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If… Movie Review

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I was so desperate to see a movie one winter in Venice that I watched a revival screening of If…, dubbed in German and with Italian subtitles (neither of which I can understand or read). It was still every bit as subversive as I remember, and a bracing antidote to so many schoolboy sagas, where the status quo is rigidly maintained at any cost. Malcolm McDowell is pretty scary here as Mick Travers, but nowhere near as scary as he would become as Alex De Large in 1972's A Clockwork Orange. (It would be several YEARS before I could look at a McDowell picture again after that.) If… is a product of its time in that all paths lead to the revolution, but no paths lead from it. Mick and his mates succeed in bringing down the headmaster, but what then? Outside of this movie, there was Labour Leader Harold Wilson (1916–95, who DIDN'T go to public school), Conservative Edward Heath, Wilson again, Labour Leader James Callaghan, Conservatives Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and Labour Leader Tony Blair. But Conservatives and Labour Leaders alike try to woo the opposite party these days, and the most moderate Conservatives may well be more liberal than Tony Blair; not exactly the stuff of which anarchists and revolutions are made. Still, the energy and intensity of the revolt in If… is what sticks in your memory, not the middle-aged character actor that Malcolm McDowell has become. Based on John Howlett's Crusaders.

1969 (R) 111m/C GB Malcolm McDowell, David Wood, Christine Noonan, Richard Warwick, Robert Swann, Arthur Lowe, Mona Washbourne, Graham Crowden, Hugh Thomas, Guy Rose, Peter Jeffrey, Geoffrey Chater, Mary MacLeod, Anthony Nicholls, Ben Aris, Charles Lloyd Pack, Rupert Webster, Brian Pet-tifer, Sean Bury, Michael Cadman; D: Lindsay Anderson; W: David Sherwin; C: Miroslav Ondricek; M: Marc Wilkinson. Cannes Film Festival ‘69: Best Film. VHS, LV

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