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Overall Rating
4.5

Awesome75.74%
Worth A Look: 10.4%
Average: 4.95%
Pretty Bad: 5.45%
Total Crap: 3.47%

5 reviews, 172 user ratings


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Clockwork Orange, A
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by Rob Gonsalves

"A horrorshow bit of sinny, O my brothers."
5 stars

It was withdrawn from circulation in England (by its own director) for decades. Anthony Burgess (who wrote the film's source novel) grew to despise it. Pauline Kael loathed it, while Rex Reed called it 'perfect' (putting me in the odd, rare position of siding with Rex Reed over Pauline Kael). It was rated X, then got an R after some trimming (every American home-video edition has been the uncut X-rated version). It was nominated for four Oscars and won none. As I write this, it sits at #54 on the IMDb's Top 250, right between 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' and 'Das Boot.'

Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange remains as unsettling and shocking today as the day it was released. That it was released, and by a major studio (Warner Bros., which has seldom shied from controversial films), is a testament to the unique relationship Kubrick had with the studio. That it was suppressed in England, by Kubrick himself (following death threats made to him and his family), until after his death, testifies further: Warner at any time could've said "Fuck you, Stan, there's a huge audience wanting to see this film again and a lot of money to be made — we're putting it out on video in the UK," but they didn't.

What Warner got for its trouble was a hard, nasty, pre-punk pop-art Molotov cocktail, filmed in leering, oppressive close-up, as if Kubrick couldn't be bothered with the exterior details of the "future." (Given how much the costumes and hairstyles have dated, one suspects Kubrick never intended the film to be futuristic.) It was the first film Kubrick made after being appalled by how much a TV showing of 2001 butchered its widescreen compositions; as a result, this film and all of his subsequent films were composed to be comfortable within TV's square confines, and the change in dimension makes for a disconcertingly intimate experience. The mechanical zooms in and out, the static shots with little room for the actors to roam about — it's all very locked-in, hermetically sealed.

No movie announces itself quite so boldly as a Kubrick film; it gets in your face right at the start and then pulls back — literally, in the case of A Clockwork Orange, which opens with plain credits against bright mod colors, accompanied by Wendy Carlos' mischievous Moog-rape of Purcell's "Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary," the first image being Malcolm McDowell leering up into the camera (the famous "Kubrick crazy-face"). The camera then zooms out slowly, encompassing the whole of the Korova Milkbar. It's as if to say, Here is your guide, and here is his world.

McDowell's Alex (never given a last name in Anthony Burgess' 1961 novel, he claims "DeLarge" as his surname in the movie, a joke on a bit from the novel in which Alex refers to himself as Alexander the Large) is the leader of a pack of four "droogs" who tolchock their way through the blue and chilly night. Dim (Warren Clarke) is the dummy of the group, harshly chastised by Alex for a rude response to Beethoven; the others, Pete (Michael Tarn) and Georgie (James Marcus), are pretty much interchangeable nonentities. In the book, Alex is fifteen, but the movie's droogs seem to be of a good age, perhaps late teens. McDowell was twenty-seven when he made the film, though he's youthful enough, and his performance carries such brio, such openness of spirit, that one can't help identifying with Alex. (Critics, like Kael, who objected that Alex is the only attractive person in the movie missed the point: Alex is telling this story — of course he's the coolest, the sexiest, the toughest.) In later years, McDowell would play a variety of sneering villains, deadly icy in temperament, but his Alex is very much a warm-blooded creature. The diabolical secret of his work here is that he has fun, and he lets us share in it. "I enjoyed ripping and raping by proxy," Burgess wrote years later about his experience writing the book; McDowell allows us to rip and rape by proxy, too. The ride is not for everyone — your response to the film depends largely on how much jovial sexual violence you're prepared to watch before the movie turns moralistic.

