Notes on the Mungojerrie Effect and the Record Store Section of "A Clockwork Orange"

Go to Table of Contents of the analysis (which has also a statement on purpose and manner of analysis and a disclaimer as to caveat emptor and my knowing anything authoritatively, which I do not, but I do try to not know earnestly, with some discretion, and considerable thought).

The most important thing which must be kept in mind with Kubrick's films is there is the surface or principle story and then the internal or sub-story. In many of his films, if we're really paying attention, set elements pretty much immediately destroy the surface naturalism. One may not notice this destruction the first, second or third time one watches the film. Through constructive disorientation and disconnectedness, and sleight of hand as to where our eye focuses, Kubrick, the magician, intentionally obfuscates these elements that destroy the overt and naturalistic story line. The surface story lines are the principle ones, and this is maintained and supported by the intentional obfuscation of the deconstructive elements which keep them sub rosa. At the same time, these deconstructive elements are plainly there, alongside his tremendous effort to make things look real and believable, and once we bypass the disorientation and his purposeful refocusing they become a puzzle, annihilating the sense of reality. This destruction of the film's naturalistic story line is difficult enough to conceive of and accept that most people stop at this point and decide these puzzling aspects of Kubrick's films are errors when they are not. They are part of the art of a director cleverly designing the overt story line to be unimpeded by an internal story that tears it apart. Indeed, the sub rosa elements of the internal story may be discreet but they are enough in evidence to complicate the surface story with an aura of attractive, indefinable mystery, which is one of the reasons viewers return to Kubrick again and again. To work with the "reason" and "why of the internal story line is to try to settle into Kubrick's sensibility, examining how these internal stories form a dialogue in his oeuvre with repeating themes and ideas, elaborated upon from film to film. The internal stories haven't a "plot"; they aren't that kind of story. Instead, you have to be willing to deal with comprehending the themes and ideas represented in them as instead ultimately forming a different terrain for the setting of the surface story, guiding and interacting with the overt story and giving it a new form.


The possible associations entertained in this post are just possibles, not concrete.

From Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1969 film Love is Colder Than Death we have the below supermarket section of Bruno and Joanna shoplifting their way through a supermarket to Peer Raben's electronic resculpting of the final duet of Robert Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier" (The Knight of the Rose or The Rose-Bearer).

At this link, at 18 minutes and 22 seconds, is the scene of Alex striding through the music store in A Clockwork Orange to Wendy Carlos Williams' electronic resculpting of part 2 of the 4th Movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, the "Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen" section.

Dandy/thug Alex's striding through the record store reminds me a good deal of Bruno's striding through the supermarket in Love is Colder Than Death. Is there a reason for that? Wendy Carlos Williams was putting out her synth classical in 1968, but might Kubrick have been influenced by Love is Colder Than Death? Does he reference Love is Colder than Death in A Clockwork Orange?

Joanna and Bruno shoplift. Alex is eyed with suspicion by one of the clerks, she alerting him that he is watching him for shoplifting, when he picks up a magazine, and he smiles and pointedly puts the magazine back down.

Alex having circled the store, having been given the opportunity for his stride and potential shoplift scene by virtue of this circle, stops at a counter beside two women sucking on their phallus popsicles. If, perhaps, the scene in Love is Colder Than Death is being referenced/drawn upon, we now have a reference to Richard Strauss, by way of the famously placed 2001 album. Other albums displayed at this point are Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's Deja Vu (certainly have some deja vu back to 2001, and also John Fahey's The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death situated right beside the album for 2001 which has on the cover an image from the opening scene in 2001 over which Richard Strauss' "Thus Spake Zarathustra" had played. Deja Vu is siginificant here as Kubrick's films are ruled by repetitions. Later we will have Alex revisiting scenes of old, causing deja vu, just as Bill revisited old scenes in Eyes Wide Shut, and Jack in The Shining expressed himself as experiencing a strong sense of deja vu.

