15 Things You Might Not Know About A Clockwork Orange

Ready for a bit of the ol' ultra-violence? Here are a few things you should know about Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

1. KUBRICK ORIGINALLY DIDN'T WANT TO MAKE THE MOVIE.

The director first encountered Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange when his Dr. Strangelove co-screenwriter Terry Southern gave him a copy on the set of that film. Southern enjoyed the biting black humor of the book, and thought Kubrick should consider adapting it into a movie. Kubrick allegedly didn't like the book upon first reading because of the Nadsat language Burgess created for the novel. The language, literally translated as the Russian word for "teen" and comprised of Russian and Cockney rhyming slang, confused the eventual director until he revisited the source material after his efforts to make a biopic about Napoleon fell through. Kubrick reportedly began to change his mind when he considered Alex as a Richard III-type character.

2. MALCOLM MCDOWELL WAS KUBRICK'S ONE AND ONLY CHOICE FOR ALEX.

Prior to Kubrick taking over the adaptation of A Clockwork Orange (Ken Russell and John Schlesinger were among the directors being considered), Mick Jagger was rumored to be up for the role of Alex, with other members of the Rolling Stones potentially playing Alex's droogs. But when Kubrick joined the project, he only wanted one man to play Alex: Malcolm McDowell. Kubrick had seen the actor in his debut film role in If...., which features similar anti-authoritarian themes and McDowell playing a rebellious and violent teen. McDowell never even had to audition—and if the actor had declined the role, Kubrick allegedly would have dropped the project altogether.

3. MCDOWELL HAD NO IDEA WHO KUBRICK WAS.

When offered the part, McDowell mistakenly thought the director was Stanley Kramer, the filmmaker behind movies like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Judgment at Nuremberg. It wasn't until McDowell's friend and If.... director Lindsay Anderson showed him Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey that the actor realized who the director was.

4. KUBRICK'S SCREENPLAY CLOSELY MIRRORED THE BOOK.

Kubrick eventually warmed up to the book so much that his screenplay was mostly just dialogue and stage directions grafted from the book itself. A few early drafts of the screenplay actually changed the film's title to "The Ludovico Technique," named after the brainwashing experiment that Alex endures, but Kubrick later changed it back to the book's name. The director and actors hewed so closely to the book that sometimes they wouldn't even use the formal screenplay on set. Instead, they simply carried the novel as a reference for dialogue in the scenes.

The screenplay (and the movie) famously do not include a happy ending written and included in British versions of the book at the request of Burgess' publishers. That ending features Alex renouncing his violent past and promising to try to be a good man. Kubrick based his screenplay on the book's American version, which had the happy ending excised altogether.

5. THE MOVIE WAS PRIMARILY SHOT IN EXISTING LOCATIONS

Kubrick wanted to prove that he could make a low-budget movie after the expensive 2001, so he sought out existing locations. The only stipulation was that they had to be within driving distance from his house outside London. The most famous location was Alex's apartment block, which was shot at the Thamesmead Housing Estate in Southeast London, a housing project built in the late 1960s. The writer's "HOME" was three different locations: the road leading there was outside Munden House in Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire; the exterior was shot at a place called The Japanese Garden in Shipton-under-Wychwood in Oxfordshire; and the interior was The Skybreak House in Radlett, Hertfordshire (the art on the interior walls was all painted by Kubrick's wife, Christiane). 

The record shop scene was actually shot in the Chelsea Drugstore, a hip London bar frequented by the Rolling Stones and other celebrities in the late '60s and '70s (eagle-eyed viewers might spot the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey on the front of the desk).

6. BUT THERE ARE ALSO SOME SETS.

There are only three specific scenes that were built as sets: The Korovo Milk Bar, the prison's check-in area, and the bathroom where Alex takes a bath in the writer's HOME were built in an old factory in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. Kubrick loved shooting there because it was the closest location to his house.

