<--Previous Review Click Here to Return to Index of Reviews
Click Here to Return to Home Page
Next Review-->
Click the Cover Picture or Title to purchase this item from Amazon.com -- a new browser window will open.
Already A Lucky Man
Malcolm McDowell,
dir Lindsay Anderson
When i got out of the Navy and moved to Atlanta in 1972, there was a great hole-in-the-wall cinema (174 seats, one broken) called "The Film Forum". George and Mike Ellis served the best fresh popcorn in town, and ran movies you just didn't see anywhere else in the early 70's -- I first saw "The Boys in the Band", "The Ruling Class" and "Phantom of the Paradise" at the Film Forum. I saw so many great films there that i can forgive them for running "Harold & Maude" about every fifth week...

In addition to two shows a night of their regular feature for that week, they also ran a special $1 midnight movie on Fridays and Saturdays. (In later years, "Rocky Horror" became the midnight standard for a couple of years.)

And that is where i saw "...if..." for the first time.

I've been an anglophile most of my life (beginning at a rather tender age with "Swallows & Amazons"), so i had some idea of what English Public (private) School life was likely to be like, and may have understood what was happening here more quickly than some of my friends who saw it with me.

In the context of what starts out as a pretty starightforward-appearing school film, Anderson & MacDowell give us a rather Marxist allegory of modern class struggle, steadily but almost imperceptibly moving from realism to a surreal parable of revolution.

The final sequences, with the little old lady with the submachine gun blazing away screaming "Bastards! Bastards!", the school prefects (seniors) organising the "good" (loyalist) students to fight the Revolution and pitched battle raging, have stayed with me ever since, even when i hadn't seen the film for years at a time.

MacDowell (in his first real feature role) gives an incredible performance that both foreshadows and (in my opinion) overshadows his next role, as Alex in "A Clockwork Orange". "Clockwork" was hailed, pretty much rightly, as a view of a disintegrating society tearing itself to pieces -- "..if.." covers much the same ground, and does it better and more memorably in miniature than Kubrick's huge canvas and broad brush strokes.

MacDowell's Mick Travis and his friends are pretty much decent if disaffected characters; but the System, which cannot tolerate any variances, must either grind them down or drive them to rebellion -- they choose the latter, and you will never think of school in the same way again after you see their gradual radicalisation and the result.

((Don't believe the stories about not having enough money to print the whole film in colour being the reason for several black&white scenes in the film -- the real reason is that for the scenes shot in chapel they were not able to set up lights and had to shoot by natural light, which came in through a big stain-glass window. They tried some test shots on high-speed colour stock, but the results were hopelessly grainy and the colour values shifted constantly as the angle of the sun changed. So they decided to just go ahead and use B&W for those scenes, and, when Anderson saw how the B&W footage contrasted with the colour, he decided to use B&W at other points to keep the audience off-balance as the film slipped from realism to surrealism.  See the article about a recent re-release for confirmation of this.))
Rejoice, oh my brothers, droogs and Crusaders alike!
Even as i sat, formatting this review for posting, i was researching something about The Film, and i encountered this little piece, which tells me that  "...if..." is having a fancy formal gala re-release, new prints and all!

I am typing this on 22 February, 2002; yesterday, 21 February, the new print had its official debut in London, and next week begins a run in theatre(s).

With luck, this may portend a new video/DVD release, possibly with Goodies Added.

So, much as i could use the money if you ordered a copy through this site Right Now, my advice is to wait a couple months.  then come back here to buy it, because i promise i'll keep my links on this up-to-date and current.
If you can survive the experience -- close to five hours total, it would be -- seeing this film on a double feature with its sequel/prequel/whatever, "O Lucky Man!" is a truly surreal and wondrous experience.