A Clockwork Orange has a classical three-act structure: Thug runs riot; thug is caught and neutered out of his sexual/violent urges; thug is released into a vengeful world full of the same people he hurt before. In Burgess' original British edition, there is an additional chapter (left out of the American edition until 1987, and left out of the movie as well) in which Alex forms another gang but eventually grows weary of the old ultraviolence; given his freedom again, he is able to make a moral choice to stop being vicious. Kubrick, hearing of this ending while shooting the movie, rejected it as being false to the rest of the story — or at least false to the story he wanted to tell, in which evil is encouraged by the government to blossom in the name of freedom. The point seems to be: If we want true freedom, we will have to take the Alexes that come with it.




Chaplain:
Choice. The boy has no choice has he? Self-interest. The fear of physical pain drove him to that grotesque act of self abasement. Its insincerity was clearly to be seen. He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice.

Minister:
Padre, these are subtleties. We're not concerned with motives, with the higher ethics. We are concerned only with cutting down crime and relieving the ghastly congestion in our prisons. He will be your true Christian, ready to turn the other cheek. Ready to be crucified, rather than crucify. Sick to the very heart at the thought of even killing a fly. Reclamation. Joy before the angels of God. The point is that it works.




Alex is arrested for inadvertently murdering a woman, and is sent to prison, where he hears about the radical new Ludovico Technique. It robs him of the ability to act on violent or sexual urges, but in an unintended side effect it also robs him of the joys of Beethoven. The movie plays like a parody of melodrama (Kael uncharitably referred to Alex as "a male Little Nell"). Does the movie glorify rape and brutality? Yes, for its first third we are asked to share in the glee of our narrator, who at one point even addresses us as "my brothers and only friends." But when he's helpless to defend himself against the victims and victimizers of his former life, the movie certainly makes the point that tolchocking isn't so horrorshow after all. Kubrick is as merciless about running Alex through the wringer (and McDowell, too — the infamous eye-clip sequence left him with a scarred cornea) as he is about showing Alex's earlier sadism. Alex's joie de vivre, represented by his adoration of Beethoven, is inextricable from his sociopathology. So when you take away the things that give a sociopath's life meaning, what's left? Good behavior, certainly, but at what cost?

Burgess was a composer, and the rhythmic pleasure he took in the book's language reflected that. Kubrick doesn't make as much use of Alex's nadsat slang, a mix of Russian and gypsy and cockney. In 1961, when the book was published, it was meant to be a chilling irony that the youth of the future would take up the speech of the Cold War's big bad. Kubrick isn't as interested in the sociological details; his reach extends deeper, to the origins of violence in the human machine and the question of whether the machine can be reprogrammed. For all that, this is easily his most playful film. No small tech geek himself, Kubrick enjoys the idea of the state attempting to rewire Alex using the very medium Kubrick had adopted. Kubrick's fiendish editing makes the row of Jesus statues in Alex's bedroom appear to dance; the movie pretty much stays that sportive. Like Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange is a pitch-black comedy about the twin follies of human hubris and the technology made possible — and dangerous — by that hubris.

What makes the movie such a short sharp shock after all these years is the amount of realistic pain underneath the jocular horrors. When Alex does his "Singin' in the Rain" number as prologue to raping the young wife of the novelist (Patrick Magee), he gives her just one slap in the face, but it brings us up short — it looks like it hurts. Later, when Alex sings the same tune in the bathtub and the novelist hears it, Kubrick shoots Patrick Magee from below as he spasms madly; the image is both funny and terribly ominous. Kubrick certainly knows how to give us violence without consequence, as in Alex's gang's fight with Billyboy and his droogs. But it's hard not to wince when Alex roughs up his own gang, or when they retaliate by smashing a milk bottle across his face, or when the two droogs turned policemen take Alex out into the woods and hold his head underwater for what seem like hours while pounding him in the ribs. Kubrick has not made an unfeeling movie here, regardless of critical broadsides like Kael's.

A Clockwork Orange has the tone of a fable, with unapologetic stereotypes and a narrator who tells us how to feel at every turn (Alex is also, of course, that literary stock in trade the Unreliable Narrator). On the surface, the story couldn't be simpler, but currents of contempt and cynicism run through it end to end. Wendy Carlos' unearthly Moog riffs on the masters — technology again! — give the movie a sort of classical modernity perfectly in keeping with the story itself, which uses ancient literary motifs in dystopian dress. Burgess looked to the future fearfully, armed with the knowledge of man's violent past; Kubrick viewed past and future as a continuum, nothing to get hung about. Man will always be idiotic; Kubrick saw the comedy and the consistency in the human condition.

