Wednesday, August 10

The premiere of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ in Spain: university students without classes, an old Christian festival and a false bomb threat

The expectation of a banned film, the violence of Stanley Kubrick and a longing for freedom in a weakened Franco regime. The premiere in Spain of A Clockwork Orange in 1975 —four years later than in the United States— it had it all: university students without the University of Valladolid, the shadow of censorship hovering over the premiere, and a false bomb threat.

The union demonstrations of Fasa – now Renault – and the student movement at the University of Valladolid made the headlines in the newspapers. The students mobilized to demand elections to the Rector’s Office, something to which the University of Valladolid refused. One day a group of students threw rotten eggs at the rector and there were demonstrations, assemblies and strikes. The rector decided to respond and closed all the faculties; although not teaching, since there were clandestine parallel classes. Two months after the rector hung the ‘closed’ sign, the Seminci festival premiered A Clockwork Orange.

An ancient Christian festival

The Valladolid International Film Week (Seminci) had only had that nickname for three years, since until then the religious character and Catholic moral values ​​had predominated. Not without reason was it founded as the Valladolid Religious Film Week in 1956, renamed four years later as the International Religious Film and Human Values ​​Week. His connection with the Church made Kubrick not perceive Seminci as the most ideal environment for his film, although Warner and the director of Seminci convinced him that it would be released at the University of Valladolid – which was closed – and the university environment would promote the entry of the film in Spain.

But it was not like that. The film was premiered in the now defunct Coca cinemas for the subscribers of the Seminci – the city’s upper social class, mainly – and later it was premiered at the Carrión theater for all the public.

“There were long queues, there were people who stayed all day to buy tickets. As there were no classes, more expectation was generated,” explains Pedro González Bermúdez, who is directing a documentary The Forbidden Orange (TCM), which will delve into the premiere of A Clockwork Orange in Spain. At the time, Kubrick had withdrawn the tape from the UK after assaults and rapes were detected in imitation of those of Alex DeLarge and his colleagues. droogs.

A bomb warning during the premiere

The film was broadcast in its entirety and in its original version with subtitles, without censorship. “The regime was already very weakened and this was a sign of openness,” says González Bermúdez. For the documentary – still in the production phase – the team has interviewed festival goers and managers involved in the organization of this event. Carmelo Romero and other interviewees have commented in their interviews that they had the intuition that the regime was opening its hand to use it as propaganda. “As in other countries it was censored, here it was allowed as saying: ‘Spain is freer than the United Kingdom'”, explains González Bermúdez, winner of a Goya award and various national and international awards and mentions for works such as Return to Viridiana (2011), Bette Davis’ last goodbye (2014).

There were no major problems, except for one that was kept secret at the time: a bomb warning during the screening of A Clockwork Orange. The director of the Seminci, Carmelo Romero, who had been the main person in charge of the film being shown, decided not to alert the before. As was customary at the time, that bomb alert was nothing more than a failed attempt to boycott the film and not a real threat.

Once curiosity and expectation were satisfied, little else came out of the premiere of Kubrick’s film. The film was screened in ‘art and essay’ cinemas at first and then went on to commercial premieres for the more general public. A Clockwork Orange It was one of the most powerful premieres of the 70s in the whole country, and it spent a whole year at the Campeador cinema in Madrid. Almost fifty years after its first premiere in 1971, the social criticism raised by Anthony Burgess remains alive, as do the nods in the world of culture to the story of Alex DeLarge.