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My Story | Pictures | Transcript
This is a rare TV special where the host William Everson sits and talks with Anthony Burgess and Malcolm McDowell. This is the only known TV interview with both of them at the same time.
When I was in New York on May 25, 2002 I had the one of a kind privilege of sitting next to Malcolm while he saw the clip for the first time in 30 years.
Malcolm: What is this?
Me: It is an interview with you and Anthony Burgess.
When he first saw how he looked he screamed out very loud!
When Malcolm said about Kubrick, "I'd have to disagree on one point that he's not difficult to work with.."
Malcolm shouted, "Liar!!"
Me: Is that your Mick Jagger look?
Malcolm: (Laughs)...it's all the Beatles fault!
Everson says something about Kubrick "If I'm wrong please correct
me" and Malcolm says, "I'll have to, because that is wrong."
Malcolm laughed at that.
When Malcolm is seen smoking in the video I asked, "Trying to be too cool?"
He leaned over and said, "I must've been really nervous."
Malcolm on the show
James MacAndrew (V.O.): The time: the indefinite future, 1983
suggested one critic, doomsday Eve. Alex and his friends, teenage hoodlums, sit
in the Korova bar drinking milk plus drugs - perfectly legal - and sharpening up
their appetites for the night's adventures. A bit of the 'old ultraviolence' as
Alex says. Beating up a drunk, fighting a rival gang, stealing cars. Rape.
Alex: supremely confidant; absolutely cold blooded, yet with strong sense of irony and humor and a lover of Beethoven as well. Home for Alex: a modern high-rise apartment, tasteless and continually vandalized. After one grotesque assault, Alex who has angered his friends by bullying them is left to the police. Injured but as always self-assured and scheming. In prison he ingratiates himself with the authorities and is chosen for an experiment in chemotherapy.
He will be released as a man deprived of free will. Violence and sex will so sicken him that he will do anything - even lick his jailor's shoes to escape the sickness. Released: he is recognized by one of his old victims whose friends beat him up. Alex of course cannot defend himself, the violence is unbearable to him. He soon falls into the hands of his old gang who are now policemen. They too revenge themselves on him with a savage beating.
Nearly dead, Alex finds refuge, as luck would have it, at the home of another of his old victims. He now becomes a pawn in political intrigue, alternatively safe and helpless. At the film's end he is society's hero.
On Camera: That is the story of Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange released by Warner Brothers and at once voted the "Best Motion Picture of 1971" by the New York film critics. Today on Camera Three an examination, including attention to the films links with the book from which it comes. The unusual musical score and excerpts from the film itself. With us are Anthony Burgess, author of the novel 'A Clockwork Orange', Malcolm McDowell who stars in the film as 'Alex' and cinema historian William Everson.
William Everson: Stanley Kubrick is one of the most dynamic and
individual directors to hit the American cinema since Orson Welles in 1940.
Kubrick's career began in the early 1950's with fairly unambitious films. Films
made economically and fairly cheaply, but somehow each film that he made turned
out to be twice as good as the film that preceded it. Films like 'Fear and
Desire', 'Killers Kiss', 'The Killing', 'Paths Of Glory', 'Spartacus', 'Lolita',
on of course into 'Dr. Strangelove'.
Obviously the leveling off point had to come somewhere and I suppose that that's 'Dr Strangelove' - he'd reached such a peak that it was no longer possible to make each film twice as good as the one that came before it. But certainly from then on each film he made - and there have only been two big ones - '2001: A Space Odyssey' and the current film 'A Clockwork Orange' have been really unusual spectacular, extremely ambitious productions. Ostensibly non-commercial ones, but which film that turned out to be extremely commercial in every sense of the word and films that attracted tremendous critical acclaim.
Kubrick, obviously, as the director of tremendous dedication to his art and to the cinema and also a man of great autonomy - nobody tells Kubrick what to do he just makes his films the way he wants to.