When talking about violent movies, or movies about violence, or movies that seem pro-violence or anti-violence or both or neither, there is 'A Clockwork Orange,' and then there's everything else. It felt like a summing-up in 1971, and it still does. No movie since has matched its sardonic vision of a world all too willing to sweep freedom aside in the name of security. That may seem especially relevant in the Bush era. But it has always been relevant, and always will be.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1382&reviewer=416
originally posted: 02/16/07 14:35:42
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/17/14 Kfrtwyej USA 3 stars
4/16/14 Mgvxktss USA 3 stars
4/08/14 iesheofreoh USA 2 stars
2/18/14 Kknuylpq USA 3 stars
2/16/14 Mryljjtt USA 4 stars
2/14/14 Ojupzosi USA 2 stars
1/30/14 Lsfnoicg USA 3 stars
1/28/14 Sulypmoz USA 2 stars
1/26/14 Qqztuwlr USA 2 stars
1/22/14 Bjohhoml USA 5 stars
4/04/12 Josie Cotton is a goddess Whenever I hear 'Singing In The Rain' i get a nasty feeling in me gutty-whats 5 stars
6/19/11 jennifer b creepy 1 stars
3/01/11 Seventies child I've seen it several times and still can't understand what I'm supposed to like about it. 2 stars
11/12/10 action movie fan typically arty kubrick metaphor but interesting in spots 3 stars
6/01/10 User Name There is Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, then there is everything else. 5 stars
3/23/10 Logos A superb film. 5 stars
12/13/09 Michael Jay Very good film for its time, a bit over rated at this point though. 4 stars
9/06/09 Black Leather Rain Still McDowell's greatest work, and laid a foundation for an incredible career. Striking. 5 stars
8/20/09 Jeff Wilder Ironic tense and disturbing. Takes more than one viewing to fully appreciate. 4 stars
6/20/09 art GARBAGE! 1 stars
2/24/09 PAUL SHORTT TECHNICALLY THE FILM IS A MARVEL, BUT ITS ALSO A COLD, DYSTOPIAN NIGHTMARE WITH DARK HUMOR 2 stars
2/19/09 Total Crap Dark. Very dark comedy. Kubrick uses all his famous camera techs in this one. Great! 5 stars
1/28/09 Jon One of my faves very stylized it is a talky film and can be slow but is still great. 5 stars
11/05/08 David One of the greatest films ever, brilliant and darkly comic 5 stars
7/19/08 sebastian Brilliant,twisted black comedy.... 5 stars
7/06/08 Jason Strickland Disturbingly phenomenal film 5 stars
1/25/08 section245 Great bolshy yarblockos my brothers and only friends, this was real horrowshow! 5 stars
11/12/07 Taz Loved it. Thought he didn't do bad by Burgess. 4 stars
10/27/07 Dexter This is Stanley Kubrick's best movie. 5 stars
5/19/07 fools♫gold Hell, a bit better than "Dr. Strangelove" (though I'll change my opinion on that later). 5 stars
5/09/07 Nic personally the cinematogrphy in this film is beyond amazing and Kubrick desrves a medal 5 stars
3/21/07 James Dunn Viddy Well, oh my brothers, or I'll kick you in the Yarbles. If you have any Yarbles! 5 stars
3/16/07 David Cohen One of the few social commentaries that actually became more relavent over time 5 stars
2/18/07 dmitry Kubrick's worst film 2 stars
2/17/07 Tom Fantastic movie. I just met someone who never seen it... 5 stars
2/17/07 G Sherfy Takes multiple viewings to appreciate; at least for me. One of my favorites. 5 stars
2/16/07 cart00n Brilliant book, brilliant movie. A perfect companion piece to "Dr. Strangelove". 5 stars
1/16/07 David Pollastrini boring, dull, etc. 1 stars
10/17/06 Isaac Baranoff Great, great, great. Stanley Kubrick at his best. 5 stars
9/26/06 Aleksandar (www.psmovies.co.sr) Extraordinary. Uniquelly effective dark expressionistic satire 5 stars
