Culture

Real Horrorshow: Coming Soon: A Clockwork Orange Musical?

James Lileks, whom I believe is much more of a fan of Anthony Burgess’ 1962 book than Stanley Kubrick’s epochal 1971 movie version has the scoop:

What’s it going to be then, eh? Why, a song, my brothers. A malenky warble whose horrorshow zvook would calm the likes of old Dim himself. Time magazine reports on the forthcoming “Clockwork Orange” musical:

The extent of the “ultra-violence” of the stage show will surely be an instinctive question to those familiar with the book, or Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation. The story is littered with extreme violence, rape, and sexual fantasy. The film itself, featuring violence, rape and repeated full-frontal nudity, was withdrawn from distribution for 27 years in Great Britain after its 1971 release. Burgess himself, who died in 1993, wrote the music for the stage show.

Here’s the part that might interest any fans of the book or its author:

The script has been performed before, in 1990, by the Royal Shakespeare Company, however, it rejected Burgess’ music and instead chose to feature music by Bono and The Edge of U2.

Oh, of course they did.

Lileks adds:

When you think about the movie, it’s almost a musical as it is – classical music weaves in and out, a delicate civilized counterpoint to Alex’s brutality, reminding us that aesthetic appreciation has no relationship to morality. [QED — Ed] Liking Beethoven doesn’t make you a better person. Fans of Burgess will be eager to hear his score; did he use Russian melodies filtered through English idioms, as he did with the language?

Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe he used “Singin’ In the Rain” — at least, not in the original book. If I remember my Kubrick-a-brac* correctly, Malcolm McDowell sang that as an improv during a rehearsal, Kubrick loved it, and bought the rights to use it in his movie. (And would sorta-kinda take credit for it in subsequent interviews.) I wonder if Gene Kelly ever saw Clockwork, and if he appreciated it, or reacted like George C. Scott in the video Manolo posted here recently.

Kubrick shot A Clockwork Orange on a comparatively small budget of about two million dollars as compared with the $10.5 million of MGM’s money he spent on his previous film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. He had planned to follow up 2001 with an equally big epic, but the collapse of old Hollywood meant that Napoleon would become one of Kubrick’s great lost projects.

The ’70s had only just begun when Kubrick began shooting Clockwork; too many British skinheads and proto-punk rockers would quickly come to view the film not as a horrowshow but as a how-to guide, causing him to pull it off the UK market for the remainder of his life. And as the great Theodore Dalrymple noted a few years ago, while Burgess intended his book as a warning, it really did end up a chilling forecast for the darker side of today’s society.

* Hat tip to an old Mad Magazine for that pun.