....which side will you be on?
If you are looking for the soundtrack on CD which includes the single and full Miss Luba & Criolla mass available nowhere else or for the film on VHS or a R0 DVD contact me.
To order The Lindsay Anderson Diaries
Cast | Awards | Billy Liar | British Film Guide | BFI Book | Classic Lines | Christine Noonan | The Crusaders - 2nd Draft | The Fake Script | Deceased | Deleted Scenes | DVD | Errors | Filming Locations | Formats | Interviews | Lindsay Anderson | Malcolm's Q&A | Music | News | Notes | Pictures | Play | Premiere 2002 | Quotes | Reviews | The Sequel | Sounds | Soundtrack | Stories | How Malcolm got his Big Break | Synopsis - Official | My Summary | My Review | The Tiger Scene | Together Again | Together Before | The X-Rating | Understanding if.... | Zero de Conduite

Cast

Role Actor
Crusaders  
Michael 'Mick' Travis Malcolm McDowell
Johnny Knightly David Wood
Wallace Richard Warwick
The Girl Christine Noonan
Bobby Philips Rupert Webster
Whips  
Rowntree Robert Swann
Richard Denson Hugh Thomas
Fortinbras Michael Cadman
Barnes Peter Sproule
Staff  
Headmaster Peter Jeffrey
General Denson Anthony Nicholls
Mr. Kemp - Housemaster Arthur Lowe
Mrs. Kemp Mary Macleod
Matron (Nurse) Mona Washourne
Chaplain - Rev Woods Geoffrey Chater
John Thomas - Under master Ben Aris
Mr. Stewart - History master Graham Crowden
Classic master Charles Lloyd Pack
School Porter Tommy Godfrey
School master Peter Jaques
Music master John Garrie
Seniors  
Stephans Guy Ross
Keating Robin Askwith
Pussy Graves Richard Everitt
Peanuts Philip Bagenal
Cox Nicholas Page
Fisher Robert Yetzes
Willens David Griffin
Baird Richard Tombleson
Van Eyssen Graham Sharman
Juniors  
Machin Richard Davies
Biles Brian Pettifer
Brunning Michael Newport
Markland Charles Sturridge
Jute Sean Bury
Hunter Martin Beaumont
Others  
Motorcycle Salesman Ellis Dale
Schoolboy Simon Ward
Extra Tudor Williams

Directed by Lindsay Anderson
Written by David Sherwin

Awards

 Won the Golden Palm (Best Picture) 5/24/69 Cannes Film Festival. The award was presented to Lindsay by Claudia Cardinale.

Billy Liar

Lindsay Anderson directed the world premiere of the play and his production starring Albert Finney and later Tom Courtenay, was a huge West End success. Lindsay was going to make the film, but the producer wouldn't hire him because he'd never made a feature film before. In the film, there are many parallels with if.... First is the casting of Mona Washbourne. Then the performance of Courtenay as Billy, which was designed by Lindsay Anderson, has many parallels with McDowell's as Travis. There are also great little flashes of Courtenay firing a machine gun at the 'dullards' before him.

British Film Guide

Front Cover
Back Cover

Link to order from Amazon UK
Link to order from Amazon USA

Turner Classic Movies BFG - by Paul Sutton 10/10/05 in the UK published by I.B. Tauris
US publishing date 11/5/05

Lindsay Anderson's provocative, savage and wickedly funny 1968 masterpiece, "'if....", deals fundamentally - and controversially - with England and 'Englishness'. Coming six years after Anderson's double Oscar-nominated debut feature, "This Sporting Life", and based in part on the director's own experiences of British public school and the military "if..." was the first film with a British setting and cast to win the Palme d'Or for Best Film at Cannes. The fruit of Anderson's first-hand studies of the Czech, Polish and Indian New Waves led by Milos Forman, Andrzej Wajda and Satyajit Ray, it prophesied - and then mirrored - an international outbreak of youthful rebellion. Sutton here draws on a number of sources: Anderson's private archive, which illuminates the film's autobiographical elements; the original script "Crusaders"; which would be transformed into 'if....'; the sequel on which he was working at the time of his death; and interviews with key members of cast and crew including actor Malcolm McDowell. Disentangling Anderson's work from the social realist tag, Sutton also discusses the film's experimental mix of realism and fantasy, the responses from the censors, audiences and public schools on which it was based and unravels the mysteries of a film which continues to delight, enrage and inspire.

114 pages
List of 15 pictures / vi
Acknowledgements / vii
Film Credits - crew & cast 1
Introduction 3
1. The Context 5
2. The Narrative 44
3. The Reception, the Sequel 83
4. The Conclusion 103
Appendix 105
Notes 109
Sources 113

My Summary & Review

    Running a site like this means I get to meet many people and even befriend a few. One of those is Paul Sutton, the author of this book. This makes it tougher to review the book as I don't want to say anything that would upset him, but I still want to tell the truth, so we talked about the book after I read it and before I wrote this. The shortest possible review I can give is this - buy this book now! Do whatever it takes to get it, it's essential for any fan of this film and you won't be disappointed.
    Now on to my detailed review. Paul was limited to 40,000 words and had to write it within the structure already set down in the series. So anything I didn't like I just chalked up to the restrictions of the format.
    The intro is a short two pages and doesn't talk much about if.... One thing it aims to clarify is to say Lindsay was never part of the Angry Young Man movement. Then comes the set up dealing with Lindsay's life before making the film. This section was the ONLY part of the book I had a problem with - the first 25 pages. Start at the section "David Sherwin's Crusaders" to really dive right into the film.
     There are some real gems in the setup about things Lindsay saw, read or wrote about early on that eventually wound up in the film. The feeling I got was, let's get to the meat already - the film. The best quotes from the beginning could've been peppered into the main talk of the film or the section could've been cut down to a few pages. I feel it took too long to get to if.... too much about Free Cinema, Royal Court Theater, etc. It's like sitting down to watch a film and getting 10 minutes of credits before it starts. I know he did the utmost with the format presented, it just left me wanting to get on with the film analysis. Maybe it's just me since I know a lot about Lindsay and wrote a large biography for him on the site. Someone less familiar with the great director will probably get much more out of this that I did. One slight complaint was the decision to only include one quote from Christine Noonan when he had more available.
    The gems are a 1935 film Lindsay reviewed called "Kid Millions" that switched from color to black and white and had a machine gun sequence. In 1941 he was forced to endure Kipling's poem "If". During WWII he was singled out for not being as neat as he should've been. An interesting anecdote from Jocelyn Herbert about a fight she had with him in 1957 sums up everything I've heard Malcolm McDowell say about Lindsay, "Whenever he saw something for the first time he'd be frightened it wasn't right." This immediately made me think of the story Malcolm tells of presenting his 40 page outline of O Lucky Man! to Lindsay to read. He said nothing while reading it until he was done and told Malcolm, "It's not very good is it?" Then after writer David Sherwin read it he said it was brilliant and knew Lindsay had screwed with his head.
    After this it goes into more about the shaping of Lindsay's mind toward the idea of making films. What he watched, where he went, who he surrounded himself with. On page 16 is the first picture which is quite striking. The great director is filming the chapel scene and is surrounded by boys who will be singing. He is walking through the middle of them like Moses parting the Red Sea. Perhaps he just made a joke to break the tension as the closet boys are smiling. Other boys watch him intently, with serious looks that say to me they want to please him and do a good job. The second picture on page 21 is history. It's Lindsay looking through a lens, taken on the first day of filming, probably setting up the first shot in the film.

