Beneath South London’s Wandsworth Bridge lies an uninviting and sinister-looking underpass. Despite its shabby appearance, it’s actually a cinematic landmark because of an appearance in the classic science-fiction film A Clockwork Orange.
The underpasses were constructed in 1969 as part of the refurbishment of the Wandsworth Bridge. The bridge was built in the 1940s, in a mid-century brutalist aesthetic. In the early 1970s, the underpass was selected by director Stanley Kubrick to appear in A Clockwork Orange.
Kubrick felt that the architecture would make a perfect backdrop to the film. The post-war Brutalist architectural style represented a futuristic Britain that lay in the shadow of a rising totalitarian system, and a society that had become a dystopia of social decay and alienation.
In a scene early on in the film Alex and his psychopathic “droogs” (gang members) encounter an alcoholic vagrant in the Wandsworth underpass singing an old Irish folk song. We hear Alex’s sinister inner thoughts and evil intentions towards the unfortunate old man: “One thing I could never stand was to see a filthy, dirty old drunkie, howling away at the filthy songs of his fathers and going blurp blurp in between as it might be a filthy old orchestra in his stinking, rotten guts.”
After unsuccessfully begging for money and being taunted by the leering savage thugs, the homeless man then begins to lament the state of the modern space-age world, contrasting its technological advances with the deficit of humanity, and the endemic levels of corruption and social alienation: “What sort of a world is it at all? Men on the moon, and men spinning around the earth, and there’s not no attention paid to earthly law and order no more.”
This highly disturbing scene builds to a horrifying crescendo with the poor man being savagely beaten by Alex’s pitiless gang of yobs who wield walking canes and bicycle chains.
Know Before You Go
The Wandsworth underpass can be seen under the South side of Wandsworth roundabout bridge.
Be mindful of your surroundings and beware of the modern (and less cultured than Alex) "droogs" when visiting the area as muggings are on the rise in the South London area.