20 March 2005 | smiths-4
Savage, Unsubtle satire with plot holes and needless characters
Firstly i must note that If.... is one of my favourite films and within that film Malcolm McDowell is Mick Travis, as good a character as Alex De Large (Clockwork Orange) and one which he makes his own. I found that film to be beautifully shot, excellently acted and the satire to be pinpoint accurate. It was a very important British film and is one of a few classics from the sixties (Saturday Night Sunday Morning, Loneliness of the long distance Runner, Billy Liar etc).
Next came O Lucky Man, with Travis out of school and working as a coffee salesman. We see his rise and fall and eventual rise again as a accidental film star. I also think this film is very important with a extremely gifted cast including Arthur Lowe in several roles and Graham Crowden as a mad experimenting doctor. The music by Alan Price greatly contributes to the film (lesser so Price's attempt to act!).
Finally, the 80's and Britannia Hospital. A great cast, an interesting premise but alas a flawed film. The major characters, bar Graham Crowden have little to do (McDowell, Rossiter, Hamill,) and i found myself feeling no empathy for anyone. The pickets and protesters were annoying but were outdone by the upper class visitors to the hospital and as for Mick Travis, an ignoble end. It is never explained why McDowell is there (why isn't he investigating the luxury treatment of the African Dictator which is causing everyone else so much grief!.....why does the nurse decide to continue his work/was she an insider who gave him info on Crowdens project??). The idea that the Queen would be allowed to visit the hospital in such inhospitable(pardon the pun) times is ludicrous etc etc.
But perhaps i am being to empirical about the film, what of the satire? About as subtle as a punch in the face! The upper classes are still treated differently to the working/middle classes be it in the workplace or in health care....wow, what a revelation!! Anyway, there is some joy in watching it unfold if you disengage from the satire element and enjoy the face spotting (John Gorden Sinclar, Robbie Coultrane, Robert Pugh, Richard Griffiths, Brian Glover, Arthur Lowe, Alan Bates, Roland Culver, Jill Bennett etc) and general mayhem of it all. I suppose Travis had to go somehow but why like this? My recommendation is to watch If.... and O Lucky Man and if you are satisfied with the ending to the latter film, leave it at that.