The film A Clockwork Orange (1971) was not banned in Britain. On the contrary, it was passed uncut by the British Board of Film Censors with rating 18. But it was withdrawn from distribution, and only in December 1999, after director Stanley Kubrick died, did Warner Brothers announce that it would be released again. Who was responsible and what were their exact reasons?
There is a lack of clarity here, partly because Kubrick never discussed the withdrawal in public. Thus Alan Travis writes in the Guardian in 1999 that the withdrawal resulted from a decision in 1974 "by Stanley Kubrick, the police and Warner Brothers". He quotes John Senior, vice-president of Warner Brothers, whom he describes as "involved" in the decision, as saying that "The police were saying to us: 'We think you should do something about this. It is getting dangerous'." In 2000, a few months later, Peter Bradshaw explains, also in the Guardian, that Kubrick "instructed" Warner Brothers in 1973 to withdraw the film from British distribution. Is there a reliable source for that statement? Is it certain that Kubrick had the contractual right to require a withdrawal?
We know that Warner Brothers pulled the film. We also know that after it was passed by the BBFC the Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling, was concerned about it. According to the BBC, film critic Alexander Walker recalled that "Stanley Kubrick and the distributors, Warner Brothers, suddenly realised they were being put in the dock by no less a person than the home secretary of the day." Walker is writing metaphorically, since neither Warner Brothers nor Kubrick were criminally prosecuted. The record shows that Maudling had expressed his worry that the film might contribute to real-life violence on 10 January 1972, three days before it was publicly released in Britain and before the instances of actual violence for which some held the film to be at least partly to blame. It would be interesting to know whether any relevant state papers have been released, perhaps under the 30-year rule. What were the contributions of the British state, Kubrick, and Warner Brothers to the decision to withdraw this film?