Warhol’s A Clockwork Orange Adaptation

A Clockwork Orange

Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange adapted from Anthony Burgess’s book of the same name is probably one of the most known films of all time and has a massive legacy in the history of cinema. It grossed more than $26 million, gained a best picture nomination, and was France’s most popular film in 1972. It is a juggernaut of the industry: shocking powerful and ultimately unforgettable. But it was not the only A Clockwork Orange adaptation to be made.

Experimenting with Vinyl

Just three years after Burgess’s book was published Andy Warhol adapted the novel into a black and white experimental film known as Vinyl. According to The International Antony Burgess Foundation, there is a black cloud over whether Warhol paid for the rights to the novel.

There was a rumour that Warhol bought the rights for $3000 however Kubrick had full and exclusive rights so it’s very unlikely Warhol paid for or even had the rights to the novel. Warhol had form for not buying rights to creative works and just using their likenesses.

Photo credit: Frank Bez
Photo credit: Frank Bez

In 1964 Warhol made “Batman Dracula” a homage to DC comic Dark Knight with just a bit of Bram Stoker’s Dracula thrown in. Written by Tyler Duncan and directed by Warhol. The film itself would never be distributed and only be shown at Warhol’s exhibits. Warhol was a batman enthusiast and this film marked the first appearance of a “campy” batman.

Tech Times managed to find a quote from the writer of the film, Tyler Duncan who described the film as “… a classic thriller created by Andy Warhol who gave it a poetic justice about fear,” The film, like many of Warhol’s more experimental works is borderline unwatchable. It was feared to be lost but clips of it were used in the 2006 documentary Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis.

Vinyl is closer to “Batman Dracula” in looks than Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”. It is unpolished, filmed unrehearsed, and rambling even in its short 70-minute run time. Gerard Malanga (who starred in more of Warhol’s Factory works including cult favorite Chelsea Girls and described by New York Times in 1992 as “Andy Warhol’s Most important associate) stars as Victor the Alex Delarge copy.

In comparison to Malcolm McDowell’s incredible performance, Malanga is just not even on the same level. In Bryan Thomas’s NightFlight article “Vinyl”, Andy Warhol’s First Filmed Adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, Thomas describes Malanga as having “limited acting skills” .

Still from Vinyl

It was originally thought to be It Girl Edie Sedgewick’s first film appearance but that is not true. Sedgwick’s first film appearance was in a different Warhol film, Horse. Sedgewick’s participation in Warhol’s work would launch her from being just a socialite to being a household name. The New York Times described them as “horribly made for each other”. Horse and Vinyl wouldn’t be the end of Sedgewick’s movie career and she’d continue to star in films until her final work Ciao! Manhattan which was released after her death.

Two of a (Different) Kind

“Vinyl” is almost incomparable to Kubrick’s adaptation, it would be almost cruel to compare Kubrick’s incredible work with this almost slipshod piece that often feels more amateurish than interesting. The camera work is static, the mise-en-scene is crowded with extras that are doing nothing, and the choice to leave in actors’ mistakes or tripping over their lines just makes it clunky.

Vinyl simply can’t compete with Kubrick but you get the feeling that it was never meant to be a full or decent adaptation. In the end, it’s just an attempt at something maybe not meaningful but interesting and perhaps in a way that’s worth something.

Photo credit: Steve Shapiro
Photo credit: Steve Shapiro

In the end, though, the two adaptations share at least one honor. They both made it into Schneider’s mammoth film compendium “1001 Movies you Must See Before you Die”. Vinyl is described as “fascinating and sexy”. However, Kubrick does one-up it as his adaptation gets an entire double-page spread whereas Warhol’s has to share with “The Saragossa Manuscript”.

Warhol’s Legacy

Warhol’s legacy continues on both in the art and the film world. In August 2014 MoMA announced that they were going to digitize hundreds of his films and screen them for the public. Glynn O Brien described Warhol’s cult following as “a movement bordering on a religion”. His films and artwork (which he is most known for) continue to amass a huge following and influence artists and filmmakers alike.

In the end, Kubrick’s film will always have a bigger legacy and more controversial one but even for its near-unwatchable almost boring, and uncomfortable shots Vinyl like Warhol himself will always have a place in film history.

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