7. MCDOWELL'S LOVE OF CRICKET HELPED CREATE ALEX'S DROOG COSTUME.

Designer Milena Canonero sought to create a skewed near-future society with the costumes for A Clockwork Orange. But Kubrick and Canonero, who would go on to win an Academy Award for costume design on Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (plus additional Oscars for Chariots of Fire, Marie Antoinette, and The Grand Budapest Hotel) had trouble pinning down the look of Alex's costume. When McDowell, a cricket fan, came in for a costume fitting with his gear—including protective cup—Kubrick told him to keep them out and incorporate his white shirt and cup into the costume. When McDowell started to dress by putting the jockstrap under his pants, Kubrick told him it'd look better over his pants instead, and the look made it into the final movie.

8. ALEX'S "SINGIN' IN THE RAIN" WAS IMPROVISED.

McDowell came up with the idea for his character to sing the Gene Kelly classic. Kubrick thought the film's famously brutal scene, in which Alex and his droogs attack the writer and his wife, was playing flat during rehearsal. To adequately convey the violent nature of the scene and the sinister nature of the character, he asked McDowell to do something outrageous—like dance around. The actor began humming while dancing, then broke out into "Singin' In The Rain." McDowell would go on to say, "And why did I do that? Because [that song is] Hollywood's gift to the world of euphoria. And that's what the character is feeling at the time."

9. A REAL DOCTOR APPEARS IN THE LUDOVICO TECHNIQUE SCENE.

For the scene in which Alex is forced to watch horrific footage as aversion therapy, McDowell's eyes were kept open with antique lid locks used for delicate eye surgeries. The doctor administering eye drops was an actual doctor from Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. He was supposed to remain offscreen, but Kubrick eventually put him in the scene because McDowell would have been incapable of keeping his eyes open without the drops. 

10. MCDOWELL WAS INJURED ANYWAY.

Though his eyes were anesthetized, McDowell was forced to endure excruciating pain. The eye clamps were only supposed to be used for patients lying down, but Kubrick insisted that the character be sitting up watching footage for his rehabilitation. McDowell actually sliced his cornea during the scene, forcing the legendary perfectionist Kubrick to cut it short.

11. THE FAST-MOTION SEX SCENE TOOK 28 MINUTES TO SHOOT.

Kubrick chose to use fast-motion blur to film the sex scene between Alex and the two women from the record shop in order to ensure that it wouldn't be specifically cited by censors for sexually explicit content. The scene ended up contributing to the film's eventual X rating, not for explicit content, but because the censors feared the technique would be co-opted by actual pornographers who could speed up their films as a loophole to get their films passed by the ratings board.

12. DARTH VADER HAS A SMALL PART IN THE MOVIE.

The disabled writer's muscular aide in the film's third act is none other than David Prowse, the former bodybuilder and Mr. Universe contestant who would go on to occupy the Darth Vader suit in the original Star Wars trilogy.

The brawny Prowse initially protested the scene where he would have to carry the writer and his wheelchair around a corner and down to a dinner table in a single take. Kubrick had a tendency to do dozens of takes, and Prowse approached him, saying, "Your name is not one-take Kubrick is it, you see?" The crew fell silent and thought Prowse would immediately be fired, but Kubrick simply laughed the comment off and told him he'd be fine. They were able to get the shot in six takes.

13. PING PONG HELPED TRIM THE BUDGET.

McDowell recorded the film's voiceovers over two weeks of post-production sessions with Kubrick. To break up sessions that stretched on for hours, the pair would retreat to a ping pong table outside the recording studio to play a few games before heading back to work. Following the two weeks of sessions, McDowell's agent learned the actor was only paid for one week of work. Kubrick's explanation was that the one-week amount was for the work they did. The unpaid week had been spent playing ping pong.

14. KUBRICK PULLED THE MOVIE FROM UK THEATERS BECAUSE OF DEATH THREATS.

The press blamed the violent film for a series of alleged copycat break-ins and killings in the UK in the early 1970s, prompting calls for it to be banned. The film remained in theaters and available for distribution until an incident caused Kubrick to request that Warner Brothers pull the movie from UK cinemas.

While on the Ireland set of his next film, Barry Lyndon, Kubrick received death threats against him and his family. The perpetrators promised to break into their secluded house outside of London to carry out attacks just like Alex and his droogs do in the film. Distraught, Kubrick kept the studio from publicly showing the movie in the British Isles and Ireland until after his death in 1999.