The Crusaders - second draft 1966

    On page 25 begins the first time the original draft of David Sherwin's original script has been published which is a fascinating read. Here's a summary: At the end of summer Mick is on a train returning to school wearing a beard. In his compartment is an Irish man, a cockney woman and a beautiful girl named Glenda (The Girl in the film). Mick pretends he is from Czechoslovakia, and that he has been exiled for taking part in the revolution. Mick pretends he is a freedom fighter. Upon arrival at school we learn Mick and Johnny have been passed over for a promotion and Mick is singled out for being incident. During a Rugby game Mick and Johnny sneak into town and run into Glenda working at a cafe, but she doesn't remember them. When they return to school they are caught and caned, Johnny 3 times, Mick 10. Mick plans on sneaking away later to see Glenda and Johnny is to cover for her, but when he is called to play on the tennis team he changes his mind. Mick asks whose side is he on?
    Johnny wins his match and is awarded a varsity letter or school colors. During the celebration dinner Mick starts smashing plates and others join him. A riot nearly breaks out and Rowntree and the seniors break it up by slapping the bad boys in the face. Mick is sent to his room and told to report to a prefect every house from now on for the rest of the semester and Denson orders his head shaved.
    He still dreams of Glenda and in a crafts class he makes her a necklace. Since he can no longer escape with his new punishment he gives it to Johnny to take to her. Upon arrival at the cafe he loses his nerve. Later there is a fire drill in the night and Mick climbs down a drainpipe from his room to get to the grounds. The prefects think he is showing off so they make him take a long cold shower. Soon after he comes across rifles and bullets in the school armory and steals them. He and Johnny use them for target practice. At the end of the semester Johnny is made in charge of punishment and Mick must report to him.
    At the annual field day supervised by the general Mick sneaks off with Phillips to smoke and is caught by Johnny. Mick knocks him out and therefore is beaten again and Phillips is dunked in a toilet. They are accused of being lovers and are "married" by the seniors. At the end of the year while the snow is coming down Mick climbs up on the roof and lays in a fetal ball. The next day he is found impaled on the iron school fence. Time goes on and Johnny goes to see Glenda who is now wearing the necklace Mick made for her. 

    Lindsay wanted to make the movie, but he wanted to add his personal touches to it as noted in a letter he wrote to Sherwin dated 11/6/66. He says the writing is immature in the first draft from 1960 and suggests adding Wallace to the picture more and to make it the three boys together. He likes Peanuts, but isn't sure about Glenda. He then suggests that when the boys sneak away from school that they steal a motorcycle and find the girl - just like how it ended up in the film. He dismisses the idea of the train in the beginning and says the film should start in the school - the world of the film. He likes the scene with the fat boy, but doesn't like a scene about Mick's clean teeth. He doesn't like a scene with a pen knife or the ending of Mick dying - he doesn't think it fits. Basically he's looking to connect all the scenes together, Mick maybe talking to Stewart, the inclusion of the school song, who are the main characters and what is the theme of the film. He sees Mick as the main character, but wants to know why he is driven to violence at the end. He suggests a scene of the music master teaching the school song and the inclusion of "the new boy". He's not sure about the scene of the make headmaster's wife mixed with military boots - too harsh. He also thinks some sort of action on field day made get Mick a beating.
    These four pages along are worth the price of admission. Absolutely invaluable to the incite of what went into sculpting the script into the film we love today. On page 29 is a nice shot of Lindsay, smoking a cigarette, direction Denson and others in their military garb in the woods.
    Lindsay encouraged Sherwin to make the film more epic - in the Brecht style. Malcolm has said he didn't really know what that meant and Sherwin probably felt the same way. Instead Sherwin found influence in George Buchner plays and Lindsay in the 1933 film "Zero de Conduite", a surreal film about a boys boarding school. In 1976 Lindsay wrote in a fan letter about this. He used the film as a model, not a remake, as he wanted it more epic instead of the conventional English narrative style. He even screened the film for Sherwin and they felt the courage to make their film in an unconventional style after watching it. Lindsay felt his film needed a violent ending and at first thought about burning the school to the ground.
    In June 1967 the script was ready and the film was to be produced by Albert Finney's Memorial Pictures. Then Lindsay and David began scouting, the first school Charterhouse was good, the boys would be available, but wasn't as good as Lindsay's old school of Cheltenham. In August CBS agreed to finance the script and Cheltenham College agreed they could film there, if they liked the script. This created a problem. No school would like the harsh portrayal and the violent ending, so Sherwin was forced to write a fake script. The final problem was the title. Albert Finney's secretary Daphne  Hunter came up with "If" after the Kipling poem that Lindsay hated. Sherwin changed it to "IF''''-" and Lindsay modified it to the final title "if...." To get around writing an actual full script Sherwin wrote most of the film would be improvised.

The Fake Script

    Here is the outline summary: The idea of the film is to be a funny look at school life seen through the eyes of the three main boys as well as their adventures and fantasies. The goal is to show the reality of the world and since it is an independent film it will be improvised. There are 3 areas to give an idea of the scope.
    1. The film starts with establishing shots of the school to show it is empty, before the semester starts.
    2. Inside we see the halls filling with boys in a hurry to get ready for the start of school.
    3. The boys crowd around a bulletin board and Jute the new boy doesn't know where to go so Rowntree assigns Brunning to him

    All the offensive scenes are long gone with Sherwin focusing on lyrical pieces like the placement of items instead of homosexuality. The medical inspection is toned down and there is no blood in the sword fight scene. The canning scene is described more as a dressing down by Rowntree where he tells them they may think they are smart, but they are acting like fools and need to grow up. There is no specific punishment, just an allusion to making them run for a week.
    The final problem was to somehow get the massacre at the end into the film because the real  headmaster of Cheltenham would be in the final Field Day scene getting shot. Sherwin solved this by having it all be a dream of Mick's while he is in class. He is awakened from his fantasy by Mr. Stewart in a twist on the "mollusk king" scene from the film and it ends by him having the boys write a 25 minute essay on George III.
    Jocelyn Herbert says she felt bad about tricking the headmaster this way, but Lindsay didn't care. Then in September CBS dropped out. Albert Finney turned to Charles Bluhdorn who owned Gulf and Western and he financed the film without even seeing a script for $389,000. Adjusted for inflation this would be $1.5 million today. No matter how you cut it - a small budget.
    These 5 pages are all gems in that we get a behind the scenes look at the length Lindsay went to get what he wanted. He wanted Cheltenham and that was that. He knew the script wouldn't fly, so he tricked the headmaster. Brilliant and sneaky, but also funny. 

