Celebrating its 50th Anniversary, Stanley Kubrick's cult dystopian classic A Clockwork Orange is a sci-fi masterpiece and brilliant social satire that remains just as relevant as ever, a somberly distressing commentary on humanity's willingness to act on its darkly alarming desires. Alex and his droogs enjoy a bit of the old ultra-violence on Ultra HD with a gorgeous 4K video, an excellent DTS-HD track and the same set of supplements, making the package Highly Recommended.
Let's take a minute to revel in the sheer genius of the title A Clockwork Orange, taken from Anthony Burgess's novel on which this film is based. At first odd and rather quirky sounding, the seemingly innocuous phrase perfectly captures the plot's profound, somberly distressing commentary on humanity's more problematic nature and willingness to act on its darkly alarming desires. Modern civilization feels compelled to subjugate and control primitive nature, to conform perceived socio-cultural aberrations into preferred compliance. Or better yet, referring back to what the title implies, we have a deep-seated desire to subdue the biological into something mechanical and measurable, into something that fits our controlled understanding. The film's title alone is absolutely brilliant, conjuring a variety of ideas that places the story's anti-hero Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) at the center of it all and serves as a fitting description of him.
The phrase also brings to mind something cyclical of the natural or biological, which reflects back to the plot's underlying themes about the cycle of violence or that we all possess violent urges whether we act upon them or not and no matter one's political leanings. This is made fairly clear with the wheelchair-bound liberal writer Frank (Patrick Magee) when fortuitously given the chance to avenge the pain caused by Alex. Meanwhile, the reactionary, conservative bureaucrat Fredrick (Anthony Sharp) seizes on technological advancements when it suits his totalitarian needs, which in this case is aversion therapy as the answer to "the problem of criminal violence." That therapy prompts further questions about free-will and the morality of such technology, to force people into submissive, law-abiding citizens. Does the crime warrant the punishment? Can it be called rehabilitation or reformed when in fact, it was not by choice but psychologically coerced?
Stanley Kubrick's cult dystopian classic is a sci-fi masterpiece and brilliant social satire that remains just as viscerally effective and shockingly relevant fifty years later.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Celebrating the film's 50th Anniversary, Warner Home Video brings A Clockwork Orange to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a Digital Copy code. When redeeming said code via wb.com/redeemmovie or MoviesAnywhere, users are granted access to the 4K digital version in Dolby Vision with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 copy, and both are housed inside the standard black, eco-elite keepcase with a glossy, orange & white slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to a static main menu screen with the usual options along the bottom and music playing in the background.
Alex and his droogs kick Ultra HD right in the yarbles, volunteering, our dear and loyal brothers, a remarkable upgrade over previous Blu-ray releases, which were notoriously mediocre and disappointing.
Celebrating its 50th Anniversary, the film is redeemed with a brand-new restoration and remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives, which was reportedly supervised by Kubrick's former assistant Leon Vitali. Almost immediately, the HEVC H.265 encode boasts the improvements with the vibrant title cards hinting at the richly-saturated primaries about to come. The cinematography has always been more on the restrained and somber side complementing the plot's themes, but here, the crimson-rose reds really come to life, the blues range from electrifying cobalts to dark indigoes, and the shamrock greens vividly pop. The secondary hues enjoy better saturation and variation as well, showing a strong array of oranges, ambers, browns and golden yellows, making that 70s chic decor really standout.
Presented in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, the more noteworthy face-lift is the improved contrast and brightness balance, affording this Kubrick masterpiece with another lease on life. By comparison, the Blu-ray looks dull and flat thanks to the brighter, more radiant whites and rich, ebony blacks of this HDR10 presentation, providing the image with appreciable depth and a lovely cinematic appeal. Specular highlights furnish the visuals with a significantly tighter, crisper glow in the hottest spots like the various light fixtures, allowing for more of the finer details to come through, and the same extends to the superior visibility within the darkest, blackest corners of the frame.
Although it comes with its fair share of softer moments, which are easily excused as the result of the original cinematography and the condition of the elements, the native 4K transfer also displays sharper definition and clarity throughout. Background objects are plainly to make out, the lettering in newspapers are distinct, and the threading in the costumes are often razor-sharp. Facial complexions appear healthy and appropriate to the climate with lifelike textures, revealing the small pores and negligible blemishes in the entire cast.
Awash in a fine layer of grain that is consistent, this is a remarkable upgrade for a beloved Kubrick favorite, and the film has never looked better on any home video format as it does on Ultra HD. (HDR10 Video Rating: 90/100)
The cult dystopian classic enjoys a bit of the old ultra-violence with the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as its predecessors. Personally, I've always enjoyed this lossless iteration of the audio design and found it quite impressive considering its monaural origins. The front-heavy mix spreads evenly across the soundstage without feeling forced or artificial, as various atmospherics convincingly pan between the three front channels. All the while, the mid-range is surprisingly extensive with excellent distinction and separation within the orchestration. Vocals are precise and well-prioritized, and a hearty, accurate low-end supplies some appreciable weight and presence to the score. The surrounds remain largely quiet except for some mild bleeding from the music, and when applying the receiver's Dolby Surround or DTS: Neural:X up-mixing functionality, that same music extends a bit further into the top heights, generating a satisfying, highly engaging soundfield.
For a different take on the audio quality, you can read our review of the Blu-ray HERE. (Audio Rating: 78/100)
The same set of bonus features from the previous release are ported over for this UHD edition and housed in the accompanying Blu-ray disc.
Fifty years later, Stanley Kubrick's cult dystopian classic A Clockwork Orange is a sci-fi masterpiece and brilliant social satire that remains just as relevant as ever. The still shocking and visceral tale about a criminal's forced reformation is a really somberly distressing commentary on humanity's more problematic nature and willingness to act on its darkly alarming desires. Celebrating the film's 50th Anniversary, Alex and his droogs enjoy a bit of the old ultra-violence on 4K Ultra HD with a gorgeous HDR10 presentation that gives fans a remarkable upgrade over previous Blu-ray releases. Although porting over the identical excellent DTS-HD MA soundtrack and the same set of supplements as before, the overall UHD package is Highly Recommended.