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Once controversial, now acclaimed movie turns 50. Ojai's Malcolm McDowell to talk about starring role

Warner Brothers
"A Clockwork Orange" is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022.

McDowell to appear at screenings in Conejo Valley, and at the Movie Academy Museum in Los Angeles this weekend.

It’s the 50th anniversary of a film that was shocking to many moviegoers when it was released, and is thought provoking to this day.

A Clockwork Orange stars Malcolm McDowell, the British actor who's called Ventura County home for many years.  This weekend, he’ll help celebrate the movie’s anniversary at a Conejo Valley screening.

"I knew shooting it it was incredible," said McDowell. "I knew we were breaking boundaries."

It was a controversial project which rocked the movie world. From its depictions of violence, its costumes, and the way it used music and voiceover monologues, director Stanley Kubrick’s film was groundbreaking.

And, it set the stage for the young star’s more than half century long career to skyrocket.

McDowell played Alex DeLarge, the psychopathic young man who leads a gang of his "droogs" in a futuristic Great Britain. He’s arrested after a violent crime spree. For a reduced prison sentence, DeLarge agrees to undergo experimental aversion therapy - which apparently takes away his desire for violence, but also strips away his free will.

McDowell says Kubrick improvised some of the scenes in the movie. One example is one of the film's most famous sequences. His gang breaks into a home. As they tie up, gag, and attack the couple that lives there, he starts singing a famous movie tune, Singin' In The Rain.

McDowell talks about how the idea for the song developed. "The whole thing was an ad-lib," said McDowell. "He said to me 'Can you dance?'...and I was so bored by this point I went 'Can I dance!', and I went straight into Singin in the Rain," said the actor. Kubrick bought the rights to use the song, and they shot the famous sequence the next week.

On top of that, McDowell was actually hurt while shooting a scene in which his character has his eyes forced open to watch movies as a part of aversion therapy. The crew used mechanical devices normally used to keep someone's eyes open during eye surgery, but, McDowell's corneas were scratched as the devices were removed.

The actor admits it’s hard to believe that it’s been a half century since the film was in theaters.

McDowell says he thinks the film still resonates with audiences, but in a different way than it did in 1972. When it was first released, much was made of the violence in the movie. Now, many see it as a commentary on government's impacts on freedoms.

The 78-year-old actor is busier than ever. He’s in Father Stu, with Mark Walberg, which opens this weekend. It’s the true story for a former boxer who figures out he’s meant to be a priest. McDowell has two other movies coming out later this year, and is set to resume shooting the second season of a hit Canadian TV series.

The 50th Anniversary of A Clockwork Orange will be celebrated with a screening at the Regency Theater in Agoura Hills Saturday night at 7, followed by an in-person question and answer session with the actor.

Then, on Sunday night he’ll appear at a screening at the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.

Information on Malibu Film Society screening Saturday night in Agoura Hills.