Why a Clockwork Orange couldn’t be seen in UK cinemas for over 25 years

“A Clockwork Orange” is based on a novel by Anthony Burgess, and as the AFI Catalog notes, “other violent criminals used the book and film as part of their defense in British criminal courts” after the movie release. The media was all over it, and Far Out Magazine observes that Kubrick struggled because he moved to Britain and faced “constant abuse from the tabloid press.” While he never described his exact motives for removing “A Clockwork Orange” from circulation there, he compared the media fury that surrounded him to the “Salem Witch Trials,” and it seems likely that that was a factor in his decision.

In 2011, when the director’s widow Christiane Kubrick appeared with McDowell at the Cannes Film Festival in this 40th anniversary retrospective, they revealed that Kubrick’s family had even received death threats over “A Clockwork Orange.” . There were “rude phone calls” and “horrible letters” and there were people outside their front door.

Christiane was also quoted in “The Complete Kubrick” as saying, “Stanley was very insulted by the reaction and hurt.” Obviously, he didn’t like the implication that his film could push someone to their limits or act as a catalyst for violent crime in the real world.

There are no direct quotes from Kubrick as to why he approved the film’s removal from circulation, but in the book he told a reporter, “People who commit violent crimes are not ordinary people.” who are turned into vicious thugs by the bad diet of movies or television. Rather, it is a fact that violent crimes are invariably committed by people with a long history of antisocial behavior.

This opens up a separate debate on art and its potential influence on crime, which has continued to the present day with films like “Joker,” which inspired a train attack in Tokyo in 2021 as “A Clockwork Orange “was preparing for its 50th anniversary. There are no easy answers, but Kubrick was so adamant in his decision regarding “A Clockwork Orange” that he only allowed the film to be seen in the UK again just before his death in 1999.

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