"A bit of the old ultra-violence."
The story takes place in London in a dystopian future. "Our humble narrator" Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) and his droogs, Georgie (James Marcus), Dim (Warren Clarke), and Pete (Michael Tarn), are seated in the Korova Milk Bar stoned on milk laced with narcotics.
Shortly, the gang leaves the Korova for a night of ultra-violence. They encounter a wino (Paul Farrell) in an underpass, and beat him with their truncheons. Later, they arrive at a derelict theater. On the stage, another gang, led by a rival named Billy Boy, prepare to rape a voluptuous girl. Instead, the two gangs battle it out-- Alex and his two droogs are victorious.
The trio next head out into the dark countryside looking for action. Alex pilots their stolen Durango 95 sports car. After playing "hogs of the road," wherein they drive on the wrong side of the road and run a number of other motorists off into ditches and over embankments, Alex suggests making a "surprise visit." They stop at a lonely country house that displays a backlighted sign that simply reads "Home." Alex tricks his way into the house by claiming to be the victim of a car accident. They beat the homeowner, a writer named Frank Alexander (Patrick Magee), and gang rape his wife (Adrienne Corri) while Alex croons "Singin' in the Rain."
When they've finished having fun, the gang returns to the Korova. An opera singer seated at an adjacent table sings the chorus from Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Listening to the woman, Alex is ecstatic -- "I felt all the malenky little hairs on my plott standing endwise"-- but Dim ruins the mood when he makes a farting noise. Alex hits him in the crotch with his truncheon. Henceforth, Dim is resentful but Alex dismisses him.
Alex arrives at his apartment just before dawn. Climbing into bed, he fantasizes scenes of violence while listening to Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
In the morning, Alex's mother (Sheila Raynor) tries to wake Alex for school, but he feigns illness. At the breakfast table she discusses the situation with his father (Philip Stone). Alex's parents seem foolish and impotent. When Alex later awakens and wanders about the apartment in his underwear he encounters his probation officer, Mr. Deltoid (Aubrey Morris), in his parent's bedroom. The officer lectures Alex about his school truancy and threatens him with jail.
After Deltoid leaves, Alex begins another busy day. He picks up two girls at a local shopping mall record store and brings them home. In a sped-up sequence backed by the "William Tell Overture," he has sex with both of them.
Later that day, he encounters his droogs in his apartment house lobby. They ominously tell him that they've been "talking." They feel that Alex has been bullying them, especially Dim, and they suggest that Alex has been taking more than his fair share of the spoils from their robberies. Georgie proposes an idea to make lots more money. He wants to rob a rich lady who owns a health farm in the country. Alex perceives Georgie's independent thinking as a threat, but wanting to appear democratic, he goes along with it. As the three droogs walk along a river bank outside the apartment block, Alex attacks. He throws first Georgie and then Dim into the fountain. When Alex offers to help pull Dim out of the water, he slashes the back of Dim's outstretched hand with a hidden dagger. They all retire to the Duke of York, a restaurant. Having re-established his dominance of the group, Alex reconsiders Georgie's idea.
Arriving at the health farm that evening, the droogs try the same trick they'd used at Alexander's house previously: pretending that one of them has been injured in a traffic accident. However, the proprietress (Miriam Karlin) is suspicious and calls the police, telling them that she'd heard the news reports about the writer and his wife being victimized in the same manner. When the boys aren't let into the house, Alex climbs up a drainpipe, enters a second floor window, and confronts the homeowner. They fight, the woman defending herself with a bust of Beethoven, until Alex bludgeons her with a huge plastic phallus sculpture. As police sirens are heard in the distance, Alex runs out the front door. It is there and then that his droogs take their revenge. Dim smashes Alex in the face with a milk bottle and the droogs flee. As Alex writhes and screams on the ground, the police arrive.
Alex is arrested. At the police station, an uncooperative and belligerent Alex is questioned by several constables. When an overzealous beat constable presses his thumb against Alex's broken nose, Alex kicks the officer in the groin. The other officers then beat Alex until Deltoid shows up. Deltoid tells Alex that unfortunately for him, the proprietress of the health farm has died, making Alex a murderer. He spits in Alex's face and tells him how disappointed he is. Alex laughs it off, but is soon headed for prison.
Alex gets sentenced to fourteen years in prison. He deposits his possessions with Chief Officer Barnes (Michael Bates), undresses, and undergoes a cavity search. After answering several questions about his health and personal well-being, Alex is given prison garb. He's now prisoner number 655321.