Obviously this is the way that Stroheim and Welles and Chaplin work too, great masterpieces can be made that way. But also at times great disasters and Kubrick is a man who is not easy to work with and is known to work by the method of perhaps making his own mistakes and correcting them rather than trying to avoid making those mistakes in the first place.
But since we have with us today Malcolm McDowell who has worked with him throughout the entire production of ACO as the star. I'd like to ask you Mr. McDowell if you have any comment to make on Kubrick's working method with you? Whether there was great friction? How the role was interpreted?
Malcolm McDowell: Well I'd have to disagree on one point that he's not difficult to work with. I don't know where you got that from. (ha) Maybe other actors have found him difficult. I certainly didn't find him difficult to work with. This was a monumental film and a monumental part, Alex, it's impossible to say how it was done…. I mean…
William Everson: Perhaps I should have said 'rigid' rather than 'difficult'. In other words he has his own fixed ideas and is not prone to take too many suggestions. If I'm wrong please correct me.
Malcolm McDowell: I'll have to, because that is wrong. Stanley - why he's such a great director, for me anyway, is that he can create the atmosphere for creative work which is very important. I mean he takes an awful lot from his actors. He has to. His method of working is not to give you directions, like you come in - you go from A to B and you sit down and you talk. That would be impossible to do a film in that way, totally impossible. His method is that we come in at 7 o'clock in the morning and we rehearse. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse until we get the scene right. And by saying 'rehearse' I mean that everybody is there to throw in ideas. For instance: a scene in the film where Alex and his three droogs come in and rape a writer's wife and beat the writer up. We arrived at the set, looked at the bare walls for three days. We rehearsed various bits of the script that we had, which weren't good enough. I mean it just wasn't working for us. And so on the third day Stanley said to me, 'Can you dance?' and I said 'Yes, why not? I'm not a dancer.' but went into a sort of a soft shoe number and started to hum, 'Do do da da be do be do ba ba ' and then started to sing 'Singing in The Rain' because subconsciously I remembered that scene in the Gene Kelly film as being one of the happiest scenes I'd ever seen on film and it was right for the moment. And Kubrick took this immediately - within three hours had the rights of the song. So I mean he's not rigid in any sense, he's very elastic when he's working. And he may be rigid afterwards or before on the technical side of the filming and on the distribution and the advertising etc., but certainly when he's working in a creative way that's when you're actually making the film and that's the only important thing. I mean it's no good having a great distribution setup if you've got no film.
William Everson: Of course.
Malcolm McDowell: And he's certainly not rigid.
William Everson: Well, I'm glad to be so informed. Let's turn the limelight back to you for a moment Mr. Burgess. It must be rather unique for the writer of such an individual and stylized book not work on the screenplay itself and it does seem rather strange to me that a film like this which is a very difficult and symbolic kind of story which has a very equally difficult and symbolic title it would be rather an affectation not to explain that title in the film itself. I think perhaps because there was so much controversy over '2001' which turned out to be very profitable controversy, perhaps Kubrick with his cult of followers was hoping that people would delve into the meaning of the film. And find all sorts of meanings, which may or may not have been there. But the fact is, there are no clues in the film unless one has read your book and the title doesn't become apparent perhaps you might even now explain the title for us.
Anthony Burgess: Well, the title has a very different meaning, but only to a particular generation of London cockneys. It's a phrase which I heard many years ago and so fell in love with, I wanted to use it as the title of a book. But the phrase itself I did not make up. The phrase, 'As queer as a clockwork orange' is good old East London slang. And it didn't seem to me necessary to explain it. Now obviously I have given it an extra meaning I've implied an extra dimension. I've implied the junction of the organic, the lively, the sweet - in other words life - the orange. And the mechanical, the cold, the disciplined. And brought them together into this kind of oxymoron I think is the term. This 'sour-sweet' word.