5/23/06 Nikki this is my fav movie of all time- its a master piece 5 stars
2/12/06 Maz My favourite film ever 5 stars
11/20/05 John Dog Disturbing, yet brilliant. 5 stars
8/20/05 Randy This was one of the greatest movies i have ever seen. 5 stars
8/06/05 Pierre If you hate this, you're crazy! 5 stars
7/31/05 yuko just, oh my god!! 5 stars
7/10/05 DM Malcolm McDowell is awesome. One of Kubrick's best. 5 stars
6/03/05 Pinkline Jones Lowest budget Appalling Kebab Chute Sludge 1 stars
3/18/05 indrid cold Easy to see why it was so shocking at the time, but nothing too special in the MTV era. 4 stars
2/14/05 H.P. Lovecraft simply the best. 5 stars
12/27/04 mjoc One of Kubrick's best. Compelling from start to finish. 5 stars
12/10/04 Yargot It makes me cream my pants everytime 5 stars
11/09/04 SUSAN GREGG Universally and timelessly relevant; Brilliantly wrought; Psychologically troubling . . . 5 stars
11/08/04 Dave Fuk u paranoid american u eat dick, muther fuker, this movie rules 5 stars
11/06/04 One more paranoid American Free will is overrated, artsy-fartsy crap. 1 stars
11/04/04 psycho black dwarf The fear-mongering culture that censored such works as CWO has stolen American politics. 5 stars
10/30/04 ELI Most fucked up movie ever! :) 5 stars
10/14/04 lewis Kubrick is a genius, McDowells best-"and I'll scrap any time you say" great film 5 stars
8/14/04 Mª José this film it's great 5 stars
7/21/04 J Ray A singular film - One of a kind 5 stars
5/21/04 Elena Nothing has ever rivaled the unique boldness of this film 5 stars
2/18/04 Daveman One wouldn't expect much less from Kubrick. Another masterpiece. 5 stars
2/14/04 Nixon good movie, just beyond FUCKED UP.... but it is good 4 stars
1/14/04 sixdoublefivethreetwoone When the Funeral March begins at the Korova and Alex starts to look the cam... MASTERPIECE 5 stars
1/05/04 cwlg420 Everyone must see this! 5 stars
12/04/03 illeana alex is hot and i'm a naughty devotchka i loved it! 5 stars
11/29/03 john the first thirty minutes a perfect cinema and unforgettable - the rest is pretty good too 5 stars
11/25/03 Steffen S Great movie! One of mye favorites. 5 stars
11/19/03 Michael Knowles great film 5 stars
11/03/03 Chickenfriedjeezus During the Ludovic treatment, Alex looks like christ with his crown of electrodes 5 stars
9/11/03 Ronny S This has got to be the most overrated movie ever. Piece of crap 2 stars
8/14/03 Max All-time classic, still powerful. Hey Mulcahey, it's Beethoven not Mozart. Duh!!! 5 stars
6/22/03 cochese I'm supposed to think this film is great, but I cant and I wont. And you cant make me. 3 stars
5/21/03 Ryan F. Profound.but feels like Kubrick put out something for sick boys to masturbate to. 3 stars
4/29/03 Gilles Villeneuve The dogs bollocks (excellent) 5 stars
4/02/03 Gray disturbing with a semi downer ending I did like what the priest had to say+was well filmed 4 stars
3/22/03 Jack Sommersby Grotesquely campy supporting characters & heavy-handed direction flatten out ironies. 2 stars
3/12/03 Apathy The opening scene is brilliant. Oh, and the rest of the movie is swell too. 5 stars
3/11/03 Estevan Lapena A landmark in cinematic history. 5 stars
3/11/03 beehotch HOW IS THIS SCHLOCK, BITCH? 5 stars
3/04/03 caligula '' oh? and what's so stinking about it?"- what indeed, pinkline jones. CLASSIC film. 5 stars
1/30/03 Pinkline Jones 100% Shlock - woeful story, Coma-inducing, Dated and Forgettable 1 stars
1/27/03 Bill the English Welliwell droogs, this movie is horrorshow 5 stars
1/26/03 Nicole Honestly, I find this movie completely disturbing.....but good 5 stars