Two years later, Alex is shown scheming to get favors by feigning piety. He helps the prison chaplain (Godfrey Quigley) with his service and he studies the Bible. But rather than reflecting on the redemptive power of the Lord, Alex visualizes himself torturing Jesus at the crucifixion, killing people in battle, and laying about with concubines in an Old Testament setting.
Alex tells the chaplain that he's heard of a new treatment, the so-called "Ludovico Technique," that helps criminals get out of prison. The chaplain says that it's experimental and that he's not sure it's right for Alex. But Alex, eager to finagle a short-cut to freedom, vies to be selected for the experiment. When the government's Interior Minister (Anthony Sharp) visits the prison, Alex makes a show of himself. The minister picks Alex as a perfect Ludovico subject. Alex is taken before the prison governor (Michael Gover) who tells the boy that, although he'd rather punish him, the political party currently in power have "new, ridiculous ideas" about criminal reform, so Alex will shortly be released.
The Ludovico Technique
Chief Officer Barnes then transports Alex to the Ludovico Centre. Alex is given a room and is interviewed by Dr. Branom (Madge Ryan). She promises him that he'll be fine, then gives him an injection.
In his first day of treatment Alex appears in an auditorium in a straight jacket. His head is strapped to the back of a restraining chair so that he can neither turn his head nor look away. An eye doctor installs clamps on his eyelids that forcibly keep Alex's eyes open. Then, while the doctor constantly drops eye wash into Alex's grotesquely clamped eyes, Alex is subjected to two violent films. The first shows explicit scenes of a severe beating, the second, a gang rape. Halfway through the first film Alex begins to feel sick. By the end of the second, Alex is shouting for something into which to vomit. At the rear of the auditorium, Dr. Brodsky (Carl Duering) explains to observers that the drug administered to Alex causes a form of paralysis with deep feelings of terror and helplessness. Following the screening, Dr. Branom assures Alex that his feeling of sickness is a sign that he's getting better.
On the following day Alex is back in the auditorium, this time for two shows: morning and afternoon. While viewing scenes of Nazis during World War II, Alex begins screaming in earnest. The background music is none other than Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Alex screams that he shouldn't be made to feel sick while listening to such beautiful music. Brodsky loudly apologizes, saying that it can't be helped while quietly he speculates to nearby staff that perhaps this is the "punishment element."
Two weeks later, presumably after twelve more treatments, Alex is paraded before a group of dignitaries by the Interior Minister. Alex is there for demonstration purposes. He is first confronted by an angry Irishman (John Clive) who throws him to the ground and forces Alex to lick his boot. Next he's approached by a statuesque platinum blonde (Virginia Wetherell) clad only in panties. Alex collapses in a fit of nausea when he tries to touch her breasts. The Interior Minister proclaims a new era in law enforcement and social justice, but the prison chaplain exclaims that the procedure has debased Alex's human nature by taking away his ability to choose good over evil. The Interior Minister counter claims that the only thing that matters is results.
Alex returns home to find his parents plus a stranger (Clive Francis) sitting in the living room reading newspaper accounts of his release. Alex tries to make awkward small talk. When he hints about moving back home, his father tells him that Joe, their new lodger, has already paid the next month's rent. Alex is upset but Joe, who has ingratiated himself with Alex's parents, pushes the situation by castigating Alex for the things he did before going to prison and for breaking his parents' hearts. Before Alex can hit Joe, his psychological conditioning kicks in, leaving him dry heaving, to the dismay and disgust of Joe and Alex's parents. When he has recovered, Alex storms out.
Alex later stares at the Thames river below a bridge, presumably contemplating suicide. He's approached by a bum seeking spare change. Alex fishes some cash from his pocket and hands it over. Taking a closer look, the bum recognizes Alex as the same malchick who beat him under the bridge two years earlier. Alex looks at the bum in horror and tries to escape, but is trapped in the very same underpass by the bum and his elderly compatriots. They hit and kick Alex as he cowers on the ground, disabled by his conditioning. Two constables show up to break up the fight. To Alex's further horror, his rescuers turn out to be Dim and Georgie, his former droogs, who are now constables. Demonstrating that police training hasn't altered their basic violent natures, they handcuff Alex, drive him out of town, march him into a wood, push his head into a cattle trough filled with filthy water, and beat him with their batons. They then remove the cuffs and leave him battered and gasping. With thoughts of home echoing in his head, Alex staggers to the first house he can find. It displays a welcoming, backlighted sign that reads "Home."