William Everson: And in the book you do come back to it fairly frequently…
Anthony Burgess: It is partly explained in the book. The symbolism is gone instead… and of course in the book itself the writer who is beaten up is writing such a book. When I wrote the script myself, like many other people who wrote a script, I turned the author in the book into myself. I made him 'Burgess'. Well Stanley obviously read the script although he didn't use it and something of this must have stuck in his mind because he's called Alex, Burgess. He was aware that there was a close personal tie-up with the whole process of writing and suffering for writing and a kind of very powerful nexus of symbolism was hanging around somewhere there. But I think he was right not to do any facile explanation. Anybody who knows cockney slang will know the term, anybody who doesn't can give a meaning to it.
William Everson: Yes
Korova Milk Bar Clip (2:30 mins) starting at Alex: "There were some sophistos from the TV studios around the corner laughing and govoreeting…"
James MacAndrew (V.O.): A bit of spatchka, spatchka - sleep. A Clockwork Orange borrows dozens of foreign words to form its own slang. 'Malchick' = boy. 'Chelloveck' = fellow. 'Ptitsa' = bird in the sense of a girl/a chick, are all straight from the Russian. Anthony Burgess a Joyce scholar gives other words a Joycian twist into English.
'odinock' - lonesome, becomes 'odinocky', 'militsia' becomes 'millicents/policemen', 'khorosho' is spoken as horrowshow meaning 'good'.
The past tense ending makes an English word of the Russian for 'drink'. Keeshka is pluralized to mean 'guts' and the Korova Milk Bar where Alex and his Droogs plan their mayhem is aptly named for the Russian for 'cow'.
appy polly loggy
pee and em
Like the Teddy Boys who flourished when Mr. Burgess wrote his novel, the chellovecks of Clockwork Orange treat their own mother tongue endearingly. 'eggiweg', 'appy polly loggy' for 'apology', 'Pee and Em' for pa and ma.
William Everson: In the wake of '1984' there has been an increasing number of films and books built around the premise of a rather depressing and politically motivated future in this country and in England. A number of films such as 'Privilege', 'Wild In The Streets', 'Punishment Park' all of them presenting a rather depressing and grim picture of life in the future. I'm afraid that, I'm rather too fond of England to think it will change that rapidly over there and that they are just too slow in their changing. But certainly these films have represented a very definite trend of thought, which almost seems to be replacing science fiction of the way to engulf audiences in fact and melodrama which isn't that improbable at all. And certainly 'A Clockwork Orange' is written in 63, I believe Mr. Burgess?
Anthony Burgess: 62, it was written in 61 and published in 62.
William Everson: It was one of the first of its kind of novel and it was some time before it could be made into a film at all. The rights for a film version were sold initially in 1963 I believe or '64 with the intention of making it with initially, Mike (sic) Jagger and then later on The Beatles. But at that particular time the censors were particularly rigid with any kinds of themes of violence and they claimed then it could never make it at all. Many, many worthwhile projects at that time were being turned down because of censorial interference. And so the project was delayed indefinitely. Terry southern himself did one script, which was not used. But he finally showed the property to Stanley Kubrick and it was Mr. Kubrick who finally did his own version of his own script and the film finally emerged many, many years later. But I think in view of the fact that so many films and plays and novels were built around this particular theme I'd like to ask you Mr. Burgess just how you can see this particular story which I think overlaps in some ways many of your other books which have this similar kind of rather depressing kind of view of the future.
Anthony Burgess: Well it isn't really a depressing, well it's not depressing to me… I'm not capable of being depressed much… it's very simple. I was brought up as a Catholic in the north of England and I was brought up to accept the doctrine of Original Sin which I still accept under various other nominal guises and I think that man is inherently bad or inherently anti-social and yet in a sense man's original sin is a product of his own will. He willed it himself. And by curious paradox this will is rather a glorious thing to possess. There's a terrible statement made by Saint Augustine which all Christians like to forget. But what he said about the fall, the fall of Adam was this: 'Oh happy fault since it produced so great a redeemer'. In other words the orthodox Christian must feel the fall from grace - the fall from the Garden of Eden was a good thing in that it produced Christ. And it's a good thing on a secular level because it indicated man's desire to make his own life, to work his will, to make mistakes and in the process of making mistakes produce as kind of by-products things like art and beauty and the like. Out of this powerful libido Alex, for instance, in the book and in the film there is also cognate with it a realization of a beauty of music, the beauty of the world, the beauty of language. Alex is a man in that he is violent, as men are, he loves beauty and he loves language. And these three things go all together. If you produce a human being without the will to do evil - if you produce a human being without the will to do anything and certainly not the will to create. So this is not in my view a gloomy view of man at all. It's a fairly realistic view of what man is like. And the book and also the film represent a kind of fabula treatment of this human condition. It is not the future really, it can be the future if you will. It's just a period of time, which is at a slant to real time.
