A Clockwork Orange: Political Impacts When A Clockwork Orange was released in the early 70’s it was instantly seen as controversial sparking huge amounts of criticism in America and Britain from renowned film critics, government officials and members of conservative groups. In the late 60’s Western society and culture was changing along with Western Cinema as a result of the old studio system collapsing, signalling the end of Classical Hollywood films.
With the rise of television into popular culture and a drop in box office successes, running from 1947 to the late 60’s, it was made apparent a new and fundamentally different product was needed. A younger audience for cinema was developing, interested in films that reflect their generations experiences, resulting in the creation of the anti-hero. Films like Easy Ryder (67), Bonnie and Clyde (67) and The Wild Bunch (69) didn’t show traditional values and ideologies usually seen in Hollywood films. Instead it showed outlaws as the protagonists fighting against the older generations dated views through violence.
When A Clockwork Orange was released in both Britain and America it was given an X-rated certificate as well as limited distribution in spite of the films box office success and various awards. Upon the release of the film in America, conservative forces protested against the film being showed and a number of American newspapers refused to advertise it. In august 1972 Kubrick withdrew the film from American distribution for 60 days resulting in a reedited version, cutting out 30 seconds of the most violent material. The MPAA then promptly changed the rating from X to R although both versions continued to circulate as the hysteria died down.
However in Britain the controversy of A Clockwork Orange started before its actual release. In the Mid 60’s the initial script, written by Terry Southern and Michael Cooper, was rejected by the BBFC, under government pressure, who stated ‘there is no point reading the script because it involves youth defiance of authority and we’re not doing that’. This generally showed the British attitude towards censorship at the time and pathed the way for the films future problems. The BBFC however eventually accepted a later version of the script on the grounds that the controversial materials were justified by the story.
The controversy continued near its release with the Conservative Home Secretary Reginald Maulding demanding to see the film to assess it’s dangers to British society and a right-wing censorship group ‘A Festival of Light’ petitioned for the film to be banned completely. In 1973 the Hastings council banned A Clockwork Orange on the grounds that it was ‘violent for it’s own sake’ and had ‘no moral’ . In 1974 after a series of supposed ‘copycat’ killings inspired by the film caused Kubrick to withdraw the film completely from British distribution. It remained withdrawn for 27 years until Kubrick’s death in 1999.