At home, Frank Alexander sits at his typewriter, now in the wheelchair that he's used ever since he was severely beaten two years earlier. Julian (David Prowse), his muscular attendant, answers the doorbell. As Julian opens the door, Alex collapses into the entryway. Julian carries him into the house.
When confronted by a concerned Mr. Alexander, Alex realizes he's at the very same residence in which, two years earlier, he and his former partners in crime gang-raped Alexander's wife. He relaxes, however, when he realizes that Mr. Alexander couldn't possibly recognize him due to the fact that Alex and his droogies wore masks back in those days. Mr. Alexander, who knows Alex only as the subject of the Ludovico treatment, invites the lad to have a bath and some supper.
As Alex soaks in the bath, Mr. Alexander calls a friend with whom he discusses the political repercussions of Alex's Ludovico conditioning. He believes that the government has a totalitarian agenda, as exemplified by its willingness to rob its citizens of their free will. As he finishes the conversation, Alexander arranges a visit with the person on the other end, stating, "He'll be here," before he hangs up the phone.
Mr. Alexander sits in his wheelchair relishing a fantasy of using Alex as a political pawn when he becomes aware of singing coming from the bathroom. In his bath, Alex has struck up a bright rendition of "Singin' in the Rain." Mr. Alexander's face twists in agony and rage as he thinks back to the night of the home invasion that left him crippled and realizes just who Alex is.
Later, at the dinner table, an obviously distraught Mr. Alexander encourages Alex to eat and drink. Flanked by the apoplectic Mr. Alexander and the burly Julian, Alex eats a plate of spaghetti while Mr. Alexander plies Alex with red wine. As he eats, Alex grows increasingly fearful, wondering if the hostile-looking old man knows his real identity. Suddenly Mr. Alexander brings up the subject of his wife's rape and subsequent death. He believes that, though she officially died of pneumonia, it was her broken spirit that killed her. She was, according to Mr. Alexander, a victim of the modern age, just as Alex is a victim of the modern age. He tells Alex that two friends are expected and that they will help the boy.
A minute later, man named Dolin (John Savident) and a woman (Margaret Tyzack) enter. They question Alex about the Ludovico treatment and whether it is true that, in addition to conditioning him against sex and violence, it has also made him incapable of listening to music. Alex replies that he only feels a foreboding sense of extreme depression when he hears Beethoven's Ninth Symphony specifically-- at which point he passes out, face down, into the plate of spaghetti. He has been drugged by the wine. Dolin congratulates Mr. Alexander who then asks Julian to bring the car around to the front. The conspirators have plans for Alex that will embarrass the government.
Alex awakens the next morning in a small, second floor bedroom in an unknown country house. The room is flooded with the strains of Beethoven's 9th Symphony blasted from a stereo in the room below. As Mr. Alexander beams with satisfaction, Alex is driven to suicide. He leaps from the second floor window to the stone patio below.
Some time later, Alex wakes up in a hospital in a full-body cast. Newspaper clippings reveal that the government is being vilified for inhuman experimentation. The Interior Minister is being subjected to especially fierce attack. Alex's parents visit, apologizing for not taking him back and promising him his old room when he is released from the hospital.
Next, Doctor Taylor (Pauline Taylor), a psychiatrist, shows Alex a series of cartoons having sexual or violent connotations. Alex is to supply the captions. He pleases Dr. Taylor by indicating through his descriptions of the cartoons that sex and violence are the foremost interests on his mind.
Once the Ludovico Treatment has been successfully reversed, the Interior Minister visits Alex. As the aristocratic Minister spoon-feeds dinner to the juvenile thug, he assures Alex that he wants to be his friend. With oily smoothness the Minister apologizes for what his government has done. He promises Alex a good job on a good salary, provided that Alex helps the government. He assures the lad that the subversive writer, Frank Alexander, who had threatened him, has been put away. Alex milks the meeting for all it's worth.
As a symbol of their understanding, the Minister calls for his assistants. They sweep in with flowers and a massive stereo system blasting Beethoven's 9th Symphony, followed by a troop of reporters and photographers. Alex poses with his new friend, the Interior Minister, aka "Fred," as cameras flash and Beethoven's 9th Symphony reaches its choral climax. Alex's eyes roll back into his head as he fantasizes about an orgy in the snow with a gorgeous blonde, to the applause of Victorian ladies and gentlemen.
Alex is heard in voiceover: "I was cured, all right."