15. IT GOT A BEST PICTURE NOD DESPITE ITS X RATING.

Despite all the controversy, A Clockwork Orange was never pulled from American theaters and was nominated for Best Picture and three other Oscars, including Best Director for Kubrick and Best Adapted Screenplay for his script. The film whiffed on all four categories at the ceremony, but it still earned a place in history. Along with Midnight Cowboy, which won Best Picture in 1970, it's one of only two X-rated films to be nominated for the Oscars' top prize.

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

HBO Max: Everything You Need to Know About the New Streaming Service

What will you binge-watch first?
What will you binge-watch first?
WarnerMedia

This week, WarnerMedia launched HBO Max, the long-awaited streaming platform that the company hopes can compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney+. But with HBO GO and HBO NOW already in existence, the addition of a third platform for HBO content has caused no small amount of confusion among both prospective customers and current HBO subscribers. Here are answers to all your burning questions about the buzzworthy new service.

What is HBO Max?

HBO Max is a direct-to-consumer streaming platform that you can download as an app or access through your cable or internet provider. Just like Apple has Apple TV+ and Amazon has Prime Video, WarnerMedia now has HBO Max.

How is HBO Max different from HBO NOW and HBO GO?

hbo max streaming platform
This user's viewing habits are eclectic, to say the least.
WarnerMedia

Before HBO Max, WarnerMedia had two different apps with the same library of HBO series and certain Warner Bros. films. HBO GO is for viewers who already pay for HBO through their cable TV provider, which is why you have to log in through your TV provider. HBO NOW is for independent subscribers who pay $15 a month for access to the same content. In other words, HBO GO is for customers with cable, and HBO NOW is for those without it.

Like HBO NOW, HBO Max is an independent subscription service that you don’t need a TV provider in order to access. The main difference comes down to content: While HBO NOW and HBO GO only include HBO series and some films, HBO Max offers tons of additional shows and films licensed from other distributors—plus new, exclusive originals (more on that in a minute).

How much does HBO Max cost, and how do I get it?

You can sign up for HBO Max here. Your first seven days will be free, and it will cost you $15 per month after that.

Do I already have access to HBO Max?

If you’re already an HBO NOW subscriber, your app should have automatically updated to the HBO Max app (if you don’t have automatic updates enabled, make sure to update it manually), and you can log into HBO Max using your existing HBO NOW credentials. Your recurring monthly payment of $15 will also now automatically start applying to HBO Max instead of HBO NOW.

If you watch HBO through your TV or mobile provider, there’s a good chance you can access HBO Max at no additional cost, too. Apple TV channels, AT&T TV, DIRECTV, Hulu, Spectrum, Verizon FIOS, Xfinity, and many other providers are included—you can see the full list here.

Which platforms will HBO Max be on?

You can stream HBO Max on your desktop on HBOMax.com, or you can download the app through the Apple app store, Google Play, or Samsung TV. You can also access HBO Max content on your TV through any of the providers listed here.

What's playing on HBO Max?

hbo max channel hubs
Elmo and James Dean in the same place, at last.
WarnerMedia

HBO Max boasts 10,000 hours of content that includes all HBO shows, many Warner Bros. films from the past century, new Max Original series, and other programs from CNN, Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS, TCM, Adult Swim, and more.

To name a few highlights, the service currently offers all eight Harry Potter films, all 10 seasons of Friends, an exclusive selection of Studio Ghibli classics like Howl’s Moving Castle (2005) and Spirited Away (2002), and 2019’s Joker. The first few episodes of some highly-anticipated Max Originals are also available, including Anna Kendrick’s rom-com series Love Life, the voguing house reality competition Legendary, and Sesame Workshop's The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo (featuring guests Kacey Musgraves, John Mulaney, the Jonas Brothers, Lil Nas X, and more—so far).

Will I get to see the Friends Reunion?

Yes, the Friends reunion will definitely debut on HBO Max, but no air date has been confirmed yet. Production was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re tentatively hoping to film it sometime this summer. (But hey, at least you have access to all the other Friends episodes to help you pass the time.)