BFI Book

This is a book this site had a hand in.
Cover Scan

if.... bfi film classics
By Mark Sinker
Paperback: 8.99
96 pages, Illustrated
Published November 2004
ISBN: 1 84457 040 1

From back cover: Lindsay Anderson's film if....(1968), starring Malcolm McDowell as a
schoolboy who leads a guerilla insurgency, imagines how repression, conformism and fusty ritual at an English Public School could lead to anarchy and bloody revolt. Its title is a sardonic nod to Rudyard Kipling's most famous poem, and its story a radical updating of Kipling's 1899 story-sequence Stalky and Co. , in which prankish rebels are groomed to police the Empire. Released at a time of unprecedented student uprisings across the globe, if.... provided a peculiarly English perspective on the battle between generations-the perennial war of the romantically passionate against the corrupt, the ugly, the old and the foolish.
    With hindsight, the forces of conformity proved better able to exploit the Generation Gap than their foes: Anderson was quickly out of sympathy with the post-1960s counterculture, and if... now seems presciently dense with ambiguity. It is stylistically varied - shot in both color and black
and white, a mix of mock-documentary and quasi-surrealism - and far more contradictory than first viewing or fond memory allow. Though its emotional surface is authentically anti-authoritarian, its intellectual substance, as Mark Sinker argues, is rooted in a deep familiarity with the symbols of English ruling-class values. No longer a vehicle for shock or dissent, if.... is today enjoyed comfortably, even nostalgically but for Sinker this renders its many knots and paradoxes, the moments of poetry that Anderson argued were cinema's raison d'etre, all the more fascinating.
    Mark Sinker, a contributing editor at Sight and Sound, was editor of The Wire in the early 1990s. His Village Voice essay on Iannis Xenakis was included in Da Capo's Best Music Writing of 2003 collection.

Classic Lines

In order of appearance.

Christine Noonan

Page for her with bio, pictures and resume

Deceased

The unfortunate loss of those involved.

Date Person
2/22/77 Anthony Nicholls
4/15/82 Arthur Lowe
12/22/83 Charles Lloyd Pack
6/24/84 Tommy Godfrey
2/6/86 Dandy Nichols
11/15/88 Mona Washbourne
8/30/94 Lindsay Anderson
12/16/97 Richard Warwick of AIDS
1999 John Garrie
12/25/99 Peter Jeffrey
8/6/03 Christine Noonan of cancer
9/4/03 Ben Aris
6/06 Robert Swann 

Note:
Rupert Webster was reported as murdered in NYC subway on 3/15/95. David Sherwin the writer of if... wrote about this event in Going Mad in Hollywood because he heard it from Lindsay Anderson himself. This is a case of mistaken identity as I have talked to his fellow band mates who hooked me up with Rupert himself. This is great news. Check the Pictures section for recent shots.

Deleted Scenes

Mick firing a gatling gun from the roof with the Girl feeding him bullets
This might've been removed since it would've been much more violent and have killed many more people.

DVD

The Criterion release from 6/13/07. This is bare bones for them.

David Robinson's only claim to fame is that he visited the set when the film was being made and he wrote a good article that was printed in The Financial Times.

Errors

Scan 1
At 3:15 Jute is trying to see the board, at 4:10 he's talking to Rowntree and his hair, collar and tie are in different positions. He did just run down the hall, but it seems a little different, like it was filmed much later.

Scan 2
At 12:16 the students are standing next to tables with papers at their hands as Housemaster enters. At 12:48 the shot reverses and the papers are gone.

Scan 3
At 55:27 Mick pulls the motorcycle into the lot of the Packhorse cafe and it is empty. At 55:32 when they get off the bike there is a blue car there. At 55:44 when they enter the building a truck can be seen parked through the window.

Scan 4
At 57:12 the girl slides cups of coffee to Mick and Johnny, the counter is clean and two cups with two saucers are in front of the pot on the left. At 57:39 Mick dumps a large spoonful of sugar in his cup and some spills then coffee drips on the counter when he throws the spoon in the tin pointing toward the door. At 57:47 the next shot shows the girl looking at them and there is a large spill of coffee on the counter to the right, the mess Mick made is gone, the cups and saucers have moved and the spoon is pointing to the left showing multiple takes edited together.

Scan 5
At 1:49:10 the headmaster yells to the crusaders on the roof, then is shot dead. Behind him are kids on the ground holding rifles and behind them are dead, wounded and those seeking cover. At 1:49:25 the next shot shows an explosion in the grass from a mortar and everyone is gone. This could be interpreted as "is it a dream?" Either way the shadow from the roof doesn't go all the way across the lawn to the right, in the next shot the shadow covers the entire area.

Filming Locations (UK)

Across from the Packhorse Cafe 2/09
Across from the Packhorse Cafe 1968 (55 minutes into the film)

Cheltenham College 2004

Formats

Beta/VHS - NTSC + PAL/LD - All out of print, DVD R1
VHS 6838, Hi Fi, UPC0 37757 36838 1 released 1986
Paramount Home Video 5555 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, CA 90038

Interviews

Exclusive - The Hunt for Rupert Webster - two interviews
Exclusive 2/02 My Interview w/Rupert Webster

Exclusive 5/22/02 Q&A with Malcolm

7/69 Seventeen Magazine w/Malcolm

2/9/02 BFI w/Malcolm

3/17/02 Sunday Herald with Malcolm

Lindsay Anderson

More info on the director including a biography + resume

Malcolm's Q&A

From NYC 5/22/02

Music

The opening is the College Song - Stand up! Stand up! for College (to the tune of Stand up, stand up, for Jesus) Words by George Duffield, Jr. Music by George J. Webb 1858.

The hymn sung at the beginning of section 2 is Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan from 1684.

