Viddy well: Back in the Chelsea Drug Store


The Chelsea Drug Store, 49 King’s Road, London, circa 1970.

How quickly things change. It was almost six years to the day that I posted an unapologetically sedulous analysis of the record shop scene in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, something that’s still one of the most regularly visited of all the entries here. That post concerned the excitement of being able to at last scrutinise on DVD a single shot whose details had earlier been obscured by no end of noise and interference, the embargoed film having previously been available in the UK on various bootleg videos. Fuzzy warbles indeed. The DVD wasn’t ideal, however, and many of the frame enlargements looked pretty shoddy. Last month I acquired a box of Blu-ray Kubrick films so all the images on that post have now been upgraded. There isn’t a great deal more to see in a shot that lasts all of sixty-six seconds, but John Alcott’s wide-angle photography is now crystal clear.

As for the location of the record shop, I noted in the original post that the famous Chelsea Drug Store building is now a McDonald’s. A place that once sold music and magazines becomes another outlet for an international burger chain; that’s the real future horror, not rampaging youth. See it up close on Google’s Street View.


Alex and the sounds of 1970.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Kubrick shirts
A Clockwork Orange: The Complete Original Score
Juice from A Clockwork Orange
Clockwork Orange bubblegum cards
Alex in the Chelsea Drug Store

4 thoughts on “Viddy well: Back in the Chelsea Drug Store”

  1. Just to the left of frame in the black & white photo is the main location of Joseph Losey’s The Servant (shot – unbelievably – just eight years before A Clockwork Orange). In the opening shot, which runs under the opening credit and goes for about two minutes, the camera pans past the corner (and Dirk Bogarde standing in front of the Thomas Crapper store across the road!) but unfortunately the site is obscured by a truck. The budget clearly didn’t extend to extras, if the passers-by gawping directly at the camera are any indication. And we find out that the hairdresser on the film was a certain Joyce James, which has made my day.

  2. Hah. I saw your title, then I saw the photo, and I immediately thought: ‘that has to be the record shop exterior from A Clockwork Orange,’ even though I’d never seen the Chelsea Drug Store. I had of course always assumed that scene was a soundstage shot.

    And now the McDonald’s outlet. Yes, in a way it’s fitting, I suppose. Comparable to my own town, where all real shops are slowly being replaced, one by one, by bland clothing stores.

  3. James: Thanks, that explains why someone linked to my original post with something about The Servant. I keep intending to watch that one again, haven’t seen it for years and it’s a kind of precursor to a real cult film of mine, Performance. Another odd connection: Malcolm McDowell was directed by Joseph Losey shortly before doing ACO.

    Paul: I thought it was a set until I started stepping through it and noticed the name on the record rack. The only specially-built set in the film is the Korova Milk Bar, everywhere else was a real location.

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