A Clockwork Orange

(Stanley Kubrick, 1971)

First screened in London in 1972, the BBFC had, in 1967, stated that an early screenplay version they had sight of would be unlikely to be acceptable. However, when the film was submitted in 1971 it was passed as an X, with no cuts, with the Boards secretary Stephen Murphy stating that;

"Disturbed though we were by the first half of the film, which is basically a statement of some of the problems of violence, we were, nonetheless, satisfied by the end of the film that it could not be accused of exploitation: quite the contrary, it is a valuable contribution to the whole debate about violence" (from SBBFC Review)

Whilst the release of the film was met with largely critical acclaim, garnering four Oscar nominations in the process, there was also a strong backlash in some quarters. See for example the review of Mr Dunstan from The Timesreproduced below, and the campaigns outlined by Bugge (undated). The film had disappeared from view in the UK by the end of 1973, allegedly because Kubrick feeling vulnerable because of the moral panic connecting the film to acts of copycat violence throughout the country. The film took on an almost mythical status over the years, although never formally banned, or refused a certificate by the BBFC (now the British Board of Film Classification, since 1984) at any point since its release. Following Kubricks death in 1999 it was resubmitted to the BBFC and granted an 18 certificate on film in 1999, and an 18 on video and DVD in 2000. There was very little public outcry this time around.

The film however is still in many ways unsettling, you decide.

Further reading

See generally for a useful, if slightly dated, review of film censorship at the end of the 1970s, Robertson, G (1980) The Future of Film Censorship Journal of Law and Society 78-94.

A google search, or a trawl through newspapers of the time will allow you to discover lots of interesting material. Other internet based material that may be of interest, or start you off looking, includes:

This has a number of interesting documents and articles on Kubrick's work, including;

Business newspapers

News

The Centre for Law, Society and Popular Culture draws together many of the threads of work that goes on in the Westminster Law School.

Contact

Get in touch with us to find out more about Westminster.