The record Mick listens to is "Sanctus" by The Singers of King Baudouin - a group of school children from the Congo, Africa. They perform the Christian mass, but did not compose it. The Sanctus is a part of a larger mass called the Missa Luba and there are several recordings of the full mass available, but none sound nearly as good as the one used in the film recorded in 1965.

In 1981 Elton John released a music video for his autobiographical 'Elton's Song.' The whole video plays out like a mini version of if...., focusing on the gay relationship wanted by a younger boy toward a senior. Two scans of the gym scene and a scan of the Sweat Room.

News

10/18/08

Poster

From Oct 20 to 31 at the La Palazzina communication and audiovisual center city of Imola (BO) via Quaini 14 in Italy there will be an art exhibition in tribute to the 40th anniversary of the film by Antonella Amaretti. Admission is free.

The film is playing at the Renoir Cinema in London on May 25, 2008

    The Lindsay Anderson Memorial Foundation is pleased to announce a special tribute event to Lindsay Anderson to take place on Saturday 5/21/05 in Southend-on-Sea in Essex.
    The LAMF has teamed up with the Leigh Film Society and South East Essex College to arrange an exciting one-off afternoon event which will include if.... the short O Dreamland and the documentary Is That All There Is? There will also be a panel discussion and Q&A with members of the Lindsay Anderson Memorial Foundation which will be chaired by Paul Ryan editor of Anderson's Collected Writings and a guest appearance by the actor David Wood (Knightly in if....).
    The college is next to Southend Central station which is on a direct line just fifty minutes from Fenchurch Street. We'll keep you updated as more information comes in. We hope to see you all there!

Camera Journal #1 w/if.... cover
Features:
David Sherwin On Lindsay Anderson: An in-depth and exclusive article by the writer of if...., O Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital.
The if.... Photo Gallery: Twenty full page photographs from Anderson and Sherwin's great film.
To order from the nice bloke visit www.camerajournal.com and also ask about issue 2 with a large Malcolm interview. You can read highlights here.

Notes

Pictures

Preproduction
Mick on the spiral staircase 1

Behind the scenes 
Still from the set as Malcolm makes his entrance
Malcolm and Christine Noonan looking at each other smiling
Malcolm and Christine Noonan  looking together
Malcolm sitting and waiting for a scene wearing yellow sunglasses
Malcolm in leather jacket with yellow sunglasses wallpaper

Mick Travis
UK Pop Art
Malcolm behind the scenes in leather jacket with yellow sunglasses

7/69 - Malcolm in Seventeen Magazine

Mick and The Girl on the school roof with guns

Mick on the motorcycle

Mick sitting in chair (used on re-release poster)

Mick hiding his mustache

Mick at the end of a fencing blade

Mick holding a magazine

Malcolm reenacting the end scene in if.... 2006


Filming Locations
Cheltenham College in 2004
Across from the Packhorse Cafe 1968
Across from the Packhorse Cafe 2/09

The Girl
Exclusive color publicity shot
Her first shot noticing the boys
Waving to Mick from her window

Lindsay Anderson
Lindsay and David Sherwin on the set

Lindsay showing Malcolm how to hold a bayonet

Lindsay and Malcolm on the school set

Claudia Cardinale presenting Lindsay with the Golden Palm at the 1969 Cannes film festival

Memorabilia
Vanguard #8 - Journal of the Schools Action Union 1969

VHS Cover - Front

VHS Cover - Back

Re-release 1 Sheet Movie Poster 2002

Camera Journal #1 w/if.... cover
Prefect Badge given out at the 2002 premiere

Postcard with re-release poster art

Re-release Movie Program
Cover

Page 1 - Credits

Page 2 - Peanuts Screaming

Page 3 - Malcolm's Letter Part 1

Page 4 - Malcolm's Letter Part 2

Rupert Webster
Then

Philips in the Gym scene

Philips sitting at his desk
Now
Rupert autographed album 1997

Rupert playing guitar live 1999

CD Cover Front - don't let the blues...(Rupert is on the far right)

CD Cover Back - don't let the blues...

Play

Eton killers reunited
Skye Sherwin, Wed 3/10/04, The Guardian

    A Friday night in Eton. If you watch carefully, an occasional escapee from its famous boys' school can be glimpsed on the streets in arcane black-tailed regalia. Outside the upmarket wine bars and old-world pubs, all is quiet. But at the school, something remarkable is taking place. In the drama studio, MNF House are staging their yearly play: an adaptation of the radical 1960s film if....
I am here as my father's emissary. He wrote the first draft of Crusaders, the script that became if...., when he was 18, the same age as many of tonight's performers. When the film screened in 1969, honed by years of work with the director Lindsay Anderson, it was a genuine call to arms. Its parable of public-schoolboy rebels, who end the prefects' stifling regime by massacring them with machine guns, was a trailblazing vision intended to shake up an outdated British film industry. At the same time, if.... reflected a time of rapid social change. The world outside was ablaze with student riots: the movie's star, Malcolm McDowell, let bullets fly from the school roof; in real life, French students fired guns from the roof of the Sorbonne.
    Tonight's production, beautifully staged by silver-spooned, whippet-hipped young things who might well be the future heads of state, is toned down to a sweet school satire. There is no sense that their words are a metaphor for society at large. The play's focus here isn't the rebels but the minor, less incendiary character of the new boy, Jute. Still, some of the more risque material remains. Top marks must be given to the lone young lady roped in to perform the infamous "I'm a tiger" scene. Brave just doesn't cover it.
    That if.... has been appropriated by Eton College, the epitome of the English public school system that the film explodes, says it all for the anarchic 1960s rule breakers. The irony is simply too perfect. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Anderson's death, and I would rather imagine the director - whose credo was "Only three things are real: God, human folly and laughter" - roaring his head off in heaven, than spinning in his grave.

Premiere 2/21/02

This was the first premiere that if.... ever received and it took place in London. Since I am in the US and couldn't attend I talked to Paul who was there. After the questions is Paul's article.

Was Malcolm at the premiere?

Paul: Malcolm didn't attend but sent along a piece to be read out by David Sherwin.

Did he say why he couldn't attend?

P: Malcolm was in London the week after the premier, passing through on personal business. It was a trip that was planned in advance of the if.... premier, which explains why he didn't fly into London twice in one week.

Did you take any pics? 

P: No, but a 'class reunion' photograph was taken by the BFI photographer (with Sherwin, David Wood, Rupert, Michael Medwin, Jocelyn Herbert and a few others.) Rupert Webster is alive and well and attended the screening with his mother (he's coming to spend a day with me in Cambridge to see the sights and to work on a piece he'll be writing for Camera Two).

Is he writing about if....? 

P: He certainly is.

What else went on?