12/25/02 Film Dude My favorite film 5 stars
12/16/02 Petr The best film I have ever seen! 5 stars
10/09/02 Steph Thought provoking. Just hope no sacrilegious bastard director tries to do a remake. 5 stars
9/29/02 Morally Sound One of Kubrick's best, my Droogs. 5 stars
9/29/02 karried. Yum yum! 5 stars
9/22/02 y2mckay I think you mean "or", not "of", you illiterate fuck! :-) 5 stars
9/19/02 Noneofyour Reviewer is either autistic of brain damaged pothead 5 stars
8/25/02 Turkish like all of kubricks other films, out fucking standing 5 stars
8/14/02 conman One of the greatest films of all time. 5 stars
7/27/02 Kyle Thought provoking. Genius. 5 stars
7/11/02 .Choadushouse. Pure genius. Malcolm MacDowell is incredible. The ending leaves me hanging...I want more! 5 stars
6/25/02 Brian genuinely twisted 5 stars
6/25/02 Charles Tatum Kubrick is finally able to get INTENSE 5 stars
6/17/02 Thomas Spaulding Great to viddy with a glass of knivy moloko. 5 stars
6/06/02 Rastabub One of the greatest sci-fi films ever made 5 stars
5/27/02 Nicole A strange & twisted little movie about "healing" the criminal mind. 5 stars
4/27/02 maximal01 Hello. My name is Malcolm McDowell. I will destroy your whole life. Great fastforward sex.. 4 stars
4/23/02 asli wunderbar! 5 stars
2/21/02 luda hoe disturbing and good, or disturbingly good 5 stars
1/25/02 Andrew Carden Excellent Movie. I Was Engaged Throughout. 5 stars
12/30/01 sarafina This movie made me want a bowler and fake eyelashes 4 stars
12/12/01 slappy jacks fuck need i fucking say a fucking thing!? FUCKING FUUUUUCK! 5 stars
11/13/01 officer412/l IT'S FUNNY HOW THE COLOURS OF THE REAL WORLD ONLY SEEM REAL WHEN YOU VIDY THEM ON A SCREEN 5 stars
10/18/01 officer412/l kubrick is god 5 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk Disturbing. Sick. Hilarious. Inspired...Kubrick anyone? 5 stars
8/08/01 Mr. Hat I liked it because it had lots of vaginas and tits and penises and testicles an' stuff. 5 stars
7/21/01 gus good stuff 5 stars
7/20/01 Gus I haven't actually seen it... - i'll just join the crowd 5 stars
6/26/01 T_RatV Great film, Book is a little better with the final chapter, but great film 5 stars
6/15/01 zombie =] 5 stars
6/03/01 I love movies I'm sorry I just couldn't sympathize with that piece of shit in the second half 3 stars
6/01/01 Erik North Classic Kubrick--controversial, pointed, and disturbing as ever 5 stars
5/20/01 shoudell@spininternet.com an unforgetable movie, one of the best of all time 5 stars
4/30/01 junky read the book 5 stars
4/26/01 Dom Corleone profoundly prophetic 5 stars
4/08/01 R.W. Welch Has a certain eerie fascination about it, a true original. 5 stars
4/05/01 Hawkeye What can you say? Both the book and the film are real horrorshow. 5 stars
3/04/01 Avenger Girl Still relevant to today's society, even tho it was made nearly 3 decades ago. AWESOME 5 stars
2/21/01 Scott What lovingly brutal comment of the effects of society on individuals. 5 stars
2/16/01 LOOBER Dark,diturbing,shocki... And a meaning 5 stars
2/14/01 Michael Nicholls Nearfutureoverrunbyjunivildelinquintsandsadiisticstatepoliceman 5 stars
1/29/01 Soggy Bottom Boy As relevant today as when it was made, this is a disturbing yet thought-provoking classic. 5 stars
1/22/01 jmr 2 stars 2 stars
11/14/00 bruno one of my favorites 5 stars
11/04/00 supervegeta83 ABSOLUTELY the BEST movie EVER!! 5 stars
11/02/00 JOHNNY alot of fun... witha lot of menaing 5 stars
10/27/00 Emily Collar Dark, twisted, seedy and deeply disturbing no wonder it was taken from our shelves! 4 stars
