If.... out now on Blu-ray

Sunday, 08 June 2014 23:00 Written by 

If - out now on Blu-rayMalcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”, “Star Trek: Generations”) stars as sixth-form schoolboy Mick Travis in this startling film about a British boarding school. Building on a common view of life in these educational establishments that includes bullying, elitism and authoritarianism, the movie follows a handful of students whose rebellion against the system knows no bounds.

Lindsay Anderson (“This Sporting Life”) directs a screenplay by David Sherwin (“O Lucky Man!”), whilst Albert Finney co-produced. McDowell's co-stars include David Wood (“Aces High”) and Richard Warwick (Mel Gibson’s “Hamlet”) as Travis' fellow anarchists, Arthur Lowe (Dad's Army) as the housemaster, Peter Jeffrey (“Midnight Express”) as the headmaster and Geoffrey Chater (“Barry Lyndon”) as the school's chaplain.

Set in the late 1960s, the film is frightening in its depiction of life during term time, but also confounding in the way it strays into flights of fantasy that blend with the more realistic action with worrying ease. Anderson uses a combination of colour and black and white film stock, and this chopping and changing add to the movie’s sense of a world askew.

It is a starkly divided environment of haves and have-nots; some students look like they were privileged from the beginning thanks to their wealth, whereas those less fortunate have to work their way up the ladder by serving the prefects and submitting to constant physical and mental abuse. The less fortunate remain downtrodden and miserable until they leave.

Travis and his small gang of anti-establishment hooligans live a much more exciting and entertaining life than their more staid peers, drinking, smoking, stealing a motorcycle and getting up to general mischief that at one point results in literally eye-watering punishment. The guys do not care however, as the welts on their behinds are a badge of honour, not of shame.

The film reminded me of a more rough-and-ready version of the Harry Potter books and films, although the action is cruder and the fantasy is not of the magic and supernatural variety but rather what would happen if events were taken to extremes.

“If....” is a highly memorable piece, justifying its Cannes’ Palme d'Or success in 1969, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations. McDowell is on electrifying form and I could not help rooting for him despite the demonic glint in his eyes.

Special features include:

  • Commentary with film critic and historian David Robinson, and actor Malcolm McDowell (recorded separately)
  • Three of Lindsay Anderson’s short films: “Three Installations”, “Henry”, and “Thursday’s Children”
  • Over two hours of new and exclusive interviews with Producer Michael Medwin, Writers David Sherwin and John Howlett, Editor David Gladwell, Production Manager Gavrik Losey, Cameraman Brian Harris, and Actors David Wood, Hugh Thomas, Geoffrey Chater, Philip Bagenal, and Sean Bury
  • Trailers
  • A 56-page containing new writing by David Cairns; a new interview with actor Brian Pettifer; a self-conducted interview with Lindsay Anderson; notes on the three short films; and rare and archival imagery

This content represents a bountiful package of facts, recollections and images from the film which, combined with the quality HD transfer, makes this a knock-out release.

“If....” (1968) is out now on Blu-ray, courtesy of Eureka. The main feature has a running time of 112 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £17.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com


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