P:  Sherwin wrote a good piece for the gala program (a gorgeous 16-page booklet available only at the premier). Everyone was given an if.... beautiful enamel prefects badge, which will become a collector's item. Sherwin also gave a speech which was brilliant. 

Anything else?

P: There was also an if.... promo postcard. You'll be pleased to know it has the words "Starring Malcolm McDowell' emblazoned at the top. David said that the reason Malcolm didn't come was that "he lives 8,000 miles away". Malcolm did promote the Trilogy when it was screened at The Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood last year, and spent a few days doing Q&A session with audiences. David's speech was mostly improvised on the spot (hastily so after meeting Rupert, because he was going to 'remember' him in a bit about the dead.)

The if.... Gala Screening
Thursday, 21st February, 2002
Curzon Soho, London by Paul Sutton

    The British Film Institute and the management consultant, Accenture, co-hosted the launch of a new print of Lindsay Anderson's masterpiece, if...., and they got it exactly right. Cajun chicken, mushroom vol-au-vents, and ample supplies of red and white wines were served to invited guests,
foremost among them, the author David Sherwin, the producer Michael Medwin, the designer Jocelyn Herbert, and two of The Crusaders, David Wood and Rupert Webster.
    Rupert's attendance was a real and welcome surprise because everyone thought he was dead; a death reported by no less an authority than Lindsay Anderson himself who, in David Sherwin's wonderful book, Going Mad in Hollywood, is quoted as saying: Bobby Phillips (Rupert Webster) was murdered some time ago on the New York subway.
    I don't know why Lindsay thought I was dead, said Rupert. I talked to him about six months before he died.
    Class reunion photographs of the assembled cast and crew were taken in front of a backdrop of the magnificent re-release poster, an into-the-lens portrait of Malcolm McDowell looking thoughtful and alluringly dangerous.
    Before the screening, in a masterstroke of marketing, everyone was given an if.... prefect badge - lovely enameled mementos - and a beautifully designed sixteen-page program.
    David Sherwin warmed the crowd with a fine speech. He pointed out that this was the actual premier of if....: Thirty-five years ago, if.... didn't have a premiere. It had won the main prize at Cannes, but Paramount hated it and wouldn't release it. But they had an expensive flop in Jane Fonda (Barbarella) and, because the new Chuck Heston film wouldn't be ready for another week, and they didn't think it would do any harm, if.... was put into the Paramount Theatre. Within days there were queues round the block...
    He talked of the amusing parallels the evening had with a scene he had written for if.... 2, in which the cast and crew gather for a Gala screening of if.... In the audience is the Queen Mother (inspired by her marvelous performance in Britannia Hospital). After the screening, she knights
The Crusaders on stage, and slices off David Sherwin's head.
    He read out a letter sent by Malcolm McDowell, much loved and much missed: I look back and remember the brilliance of Lindsay Anderson, and Jocelyn Herbert, and Miroslav Ondricek, and I feel so lucky to have worked with such great artists...
    Then the film was screened and, unless you saw it within weeks of its first release, you have never seen it looking as good as this. I was startled at once by the palette of color, and the richness of Jocelyn Herbert's design. Never before had I noticed that the school colors, as seen on the boys' scarves and rugby shirts, were red, white and blue - the colors of The Union Jack. For the first time I noticed the brightly colored beakers artfully laid out above the wash stands in the bedrooms; the patterns on the prefect's waistcoats, the yellow silk of Travis's pajamas, the school's chromatic Victorian brickwork, the blueness of Malcolm McDowell's eyes.
    The image throughout is so clean that we can study the collages on the study walls: mostly women for The Crusaders; soldiers for Denson, oarsmen and horsemen for Fortinbras.
    But strangely, the print cleaned and screened was not Anderson's cut. It was the film as trimmed by the censors. Anderson's cut was screened in Leicester in March, 1998. It plays often on German TV.

Quotes

"Of course, when we were making it, we had no idea what it was about. It wasn't until we went to a press screening in London that we realized. At the end there was total silence. Then everyone applauded. We were all thinking: 'Wow! That's different.'" Steve "Plugger" Goodwin, an extra - Guardian 5/27/08

"Everyone thought that Lindsay Anderson was the cat's pajamas. But I didn't want Aldenham to come into disrepute. Anderson had been at Cheltenham. He said to me: 'I was at a public school, I am not going to knock the public schools, am I?' But being a suspicious character, I asked him if there was anything more he could do to convince me. So he said: 'I'll send you the script.' It was a very short script, only about ten or 12 pages. And, of course, there was nothing offensive in it. Where there was a violent or sexy scene it simply said: 'He fantasizes,' or 'He daydreams.' So I said: 'All right, go ahead. I was a useful idiot, I suppose. My wife Felicity and I went to see the film and laughed ourselves silly. It was a marvelous film. Very funny; quite cogent. But the result for the school was disastrous. After 1968 everything changed. There was suddenly this terrible hatred." He insists that at no point, as rumor had it, he feared an If-type rebellion was about to break out. "Lord, no! That's ridiculous," he says. "I thought that there would be an awful lot of trouble. But I don't think anyone was planning to shoot me." 5/27/08

Paul Griffin described the blowback from the "brilliant and destructive film" that he had allowed to be made at the school. "Our boys, seeing themselves in what seemed to them romantic circumstances, enthusiastically transformed themselves into images of the heroes of the film. It would be stupid to pretend that no other factors entered in but If...was a powerful focus." 70s

"if... is probably the best film I made and after it Lindsay said, 'Well, Malcolm, it's downhill from here.' I told him I was young and would do much better work. 'I doubt it,' he said. Maybe he was right. Who knows? I didn't have time to be disappointed. When you're living through those things you think it's all going to continue, but very soon afterwards the British film industry collapsed. Lindsay Anderson was too good." - Malcolm Radio Times interview 2/96

"I didn't realize that things couldn't get much bigger for me than they did when if... was released. I couldn't believe that any film would be more important to me than that. I couldn't imagine things getting any better for me. I would go down to the theatres in London and there would be lines a half-mile long of people waiting to see a movie I was in. People would see me on the streets and freak out. I had gone from being this completely anonymous rep actor to somebody who was this symbol for something very important to a lot people. I literally thought that if... was going be the pinnacle of my career. But then Clockwork Orange came along and made if... look like a minor success by comparison." - Malcolm in Starburst 7/95

'It was straight from my school. The horror of the beating. I can still smell the bleach they used to clean the concrete floors and the lino in my schoolhouse, the biggest and the most horrible in Tonbridge'. - David Sherwin 1969

Reviews

From when the film first came out.