The Fahey album, placed as it is, next to 2001 is of interest, considering its liner notes:

A disgusting, degenerate, insipid young folklorist from the Croat & Isaiah Nettles Foundation for Ethnological Research meandered mesmerically midst marble mansions in Mattapan, Massachusetts. It was an unsavory, vapid day in the summer of 2010 as the jejune air from Back Bay transubstantiated itself autologically and gradually into an ozone-like atmosphere.

With this futuristic story from 2010, we've a permutation of 2001 sitting right next to the 2001 album. From the liner notes we learn its title memorializes a blues artist by the name of Blind Joe Death, and for a number of years he was given as being a real person who was Faney's mentor, but was instead fictional and Fahey's alter ego.

Continuing on with the liner notes.

Knocking on a random door, haphazardly, the tasteless young man pondered the Hebraic inscription on the marble-tiled foot-brush, soporifically: "I wonder what the hell that means," he said to himself reflexively. The foot-brush backed itself into a corner at bay, with its back to the wall. Then, hissing at the wishy-washy young man, it reared up on its hind leg & stared into space, vociferously & stolicly. At this juncture a somewhat equivocal shoe-shine man opened the door, munching on a vacant popsicle stick. Before greeting the young man he reached up with a tentacle and stroked the aging foot brush on its fore, thus quieting the beast's existential anxiety.

The Blind Joe Death liner notes eventually sort themselves out as having something to do with the death and mythical resurrection and assumption of Blind Joe Death in 1962. A new order is to be enstated, state sanctioned, a religion that keeps "the masses guilty, docile and subservient. You know–opiate of the people and all that Thus–the cult of DEATH!" There was no resurrection of Death, but clones of Fahey are given as being hypnotized to know the music and carry it all over the world.

A Clockwork Orange has everything to do with religion as a death cult, so the inclusion of Fahey's album suits it well and provides commentary.

Antonioni uses Fahey's "Dance of Death" in Zabriskie Point which was released in 1970, before ACO.

Popsicles. Coincidentally, in the liner notes for Blind Joe Death we've the shoe-shine man munching on a popsicle stick. We've the women in the music store sucking on popsicles. In the Burgess book, this scene is based on Alex tricking two little girls into coming over to his place, and the girls were also sucking on ice-sticks. Not phallic ice-sticks. Just ice-sticks.

The man munching on the popsicle stick in the Fahey liners reaches up and strokes an aging "foot-brush" that hisses and behaves much like a cat.

Let's look at what Alex says to the young women sucking on their popsicles and what happens as he says it.

ALEX (to the blond): A bit cold and pointless, isn't it, my lovely?

The blonde ignores him.

ALEX (to the brunette): What's happened to yours, my little sister?

None of the dialogue on the popsicles is in the book, and I have wondered if in this dialogue we have a reference to Love is Colder than Death and even Zabriskie Point. It's after the "cold and pointless" comment, when Alex asks the brunette what has happened to her limp popsicle, that Kubrick subtly adds a notation/foreshadowing on the coming cat burglary/cat woman scene as the blond now pulls out an album by Mungo Jerry.

Mungo Jerry was popular at the time for his hit "In the Summertime".

Mungo Jerry is a name taken from T. S. Eliot's book, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. In T. S. Eliot's poem, Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer are companion cats who excelled as breaking and entering cat-burglars and thus came to be blamed as responsible for every mishap, even if it wasn't their fault.

Is Alex responsible for his actions or do they rest in fate and predetermination, just as fate determines Christ's need for a Judas and his crucifiers? It's one of the big questions of the film, not to be ignored, Alex's violence several times compared to the Christ myth demanding blood through predetermination, and his programmed, non-free-will reformation then transforming him into the "perfect Christian".

What is chance? What is free-will? What is fate?

What possible associations were actually intended and what were not? It's difficult to tell. What is happenstance and what are Kubrickian puzzles down the line of Nabokov's "Icicles by Cynthia. Meter from me, Sybil"?

What is blamed on coincidence when it is not? What is taken as being planned when it is purely coincidental?

What is Kubrick and what is the Mungojerrie effect?

Return to the top of the page.


Go to Part 3
Go to Table of Contents of the analysis
Link to the main Kubrick page for all the analyses
Leave a comment on FB
If you'd like to leave a comment, it can be left on the blog

copyright