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`Clockwork Orange' ban to be challenged

JUST A week after Stanley Kubrick's death, a London arthouse cinema is planning to screen A Clockwork Orange - the highly controversial film he banned in 1973, vowing it would never be shown again in Britain.

Despite his wish, the Scala, in King's Cross, believes that the director's power of veto cannot operate from beyond the grave.

The screen treatment of Anthony Burgess's novel stylised rape and murder to a soundtrack by Beethoven. In several criminal trials shortly after its release, defence lawyers claimed their clients had been corrupted by Kubrick's imagery. Shocked, the director banned the film. Now the Scala, which was fined for showing it at a late night screening in 1993, is determined to present it again.

Sean McLusky, the Scala's promotions manager, confirmed last night that the cinema was taking legal advice. "It will be marvellous if we can be the first to screen it again after being the last. After all, the Scala has become part of the mythology surrounding A Clockwork Orange."

The ban operates only in the UK, and screenings are common in other European countries and the US. Video shops in America report keen interest from British buyers.

Warner Brothers, the film's distributor, is aware of its cult appeal. Julian Senior, the company's vice-president, said no decision on revoking the ban had yet been taken. He added that it was too close to Kubrick's death for the matter to be re-examined, but conceded that the ban could be lifted at a less "sensitive'' time.

Nick James, editor of Sight and Sound, the film industry magazine, said: "I've always felt that A Clockwork Orange should be released. It's a kind of absurdity that the rest of Europe can see it and we can't.

"Standards with regards to what's acceptable now have changed dramatically and I don't think A Clockwork Orange would be that outrageous to a modern adult screen audience.

"It comes down, to some extent, to whether Kubrick can bequeath his veto or not and whether Warner might feel obliged to keep the veto in place until a suitable time has elapsed since his death."

It is almost certainly the case that Kubrick has taken one secret to the grave. It was widely assumed he imposed the ban because of the "copycat" violence it allegedly generated. But for many years it has been rumoured there was a more sinister explanation - that he and his family had received death threats unless he withdrew the film.

Kubrick's lawyers were not available for comment.