"Go - for the fury force and fun of if.... A movie so brilliant, so special that it is dangerous to write about if.... I'll be talking about if.... forever." - Look 
"Angry Tough and Full of Sting." - Life 
"A picture you must see this year is if.... A profound film with enormous power. If we get even one film to equal it, we will be lucky." - Ladies Home Journal 
"Let it suffice to say that if.... is a masterpiece, reason enough to rank Anderson among cinema's major artists." - Playboy 
"The most interesting film so far this year. if.... is a brilliant and disturbing film." - Vogue
"If you're young you will really dig if.... If you're not so young, it's more reason than ever to see what it is all about." - Cosmopolitan 
"It is such an interesting movie. A brilliant and solidly constructed satire." - N.Y. Times 
"if.... is an exciting miracle." - N.Y. News

The Sequel

Click here for the if.... 2 page.

Sounds - mp3

The Santcus
Even to the knife!

Excuse me, do you mind not picking your shag-spots in here?

Blood! Real Blood!
Death to the oppressor!

The thing I hate about you, Rowntree, is the way you give Coca-Cola to your scum, and your best teddy bear to Oxfam and expect us to lick your pretty fingers for the rest of your frigid life.
One man can change the world - with a bullet in the right place.

Soundtrack

The opening organ voluntary is by Buxtehude.
>The Sanctus is on "Cinema Choral Classics Volume 2"on Silva Screen Records (UK) 1998

There was never a release of the soundtrack for the film. instead a 45rpm record with Sanctus/Gloria was released. Below is the listing and liner notes from the original Missa Luba album they was taken from.

Side One
1. Dibwe Diambula Kabanda
2. Lutuku Y A bene Kanyoka
3. Ebu bwale Kemai
4. Katumbo
5. Seya Wa Mama Ndalamba
6. Banana
7. Twai Tshinaminai

Side Two:
1. Kyrie
2. Gloria
3. Credo
4. Sanctus
5. Benedictus
6. Agnus Dei

Notes

'Missa Luba is pure Congolese. It is completely void of any modern, western musical influences. The 'Kyrie, Gloria' and 'Credo' are performed within the same framework as a kasala, which is existent today among the Ngandanjika (Kasai). The 'sanctus' and 'Gloria' are fashioned somewhat after the feeling of a wonderful 'song of Farewell' in Kiluba. An authentic dance rhythm of the Kasai is the basis of the 'Hoseanna', while the 'Agnus Dei' is based on a song of Bena Lulua (Luluabourg). Most remarkable is the fact that none of the Missa Luba is written. Certain rhythms, harmonies and embellishments are spontaneous improvisations. Father Guido Haazen, a Belgian priest, recognizing the value to be gained from the retention of this music form, assigned himself the task of restoring it to health. He formed Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin, a choir, with percussion section, consisting of about 45 boys from 9 to 14 years old, and 15 teachers from the Kamina School. In 1958, the Choir made a six months European Tour, performing to receptive audiences in Belgium, Holland and Germany. '

Stories

Lindsay Anderson's 1980s letter to Paul Sutton - 'No, the alligator in if.... wasn't a tribute to Flaherty, I'm afraid. I wasn't thinking of Louisiana Story, but it's a nice idea. I've never seen White Shadows, though I know about it. It hasn't been much revived, but I'd very like very much to see it. Flaherty is certainly one of the great names in cinema. I think the alligator and the stuffed bird and the jars of dead babies WERE actually found in the school storeroom, and permission was granted to burn them.'

Malcolm walked into a Paris cafe not long after his motion picture debut if.... opened and 300 people stood up and applauded. "I looked behind me and thought, 'Who the hell are they applauding?' Then I realized it was me!" - Malcolm in Starburst 7/95

Stephen Frears told a very interesting tale about the premiere of if... in 1968. Apparently after the screening there was rapturous applause and copious congratulations from the assembled critiques, but Lindsay was having none of it - he abruptly cut the applause short and took to the microphone and said, "The rest is up to you..."

How Malcolm got his Big Break as Mick Travis

From a 1972 Interview:
He worked for a while as a messenger, began getting television roles, and Lindsay Anderson, who'd seen him on the tube, called about a picture he was planning, set in a British public school.

TV Guide 1996:
His first big screen role was 1967's "Poor Cow". Even though his scenes were deleted, his portrayal of Billy gained him notice by director Lindsay Anderson.

Malcolm 1996:
"I went to see Lindsay for the audition. I suppose I impressed him. Frankly, I think I sort of had the look he wanted. I sort of had the right attitude. We got on very well." McDowell was called back for a second audition, which he says went amazingly well. He received the news that he landed the movie role as the curtain was coming down on the New Yeas Eve 1967 performance of  Twelfth Night at the Royal Court.

David Sherwin, writer 1996:
In the book "Going Mad in Hollywood", section "The Best Audition in the World" 1/5/68. It was an audition held at the Jimmy Edwards comedy playhouse in London. It seems that Malcolm and Christine Noonan just started grappling with each other right there on the stage out of the blue and David Sherwin jumped up and said "I wouldn't bother going on with the audition. You've got Mick and the girl." To which Lindsay replied, "Oh you wouldn't would you? That's a brilliant way to cast a film. Piss off!" David repeats, "They're brilliant!" So Lindsay says, "Well then fucking well tell them. Their names are Malcolm McDowell and Christine Noonan." And the rest was history.

Malcolm 2001:
"The script said, 'Mick reaches over, grabs hold of the girl and passionately kisses her on the lips.' I thought, well, I'll not shirk my duty. I reached over, grabbed her, our teeth hit, and her lip started bleeding. As I came away, she slapped me so hard that tears came to my eyes...I always think it was because of that slap that I actually was cast and went on to have a movie career. It was a Zen moment in my life."

Synopsis - Official

This incredible film takes a look at a British boarding school and three unruly seniors who fail to conform. If.... is an amazing blend of fact and fantasy with features a young Malcolm McDowell in his first film. The students at College House are kept in line by tradition, strict discipline, and prefects. Director Lindsay Anderson is careful to document the repressive conditions and the painfulness of rebellion as he builds to his surreal and violent ending when the students have their day. It is a marvelously funny movie, but it's also profoundly disturbing and deep.

My Summary

   The film opens with the sounds of boys singing the college song. Then a title card reads, "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting, get understanding. - Proverbs IV: 7" Then a shot of the school where the film will take place. Underneath it the credits roll as the sounds of boys running, talking and laughing are heard.