William Everson: Well America perhaps but not London I hope. You mentioned the beauty of language. Can you tell us something about how you devised a particular Russian oriented language used in the film?
Anthony Burgess: Well, the alternative to using a slang of my own was to use an existing slang, which would date too rapidly. It would date in a year. It would date in fact between the writing of the book and its publication. And certainly ten years after the writing and publishing of the book, the language would smell of lavender. So I had to invent a dialect of my own and by chance I went to Russia and found that in Russia there were the same problems with teenagers as we have in the West and it struck me I could create a kind of composite teenager who would speak a language compounded of Russian and English and American.
Clip of Alex in the Record Shop (2 mins) from when Alex walks in to when he invites the girls home.
Still Images of Walter Carlos and Rachel Elkind and their studio while the
ACO theme plays.
James MacAndrew (V.O.): This is the electronic music studio of Walter Carlos and Rachel Elkind where much of the music of A Clockwork Orange was made. Classical music plays as important a role in the film as it did in Kubrick's '2001 A Space Odyssey'. Some of it is straight, but much of it was remade on electronic synthesizing equipment. Carlos is well known for his records 'Switched On Bach' and 'The Well Tempered Synthesizer'. For Clockwork Orange he created new performances of Purcell's 'Music For The Funeral Of Queen Mary', Rossini's 'William Tell Overture' and most spectacularly selections from Beethoven's 'Ninth Symphony'. For the 'Ode To Joy' sequence, Carlos used the voice encoder with elements of the Moog to vary the pitch of the vocal line as articulated by Elkind. This is one of the many techniques used in the creation of synthetic music.
William Everson: The film of course adds many dimensions of its own. The language is one, the visuals of the film somehow enable one to accept quite clearly the often quite difficult meaning of some of the slang Russian oriented phrases somehow because of the way the scenes are designed and set up you know automatically what the expression currently in use means even though there's no obvious explanation for it. I think the use of music too is another important asset and adjunct to the film quite apart from the importance of the Beethoven music as a part of the plot. It somehow adds a kind of formal and timeless quality to the film. You can somehow look at this film as though you were seeing it in 2000 looking back rather than the 1970's looking forward. I think it adds a great deal of formality to the film, which really helps it a tremendous amount. And also, of course, it's a tremendously stylized film in so many, many ways. And stylization in film is not a thing that usually works very well. I think one of the best examples is a 1927 film by FW Murnau called 'Sunrise' which is a very warm, human love story between two people in which the story itself is totally realistic and totally warm, but in which the acting and the set design and the décor is very much formalized and stylized in a very unusual Germanic way. And yet it works superbly well. And the film is unrealistic and yet it convinces you with its realism. Conversely though, I think, Kubrick in 'A Clockwork Orange' goes in exactly the opposite direction. For the most part the film is shot on location. It uses perhaps bizarre landscape settings and modernistic buildings, but he does use actual existing locations. And he creates with these very real buildings a nightmare world all his own. I think the only bizarre sets specifically built for the film is the opening scene, the opening set of the very erotic or exotic milk bar at the beginning. Am I right in that? Is that the only sort of unusual… outré set they built for the film?
Malcolm McDowell: Yes, in fact we only built, I think it was three sets in all. The Korova Milk Bar, the one that you mentioned, a passageway and the prison check-in. That was the only three sets that were built. The Korova - I think he got the idea for the statues when he saw an exhibition of…I've forgotten who the sculpture's name, but he saw an exhibition in London of these sculptures and he decided to use that.