10/22/00 Viking Still has the ability to shock !!! 5 stars
10/19/00 veronica weird and twisted 4 stars
5/09/00 Shae W Great Movie. Scare your friends. 5 stars
5/03/00 Steve Layne Either this movie is overrated or Its too smart for me. 2 stars
4/24/00 Ryan Classic... 5 stars
4/12/00 the Grinch The perfect complement to the Burgess book... 5 stars
4/02/00 perverted pixie McDowell is the PERFECT Alex!! However the book is still more disturbing. 5 stars
3/26/00 Skye Chapman greatness 5 stars
3/23/00 ria Gawd i love this movie, almost as good as the book! 5 stars
3/19/00 Franky Chopstick First hour: Brilliant, Second hour: good satire but too long!!! 4 stars
3/19/00 Richard Wright A cautionary tale of tolerance and justice Brilliantly directed and superbly performed. 5 stars
1/24/00 Casey Jarzabek THE BEST OF THE BEST 5 stars
1/09/00 unstrung bizzare, unorthodox and repulsive... and yet all too familiar 5 stars
1/09/00 John Markham The book is rubbish and this is worse. 1 stars
12/16/99 Rachel intense, bizarre, thought-provoking, and very, very funny in parts 5 stars
11/29/99 Nieshia Wynn I liked the movie and it teaches viewers about our environment and the future 5 stars
11/22/99 Ralf Behet One of Kubrick's best. Great use of Ludwig van's music. 5 stars
11/19/99 Tyson Stewart It gets better every time you see it! Extraordinary performances! 5 stars
11/11/99 Matthew Smith A great film, techincally brilliant, confronting and hilarious. 5 stars
10/25/99 russ an awesome movie, one of Kubrick's best 5 stars
10/18/99 Sean Lahiff Bravo, real horror show it was, thought it was grand, Ciao my little droogies. 5 stars
8/18/99 Bobby Radisky Real Horrorshow 5 stars
8/11/99 Japtalian Watch it. If you don't understand, watch again brother. 5 stars
8/02/99 Physh "Rather....um....interesting look into the mind of a British rapist." 5 stars
7/27/99 Betty Boop Perfect. 5 stars
7/26/99 Zaw Oo Fucking Asome Movie! 5 stars
7/19/99 the movie pimp Many people like the film because of the nudity and violence but it has a major point. 5 stars
7/15/99 GothamDK Must have shocked the hell out of people of 1972. Brutal and charged. Kubrick classic. 4 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg Luv this flick. High on my Top 10 list. Took numerous viewings to warm up to it, though. 5 stars
6/14/99 Dylan Didnt rate it. Read the book instead, its far superior. 3 stars
6/09/99 PurityJustBegs No one will ever take the place of Stanley...yet another brilliantly savage satire..Malcom! 5 stars
6/07/99 Elizaveta Forget all the fuss and hype - it should not take away from this incredible film! 5 stars
4/06/99 Michael Grimm interesting 4 stars
3/07/99 davebo Great film, a cult classic, my favorite Kubrick movie 5 stars
3/05/99 little jerry The one that confirmed Kubrick as The Iceman of Film.Wear your winter clothing. 5 stars
2/16/99 Uncle Roy Kickback with some Moloko sythemesc and dresmec and get the in out in out 5 stars
12/05/98 tj best movie ever, seriously 5 stars
12/04/98 Matthew J. Soucy Rated X in 1971. The film is one of Kubrick's finest - with a haunting soundtrack. 5 stars
11/28/98 J-Guy would have been better had people not built it up as the be all end of film. 4 stars
11/28/98 Mr.Pink Satire that was and still is ahead of it's time. TERRIFIC! 5 stars
11/27/98 Lord Of The Dunce I'll go on record as saying I don't get what all the fuss was about. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Feb-1972 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Jul-1972 (R)




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