1 - College House...Return

    Many boys are seen returning to school from the summer. They are all in College House, which is one of five houses in the public school called Cheltenham College. This is the only house focused on in the film.  The boys are all wearing prep uniforms and running about through the halls and up the stairs. Rowntree, who is the head whip (the highest ranking student), yells out to run in the corridor as he wants them to get moving. A young boy, Jute, makes his way up to the notice board and asks an older boy, Stephans, if his name is on there because he can't see it. Stephens tells him not to speak to him and isn't he scum?  Jute doesn't know and is pushed away. Rowntree gives the scum call and all they all come running. He picks two of them to carry his golf clubs and belongings to his room and the other to warm a toilet seat for him. Everyone else has left except for Jute who is still lost. Rowntree calls to Brunning down the hall to come back and take Jute under his wing and show him the ropes.
    Brunning takes him to the Sweat Room, which is where all the juniors go to study, eat and work. A couple of boys are wrestling as they pass and Brunning takes Jute to his desk and tells him where he can put his things. Machen steps up to a podium and gives them a list of rules. One boy is shown unwrapping food and putting it away.
    Bobby Phillips is carrying things downstairs and passes two other boys going up. The boys make flirtations toward him and he ignores them. Denson who is another whip comes by and tells the boys to go away and behave, but also reprimands Phillips. Phillips leaves as Mick sneaks by with a large suitcase on one shoulder. He is in all black - a long coat, hat and scarf around his face so that only his eyes can be seen.
    Stephans is the same age as the other boys in his dorm, but is in charge. Therefore all the guys, especially Mick, hate his guts. He is barking orders when Mick enters and all the boys notice him and some say hello. Mick goes over to his bunk and starts to unpack his stuff. Wallace and Johnny, Mick's best friends, are giving Stephans a hard time. Peanuts, the science nerd, shines a light in Stephans face with a mirror from his telescope. Stephans is so ignorant that he doesn't know what it is, calling it a ray gun. Johnny hands Mick a magazine and he sits down to read it. Stephans tells him to take his hat and scarf off and Mick ignores him. He pulls at the scarf and Mick gets away. He grabs his trunk tray and runs off as others try to catch him. He bumps into Denson on the way down and says his first words, "Sorry, Denson."
    He runs into his study and takes his hat and scarf off revealing a long, thin mustache. He starts to shave it when Johnny climbs over the wall from an adjacent study to see what he is doing. He tells him he looks ugly and evil, then asks him why he grew it. Mick tells him to "hide his sins". Mick lathers up and continues shaving as Johnny looks through his things and picks up a magazine. Johnny holds up a full page picture of a black soldier with a machine gun and asks Mick what he thinks. Mick thinks it looks fantastic and tells him to hang it up in the middle of the wall, which he does. Johnny tells him he spent his summer by building a hut in the woods and lived in it for three weeks by himself. Mick tells him he met a girl and went around to the pubs with her. After she introduced him to her parents they practically had them married off.
    A bell is heard and all the boys have to head off to the dining hall for medical inspections. Mr. Kemp, the housemaster, gives them a speech before the inspections. He tells them to work and play, but not to mix them and that they are a family - which means there will be good and bad times. He also introduces the new teacher and undermaster Mr. Thomas and then Rowntree speaks to them. He tells them that last term they let the school down and things had better change. The boys then line up and Denson and Fortinbras, another whip, ask them all the same questions - if they have ringworm, eye disease, V.D. or confirmation class. Then they take their pants down and Mrs. Kemp, the school nurse examines them.
    In the senior dorm the boys are washing up at basins in the middle of the room and Mick is leading the others in singing a blasphemous religious song when Stephans comes in and tells them to be quiet. As Fisher takes off his shirt, Keating grabs him and yells for everyone to look at the disgusting fat boy and then they pile on him on a bed. Stephans tries again to take charge and Mick and Johnny tell him off, then Mick hits him in the back of the head with a sponge.
    Denson and Barnes are going down the hall shouting dormitory inspection in three minutes. For the first time the film changes from color to black and white as Mrs. Kemp leads Mr. Thomas up to the top floor to his room. She explains that the central heating doesn't go up there, but that the room is warm enough, bare and quiet and if he gets lonely he can come down to see them.
    The inspection starts and the film returns to color. In the junior dorm Jute is reprimanded for having his diary with him, but otherwise everything looks good. Then the inspection goes to Mick's room. Everything is initially OK, until Denson tells Mick he needs to cut his hair. Rowntree tells Stephens he has done very good and that lights out is in 30 seconds and leaves. After he leaves Mick starts clapping and mocking Stephans that he did "Jolly, jolly good." Soon Wallace and Johnny join in with the clapping and taunting. Stephans tells them to shut up and Johnny and Wallace warn him the day is coming when they'll kill him in his sleep. The call for lights out comes and the entire school goes dark. A few boys in Mick's room start talking about Buddhism, sex and Hindus and then they fade out.

 2 - College

    The entire student body is heard singing and are shown at mass. Afterwards we see the headmaster exiting into an open courtyard. He talks to Rowntree and his staff about things including a class he has decided to teach.
    Mick is in history class with many other students. Graves is telling the others that girls aren't allowed in the orchestra anymore since their breasts are too big. The teacher, Mr. Stewart, enters the classroom on a bicycle, singing a song. He hands out the essays he graded while they were away, except for Mick's, whom he lost in the tunnel on the way home. Mr. Stewart starts teaching and asks questions, but no one seems to know the answers. After a few minutes he gives up and gives them a 20 minute essay on King George III.
    Meanwhile the Chaplain is teaching geometry to the younger students. At one point he smacks Brunning in the head and leans over Jute, sticks his hand in his shirt and grabs his nipple.
    Below in the courtyard the headmaster is talking to Rowntree and the other seniors. He is telling them about college when a platoon of students come around the corner in full military garb. It is only then to we realize it is a military prep school. They march by and the headmaster continues his speech.
    In the Sweat Room, Brunning and Markland are quizzing Jute. Rowntree gives all the new meat a test where they have to learn all the slang terms for things at the school. Jute is nervous and is not doing to well. Brunning is not happy because if Jute fails they all get beaten and Jute has to take the test over again.
    That night Mick is alone in his study. He is in bed with a record playing the "Sanctus" while he cuts out pictures to hang on the wall. At one point he stops, starts the record over and turns up the volume.
    In the gym Keating, Graves, Brunning and Willens are chasing Biles around. When they finally catch him they haul him into the bathroom. Wallace is on the first toilet, pants down, playing the guitar. They pass him by and take him into a stall, take his pants off and tie him upside-down with his belt. They are shouting and carrying on as they do this and put Biles' head in the toilet and flush a few times. Eventually they stop and leave him hanging there half naked and upside-down. Wallace finishes up and puts on his jacket and heads over to the stall to see what happened and finds Biles there. He helps him out by untying him and getting him down.
    Meanwhile in the chapel all of the new students are being taught the school song. Stephans is seen at the far end of the chapel with the Chaplain. He is confessing his sins, telling him he is having dirty thoughts and cannot control them. The chaplain is no help at all and only tells him to "Fight the good fight."

