An airbrushed painting created by illustrator Philip Castle for ‘A Clockwork Orange.’
Illustrator and artist Philip Castle’s catalog is impressive, but of particular interest are three rather remarkable contributions. His artwork from both A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket as well as the sad, singular teardrop-like image dripping from David Bowie’s clavicle on the cover of 1973’s Aladdin Sane are all collectively indelible. If the accomplished Brit had done nothing else beyond this fantastic trifecta of artistic expression he would still be as praiseworthy today. (He’s also done the posters for Paul McCartney’s “Wings Over the Word” tour, Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks and the cover of Pulp’s His ‘N’Hers album.)
That said, I must admit that I had never seen most of Castle’s airbrushed pieces for A Clockwork Orange until just recently, and there’s something to be said for the way Castle uses his airbrushing technique to make images from the film appear even more sordid than when they are onscreen. The story of how Kubrick and Castle got together is slightly surreal when you consider the odds of how it occurred: soon after graduating from art school, Castle sent in an ad to a newspaper soliciting his availability as an illustrator. Kubrick’s publicist responded to the ad and requested that the young artist pay a visit to the great director at his home outside of London in order to discuss engaging his services for A Clockwork Orange. Castle would get the honor of designing the original poster created for the film featuring the unforgettably sinister image of actor Malcolm McDowell as the diabolical “Alex DeLarge” reaching out to slit your throat with his mouth poised in a predatory grin.
Flash-forward more than 45-years later and the spectacularly violent, controversial film has lost none of its skin-crawling appeal. However, back when it hit the big screen for the first time it was demonized in the UK after a few violent crimes were committed allegedly in the spirit of events depicted in the film. Kubrick passionately defended Clockwork but eventually pulled the trigger himself and removed it from distribution in Britain which would stay in place until Kubrick passed away in 1999.
Here’s more from the master filmmaker with his spot-on thoughts on the age-old relationship between violence and art:
“There has always been violence in art. There is violence in the Bible, violence in Homer, violence in Shakespeare, and many psychiatrists believe that it serves as a catharsis rather than a model. I think the question of whether there has been an increase in screen violence and, if so, what effect this has had, is to a very great extent a media-defined issue. I know there are well-intentioned people who sincerely believe that films and TV contribute to violence, but almost all of the official studies of this question have concluded that there is no evidence to support this view. At the same time, I think the media tend to exploit the issue because it allows them to display and discuss the so-called harmful things from a lofty position of moral superiority. But the people who commit violent crime are not ordinary people who are transformed into vicious thugs by the wrong diet of films or TV. Rather, it is a fact that violent crime is invariably committed by people with a long record of anti-social behaviour, or by the unexpected blossoming of a psychopath who is described afterward as having been ‘...such a nice, quiet boy,’ but whose entire life, it is later realized, has been leading him inexorably to the terrible moment, and who would have found the final ostensible reason for his action if not in one thing then in another.”
Naturally, this did not bode well for anyone associated with the film in the UK and there is at least one historical account of an attempted rogue showing of A Clockwork Orange by a group of UK movie-club junkies who were summarily sued for even trying to show the film at their gatherings in the 1990s. Castle would work with Kubrick again for 1987’s Full Metal Jacket and the artist still owns a gift sent to him by Kubrick—the infamous “I AM BECOME DEATH” helmet (worn by actor Adam Baldwin who played “Animal Mother” in FMJ) which Castle conceptualized. I’ve included some of Castle’s early sketches for Clockwork, a variety of airbrush art and a few movie posters that the artist created for the film below. And if you haven’t already guessed, they are all pretty much NSFW.
A French movie poster for ‘A Clockwork Orange’ featuring Philip Castle’s artwork.
More UK print artwork for ‘A Clockwork Orange’ from Castle.
More after the jump…