Clockwork Orange, A 4K Ultra HD

Featured In Issue 259, January/February 2022

WSR Score5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
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Stanley Kubrick
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DTS HD Lossless 5.1
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From Anthony Burgess's novel comes Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange," the future-shock thriller about Alex (McDowell), a derby-topped thug who leads his gang of "droogs" in the pursuit of sex, drugs, and extreme violence. When he is caught for committing a brutal crime, Alex is forced to undergo an experimental treatment to eradicate his violent tendencies. Frightening and far too violent for some, "A Clockwork Orange" is a provocative classic from a legendary director. (Laurie Sevano)

Special features include commentary by Malcolm McDowell and Historian Nick Redman; four featurettes: "Still Tickin': The Return Of Clockwork Orange" (SD 43:42), "Great Bolshy Yarblockos!" (SD 28:19), "Turning Like Clockwork" (HD 26:19) and "Malcolm McDowell Looks Back" (HD 10:30) and a Movie Anywhere digital code.

The 1.66:1 2160p HEVC/H.265 Ultra HD HDR10 picture, reviewed on a Sony Bravia Z9D 4K Ultra HD HDR display, was photographed on Eastman film stock using the Mitchell BNC, Newman Sinclair Auto Kine and Arriflex 35 IIC and sourced from a 4K restoration master Digital Intermediate format. The restoration was conducted by Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging (MPI). Director Kubrick's former right-hand man Leon Vitali and the Kubrick Estate worked closely with the team at Warner Bros. during the mastering process.

First reviewed in Issue 34 as a DVD matted at 1.55:1, the imagery was mediocre. While fine detail was wanting, color fidelity was presented with natural fleshtones, rich hues, and deep blacks. Some interior scenes appeared plugged-up, with distracting compression pixilation, moiré patterns, and video artifacts. The 1.66:1 DVD reviewed in Issue 51 exhibited subtle, yet noticeable differences in the vibrancy of color and smoothness of the picture, when compared to the previously issued non-anamorphic DVD. Colors were bolder and more vivid with good balance and deep blacks. Fleshtones were generally accurate, though, a bit reddish at times. Images were generally sharp, with good detail, contrast, and shadow delineation. Still, there were instances in which fine details shimmered slightly and some pixilation was detected. Occasional source element artifacts were noticed. A Blu-ray release reviewed in Issue 159 exhibited the same 1.66:1 1080p VC-1 picture as that released previously on Blu-ray. The color palette was strongly saturated with rich and vivid hues, though, entities were inconsistent from scene to scene. The colors were very bold, and blacks were deep and mostly solid. Fleshtones remained reddish in tone. Resolution also remained inconsistent, with some segments and close-ups nicely detailed and others softly focused. Noise was better controlled and artifacts were less distracting. The presentation far surpassed the DVD releases and was effectively the best presentation of the film available to that point.

This 4K Ultra HD restoration is virtually grain-free and impressively clear and sharp. Fleshtones appear perfectly natural. The color palette is wonderfully vivid with hues that pop. Color density reveals nuances that reveal fine hue detail. HDR contrast is excellent with well-balanced deep black levels, revealing shadow delineation and bright white levels. Resolution is consistently revealing of fine detail. The improvements range from moderate to strong and will register with fans as the definitive edition of this classic in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. (Gary Reber)

The DTS-HD Master Audio™ 5.1-channel soundtrack follows the previous releases. Dialogue is nicely integrated spatially and McDowell's narration is exactly positioned center front and forward. Unfortunately, dialogue can sound harsh, very edgy and bright, and thus unnatural and distorted at times. Fans may prefer the sonic of the previous Blu-ray Disc to this remixed version. The orchestral music of Ludwig Van Beethoven is spread wide and deep across the soundstage and extended to the surrounds. The music serves as the source of surround envelopment. Foley sound effects generally seem realistic. Atmospherics and sound effects remain mediocre. Overall, the soundtrack remains focused toward monaural and dated.

Looking back, Issue 34's DVD soundtrack was presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. The fidelity was appropriately dated for a 1971 film, with a predominance of background hiss. Dialogue was intelligible but compressed and distorted. Bass extension was limited and sounded boomy. Issue 51's Dolby Digital 5.1-channel soundtrack was a remastering effort for which the primary element of dimension was the re-purposed stereo music, which was quite nicely spread around the soundstage. The surrounds were utilized actively, sometimes prominently, and served to effectively envelop the listener and enliven the soundfield. Otherwise, the audio was focused toward mono, with subtle directionality, for a gentle sense of atmosphere. The original soundtrack's limited characteristics were apparent in that remastering and some background hiss and hum could occasionally be noticed. Nonetheless, the noticeable improvement over the vintage mono audio, with the incorporation of the multichannel music, was readily noticed. The .1 LFE was utilized quite frequently for the music, and the low-end presence was notable. As with the previous LPCM soundtrack, this transfer to lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is essentially the same. The classical music score sounds "bright" overall and sans the bass. LFE energy is limited in this presentation. Dialogue is crisp and intelligible but generally thin sounding. McDowell's narration, however, is well balanced. Surround envelopment is subtle and comprised of the original monaural element. The soundtrack retains a dated presence and is a reminder of the age of the film and the production limitations. (Gary Reber)