23 August 2006 | Bunuel1976
BRITANNIA HOSPITAL (Lindsay Anderson, 1982) ***
This is the last entry in The Mick Travis Trilogy (also comprising IF....  and O LUCKY MAN! , all directed by Anderson, written by David Sherwin and starring Malcolm McDowell as Travis) and the only one I hadn't watched before; ironically, the film made it to DVD before the others which are still M.I.A. (being owned by the majors, Paramount and Warners respectively) though both have been rumored as being "in preparation" for what seems like forever!! As with HELL IS A CITY (1960) and THE CRIMINAL (1960), I had my eyes on the Anchor Bay DVD of this title for the longest time but only now have I finally taken the plunge to acquire it - though, in its case, this had more to do with the fact that the film was largely considered a failure, certainly in comparison with its more highly-regarded predecessors!
Actually, it comes off as quite underrated and its satire on British society at large - with the titular hospital serving more or less as a microcosm of all that was not well with the country during the early 80s - is just as harsh, if admittedly somewhat hit-and-miss (the "Frankenstein" scenes, for instance, and the fact that royal representatives are played by a midget and a man in drag are more tasteless than anything else!). The thing is, however, that the film became part of the trilogy by accident and, in fact, McDowell isn't really the lead character - so that it's not quite as focused as IF.... and O LUCKY MAN!, and even borrows elements from both of them (the revolutionary aspect from the former and the bizarre experiments, mentioned above, from the latter) which aren't as successful this time around!
Still, it's very funny - for those who can take its unbridled savagery - along the way and the cast is brimming with talented character actors (Leonard Rossiter, Graham Crowden, Joan Plowright, Jill Bennett, Peter Jeffrey, Brian Pettifer, Dandy Nichols, Richard Griffiths, Brian Glover, Robbie Coltrane, uncredited bits by Alan Bates and Arthur Lowe, and even unlikely appearances - in fairly important roles - by Robin Askwith and Mark Hamill!), many of whom had already appeared in the two earlier Mick Travis films. Unfortunately, the score by Alan Price (ex-member of The Animals) - whose O LUCKY MAN! soundtrack, including a number of songs, had been one of its major assets - is underwhelming and, typical of old British films, the dialogue is hard to grasp sometimes due to the limited sound recording and the actors' heavy accents!