the wheel and go nuts with discrete audio. While the soundfield stretched the auditory environment, it didn’t depart tremendously from the audio’s monaural origins.
Much of the mix remained firmly anchored to the center channel. Some effects spread modestly to the sides, but these were largely ambient in nature, with only occasional instances of more distinctive localized audio. The surrounds featured some minor environmental reinforcement as well, but they didn’t show much activity in that regard.
Where the remix excelled, however, came from the delineation of the film’s music. The score showed fine stereo separation in the forward channels that really made those aspects of the track come to life.
The surrounds also contributed fine support of the music that let the score breathe a bit. Ultimately, the soundfield remained a modest affair, but the broadening of the music meant that the remix merited inclusion.
Audio quality appeared quite good for a 50-year-old film. Dialogue could seem a little thin and some roughness occasionally interfered, but generally I thought speech was adequately natural and distinct.
Effects were also a little drab due to the age of the stems. Nonetheless, they displayed no overt concerns and they appeared reasonably accurate and clean.
Again, the movie’s music worked best, as the score displayed a vibrant, brilliant sound. The synthesized music consistently appeared clear and vivid, as the track offered solid range. All in all, the soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange stayed reasonably true to its origins but it created a much clearer and more lively experience than one would expect from an older film.
How did the 4K UHD compare to those of the 2011 “40th Anniversary” Blu-ray? Both provided he same DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio.
As for the visuals, the 4K UHD looked better defined and clearer than the BD, without the latter’s occasional flaws. As mentioned, no one will use this movie to show off the capabilities of 4K, but this nonetheless offered a solid upgrade that gave us the most accurate representation of the film on home video to date.
Note that a a 2007 Blu-ray preceded the 2011 disc. Both seemed very similar to me, though the 2011 release’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 replaced the 2007’s PCM 5.1. Visuals felt virtually identical, and I suspect the two BDs used the same transfer. This meant the 4K became an obvious upgrade over both Blu-rays.
On the 4K disc, we get an audio commentary with actor Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. The track looks at McDowell’s casting and performance, locations and sets, his co-actors, working with Kubrick, the adaptation of the source novel, music, stunts, and a few other observations.
McDowell and Redman also teamed for a commentary on the Caligula set. This one doesn’t prove quite as scintillating as that terrific chat, but it works pretty well.
McDowell provides plenty of fun stories about the flick and gives us a good overview of the production. We also find interesting tales such as the time Gene Kelly snubbed him. Despite some slow spots and a little too much praise, this turns into a useful commentary.
The included Blu-ray copy replicates the movie disc of the 40th anniversary release linked above but lacks a second platter of bonus features. Here we find a documentary called Still Tickin’: The Return of Clockwork Orange.
This 43-minute, 42-second program offers info from Redman, McDowell, American Psycho director Mary Harron, writers/critics Alexander Walker, Camille Paglia and Mark Kermode, The Love Hexagon author William Sutcliffe, author/screenwriter/director William Boyd, writer/poet Blake Morrison, author Anthony Burgess, artist Damien Hirst, 1971 BBFC viewing committee member Ken Penry, ex-director BBFC Robin Duval, American Beauty director Sam Mendes, and American History X director Tony Kaye.
We learn a little about the origins of the Clockwork novel and reactions to it, the movie’s release, aspects of its era, censorship and controversies, performances and the movie’s use of narration, some of Kubrick’s techniques, and some interpretation/themes.
Though it has some good moments, “Tickin’” is a little too inconsistent to really gel. It mostly focuses on the societal impact of the film, but it delves into enough production details to make it less focused. I’d prefer a show that gives us a concise look at one topic and doesn’t try to cover too much, as the broader emphasis negates some of the show’s effect.
Even within the areas that look at controversies and social issues, it flits about a little too much. It’s still a decent program but not as strong as it should have been given the subject at hand.
Great Bolshy Yarblockos! Making A Clockwork Orange runs 28 minutes, 19 seconds and features associate producer Bernard Williams, Stanley Kubrick: The Complete Films author Paul Duncan, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography author John Baxter, Violence and American Cinema author J. David Slocum, The Complete Kubrick author David Hughes, One Hundred Violent Films That Changed Cinema author Neil Fulwood, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Oranger author Stuart McDougal, former Warner Bros. executive John Calley, costume designer Milena Canonero, makeup artist Barbara Daly, critic Jay Cocks, editor Bill Butler, and filmmakers William Friedkin, Sydney Pollack, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Peter Hyams, Hugh Hudson, Caleb Deschanel, and Ernest Dickerson.
We learn how Kubrick chose to make Clockwork, writing the screenplay and its uses of language, cast, characters and performances, budgetary restrictions, sets, locations and costumes, Kubrick’s methods and depiction of graphic material, and the film’s reception.
Though “Yarblockos” can be a little inconsistent, it usually offers a pretty good examination of the flick. While it lacks terrific depth – shouldn’t we hear about more actors than just McDowell? – but it touches on enough to make it worthwhile. The show provides good perspective on the flick and allows us to better understand it.
Turning Like Clockwork goes for 26 minutes, 19 seconds and offers info from McDowell, Hughes, Duncan, Baxter, filmmakers James Mangold, Oliver Stone, and Paul Greengrass, The Wire creator David Simon, cultural historian Sir Christopher Frayling, Heroes in Hard Times author Neal King, Censorship: A Beginner’s Guide author Julian Petley, director’s widow Christiane Kubrick, producer’s assistant Jan Harlan, and Kubrick family friend Brigid Marlin.
The program looks at the film’s depiction of violence, its impact on society, and related issues. Clockwork was tremendously controversial in its time, and “Turning” digs into some of those topics in a nice manner. It creates a good take on the connected concerns and covers some unusual elements like the threats against Kubrick.
In addition to the film’s trailer, the set ends with the 10-minute, 30-second Malcolm McDowell Looks Back. In it, McDowell reminisces about author Anthony Burgess, Stanley Kubrick, and various experiences related to the film.
He also looks over various photos and documents as he offers his thoughts. “Looks Back” doesn’t follow a particularly tight path, but it gives us some interesting stories, and that helps make it a good featurette.
After 50 years, A Clockwork Orange remains an amazing and powerful film. I continue to feel wholeheartedly that it offers easily Stanley Kubrick’s best work. The 4K UHD offers good picture, audio and supplements. The 4K becomes the best release of Clockwork on home video to date.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE