No one, who knows anythng about cinema, will argue with me when I say that Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest filmmakers to have ever lived. Kubrick spent his career dividing the critics and avoiding the public's gaze – he preferred to let his work speak for itself. A true genius behind the camera, he made just 13 films before his unexpected (and far too early) death in 1999.
This special Blu-ray box set marks the 40th anniversary of A Clockwork Orange, my favourite of all Kubrick's films, and one of my favourite films of all time. Banned for many years in the UK, it's his most controversial work, and certainly his most violent. And although it was made waaaaay back in the dim, dark days of 1971, it still looks thoroughly modern and fresh today (and looks absolutely stunning all cleaned up and digitally remastered for Blu-ray). Its subject matter, too, is as relevant today as it was when A Clockwork Orange was first released. Many people have accused the film of being a right-wing fantasy, but to my mind it's a clever attack on the state trying to control its citizens. Who, really, is the more evil – brutal Alex (McDowell) and his "droogs", or the system that uses torture and mind control to make him conform? It's not an easy film to watch, nor one that could be called enjoyable, but thanks to the best performance of Malcolm McDowell's career, it's a film that deserves to be seen ... and thought about.
There are six other Kubrick classics inncluded in this collection, two of which are new to Blu-ray. The Shining is a film that I've always had a love-hate relationship with. I love it for the tone Kubrick gives it – the air of menace he brings with a simple camera move, rather than relying on blatant gore like so may other directors when they turn to horror. It is the cinematography, as well as the haunting score, that makes this film what it is. Now on to why I hate it, the main reason being the fact that it is not an adaptation of the book by Stephen King. As well as changing major plot points, the biggest problem was the casting of Nicholson in the main role. King's story is about a man who is slowly taken over by the evil in the Overlook hotel, and his slow descent into madness. The problem with Nicholson is that he is clearly mad right from the start, which derails the main crux of King's story. But that aside, it's still a chilling film to sit down and watch. Especially with the lights off. Full Metal Jacket is Kubrick's definitive take on the war film, significant for the fact that the entire first half consists of almost no dialogue apart from Gunnery sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) screaming at new recruits during their brutal training regime. This stands alongside Apocalypse Now as one of THE great Vietnam War Films. 2001: A Space Odyssey is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the greatest films ever made (most critics name is as among the top 10 films of all time), and in 1991, it was deemed "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant" by the US Library of Congress. It deals with themes of evolution, how humanity interacts with technology, and the existence of extraterrestrial life. It is, in short, a masterpiece.
Another masterpiece – albeit for different reasons – is Barry Lyndon (new to Blu-ray in this collection). A ponderous, sweeping and slow-moving period drama, Lyndon is acknowledged for its perfect recreation of the 18th century. Kubrick even went so far as to film many of its indoor scenes using candles as the only light source. It's a beautifl, sumptuous tale of an Irish rogue's rise to join the ranks of British aristocracy. Also new to Blu-ray, and possibly Kubrick's most controversial film, is Lolita. Based on the oft-banned Nabokov novel, Lolita is the story of a middle-aged professor, Humbert Humbert (Mason), who becomes infatuated with a 14-year-old girl (Sue Lyon). Beautifully made, and surprisingly tame considering the subject matter. Finally we have Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut, which was widely derided upon its release. A psychosexual drama that cleverly blends dreams with reality, as with all of Kubrick's films there's more to this than meets the eye. Featuring some of the best work ever done by Cruise and Kidman (who were married when they made this), Eyes Wide Shut is probably the most divisive of Kubrick's oevre.
Missing here arre two films that were included in the Region A release of this set – Dr Strangelove, and Spartacus. It's a shame that once again the UK misses out, but let's not take anything away from this collection as it is. It's wonderful to see these films on Blu-ray, and all seven look utterly magnificent in high-definition. This collection is a beautifully-packaged and presented must-have for any Kubrick fan.
EXTRAS ★★★★ There are eight discs in the collection, along with a lovely 40-page hardcover book that examines Kubrick's work and his legacy. Along with the seven films – each on its own disc, with its own bonus content (except for Lolita and Lyndon, which have no extras), there's an eighth disc that features two terrific documentaries: Stanley Kubrick, A Life in Pictures (2:22:15) is narrated by Tom Cruise and is an in-depth look at Kubrick's life and work, and features interviews with pretty much everyone the man ever worked with; and O Lucky Malcolm! (1:26:12), examining the life and career of Malcolm McDowell. The rest of the bonus content includes ...A Clockwork Orange: An audio commentary by Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman; the documentary Still Tickin': The Return of Clockwork Orange; the featurette Malcolm McDowell Looks Back, in which McDowell reflects on his experience working with Kubrick; the featurette Turning Like Clockwork, which examines the film's ultra-violence and its cultural; the featurette Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange; the theatrical trailer.2001: A Space Odyssey: An audio commentary by stars Dullea and Lockwood; the documentary 2001: The Making of a Myth; three featurettes - Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001, Vision of a Future Passed: The Prophecy of 2001, and What Is Out There?; 2001: A Space Odyssey Conceptual Artwork; Look: Stanley Kubrick!; and the audio-only feature, a 1966 Kubrick interview conducted by Jeremy Bernstein.The Shining: An audio commentary by Steadicam inventor/operator Garrett Brown and historian John Baxter; Vivian Kubrick's documentary The Making of the Shining, with optional commentary; the featurette View From the Overlook: Crafting The Shining; the featurette The Visions of Stanley Kubrick; the featurette Wendy Carlos, Composer; the trailer.Full Metal Jacket (watch a clip below): An audio commentary by stars Baldwin, D'Onofrio and Ermey, and critic/screenwriter Jay Cocks; the featurette Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil.Eyes Wide Shut: Four featurettes: The Haven/Mission Control, Artificial Intelligence or The Writer Robot, EWS: A Film by Stanley Kubrick, and Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick; Interviews with Cruise, Kidman and Spielberg; Kubrick's 1998 DGA award acceptance speech; trailers.• In addition to the Blu-ray box set, all seven films are also available to download from iTunes