William Everson: I was wondering how you felt about the scenes that have been added to the screenplay that you actually hadn't written. I thinking of one sequence in particular for me that helped the film tremendously - the sequence in which Alex is back in the house of the author whom he assaulted before and in your book you, er, obviously sense that the story is narrated by Alex himself, he can't tell the reader what the writer what other events are taking place. But of course, Kubrick can come outside of that narrative and he shows you events building up to a kind of - almost Hitchcockian suspense build up and it works extremely well in the film. How do you feel about those additions?
Anthony Burgess: Oh, I was very pleased with the particular one you mention where Alex is eating spaghetti Bolognese and drinking wine. It has a quality of an improvisation which is admirable I feel - it's very free moving. It's a kind of link… it's a link which is a very cinematic conception. But it finds a parallel in the book. It's the exact cinematic parallel of the kind of the sequence I had in the book. Which is a little more complex than the one we have here. But the job done in the film is probably a little better than the job done by my own sequence in the book - because it's a lot simpler. So I have nothing but praise for the way he's found these equivalents, cinematic equivalents,for these literary conceptions.
William Everson: Having seen the film now and knowing what can be done with your work do you think in future you'll be liable to write, perhaps, in a more cinematic way to make it easier…
Anthony Burgess: I always have written in a cinematic way. I always conceive a novel in terms of scenes…
William Everson: Well for example this particular book is written about, basically, one character and since he's telling his own story it's very difficult to know what sort of character he is more of a symbol than an individual.
William Everson: It must have been very difficult for you to interpret that part.
Malcolm McDowell: Yes, because as you rightly say I couldn't find any realistic parallels to work in/within. And one was playing this force, this evil force, if you like, and one had to make it a real person. In a sense, a real personality and I did find that difficult at the beginning. But then, it just Bog and His Holy Angels in heaven sent me the answer. I don't know how it happened, it just evolved - you know. I mean the first day was terrifying. Absolutely nightmareish. We shot a scene in the hospital, the Ludovico Hospital, where I'm having breakfast, and I hadn't really got a clue what I was doing, really. I was basically saying the lines and just hoping it was right. And when we saw the rushes the next evening Stanley said, you know 'That's right… that's, we've got it! That's it!' And on the way home I remember I thought to myself: 'Well now what was it?' I can't remember quite what I did do. It's just one of those things that happens on a film. It's just impossible to describe how you arrived at it. And the answer is on the screen.
William Everson: How soon was that opening close-up of the film shot - well into the progress of the film or did you establish that quickly?
Malcolm McDowell: Yes. That close-up was shot, I would say half way through. Obviously we did the two Korova scenes together. You know, you go to one location and shoot all the stuff there and then you move on to the next one. The F. Alexander stuff at his house was all shot so 'before the treatment' and 'after' was shot together. And it's interesting talking about the wine sequence and the spaghetti and how that was done... Stanley introduced this character this strong man, this Charles Atlas/Mr. Universe because he said, 'Well, why don't you just get up and walk out of the house?' which was in fact a good point. And the wine sequence was determined by this strongman man sitting on my left who was liable to, sort of, pick me up and tear me to shreds. So that's the kind of tension, pulling tensions, in the scene just come really from that one idea.
Anthony Burgess: Well, that worked very well, I was very pleased with it.
Malcolm McDowell: Yeah
William Everson: I think the whole film worked extremely well.
Produced and Directed By John Musilli
Writer Stephan Chodorov
Settings Designed By Jim Ryan
Technical Director Hal Schutzman
Audio Michael Mcgrath
Lighting Director Lincoln Stulik
Associate Director John Neukum
Set Decorator Henry Hubbert
Production Supervisor Stan Birchall
Additional Photography Bob Rush
Music Courtesy Of Warner Bros.
Thanks to Alexis for the basic transcript, corrections by me.
This page © 2002-10 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net