3 - Term Time

    The young boys are out with Mr. Thomas playing rugger. Once again we see Jute trying to fit in. At one point Mr. Thomas grabs the ball to show them how it is done and all the boys give chase.
    That night we see the matron distributing the laundry in Mick's dorm. Machen is helping her and she tells him it is going to be a white Christmas.
    The whips are in their room and Phillips is toasting muffins in the fire. Phillips is Rowntree's scum, almost like a slave. He then gets up and offers one to Rowntree. Rowntree is not happy because he wanted a crumpet. Phillips explains that he couldn't get any and Rowntree angrily sends him away. Fortinbras comments on Phillips beauty and Rowntree tells him that he is lazy. Barnes also fancies Phillips and Fortinbras tells them that another school has offered a scum trade - Phillips for Taylor. He explains that Taylor is a sweet little blond. Denson hears this and has had enough. He thinks it is disgusting how they dabble in homosexuality. They are the school leaders and are supposed to be setting an example. Rowntree thinks Denson is being all high and mighty and decides to tempt him. He calls out for Phillips to return.
    Switch to black and white in the Boot Room. Brunning, Jute, Machin, Biles and Phillips are there cooking sausages, eggs and bacon. There is talk and laughter. They just start to eat when a boy comes in and tells Phillips that Rowntree wants him. Phillips gets up to leave and it switches back to color.
    Phillips straightens up and knocks on the door. Rowntree tells him to come in and has him stand there to entice Denson, who says nothing. Rowntree tells Phillips he'll be scumming for Denson from now on. Denson is embarrassed, but again says nothing as he tries to ignore them all while reading the paper.
    Mick, Wallace and Johnny are just sitting around in Johnny's study. Johnny reads to Mick from a woman's magazine and Mick is drinking some vodka from a bottle which he passes around. Wallace is fussing over himself - first thinking he is going bald, then that he has bad breath. Mick talks of war and revolution. Johnny holds up a picture of a naked girl and Mick kisses it. Wallace takes it and licks it. Just then Mick hears Denson approaching. They hide the vodka and try to act casual. Denson enters and knows they've been drinking, but they won't budge. He tells them to stand up which they reluctantly do. He then explains to them that all of their hair is too long and that they'll have to take a two minute cold shower in the morning. Denson then asks Mick what his necklace of teeth is and Mick tells him they are for good luck. Denson says there is still blood on them and they are a breeding ground for bacteria and confiscates them.
    The next morning Phillips comes into Denson's bedroom and he awakes when he does. The room is a stark contrast to a room like Micks' - it is all prim and proper. Phillips has a shaving bowl and sits down, lathers Denson's face and proceeds to shave him. Denson says nothing, but we can tell he feels awkward about it.
    Later in the Shower Room there are many boys taking turns entering the showers and making noise. Mick and Wallace lean against a sink near the last shower stall wearing only towels around their waists. Johnny is in the last stall under the cold shower. Denson is in a private tub with a watch timing him. He tells Johnny his time is up and tells Wallace to go in. Phillips comes over to him with a tea tray and serves him. Graves and Keating take their showers and then Denson calls for Wallace to get out and Mick to get in. He stands there and Denson tells Mick he wants him to stand in the middle. After a bit he starts shivering and turns to Denson and calls him a bastard telling him his time is up. Phillips has given Denson a bathrobe to put on and as he exits tells Mick to stay there until he gets back.

4 - Ritual and Romance

    The boys can be heard singing in the chapel. When they are finished Rowntree instructs them by reading from the Bible. Mick is not impressed and most others look bored, especially Mr. Stewart.
    Switch to black and white with Barnes coaching the juniors in the gym. He has them going over a vault one-by-one. Everyone goes over except for the last boy - Jute. He finally goes for it and gets stuck on top and Barnes is forced to pull him over. He tells them to put their sweaters on as they head back to the house. Phillips is out first in the gallery over the gym and sees Wallace below. He is preparing himself to do some gymnastics on the high bar. As he does Phillips stands watching him transfixed, because they are attracted to each other. As the other boys start passing him he stops staring and heads out with them.
    Johnny is fencing down there and Wallace grabs a foil to join him. Mick comes swinging in on a rope and joins them. The two team up to go against Mick. Mick chants of war and England and is forced to jump on the wall bars to evade them. He holds on with one hand, but loses his foil. He is forced to climb higher to evade them. The shot returns to color as Wallace eventually pins Mick to the wall. Johnny throws Mick his foil which he catches and duels wildly. Mick escapes, but is driven into a corner. Mick breaks free again, but is once more driven into a corner and again loses his foil. Wallace puts his foil to his throat and Mick realizes he has cut his wrist and looks at it.
    At dinner that night Mick gets a chair for Mrs. Kemp at the head of the table and sits on her right. At the other end the boys get their trays and line up for food served by the matron. Johnny, Wallace and Mick are all sitting closest to Mrs. Kemp and start offering her things - water, salt, ketchup, dead man's leg. She stares at them in a daze because she is sexually frustrated. She would like to have sex with them, but knows it is wrong and they know it to, which is why they egg her on. Rowntree stands up and reprimands the group for not cheering loud enough at the rugby matches. He tells them they all have to attend the rugby match the next day and cheer loudly.
    The next day the boys are lined up on the sidelines of the rugby match screaming loudly along with the staff and their wives. The matron is cheering the craziest. Mick and Johnny are handcuffed together and manage to escape unnoticed into town. They pass gardeners and traffic and begin to stroll down the sidewalk passing stores and looking in. At one point they stop and Mick pretends to attack Johnny and they mock fight to the alarm of the passers by. Johnny eventually goes down and Mick stands triumphantly.
    They are next seen looking in the showroom of a motorcycle shop. Mick is smoking and looking intently. He tosses his cigarette away and enters. There is only one person in the shop - a salesman sitting at a desk on the opposite end. Mick smiles at him and then jumps on a bike and starts it up. The salesman looks up and Mick drives it into the garage in the back. Johnny and the salesman chase after him. Mick turns around and Johnny climbs on back and they speed out the front door with the salesman throwing his arms around and shouting at them to stop.
    They head out of town and into the country. After a while of speedily traveling down country roads they stop at the Packhorse Cafe. As they get off the bike to enter it switches to black and white. The cafe has many tables, but is totally empty. Mick checks his hair in a mirror and goes over to the counter and knocks on it. The Girl comes out of the back and looks at them. She slowly walks over and asks what they want. Johnny tells her two coffees. She asks black or white and Johnny says white, Mick says black. She goes over to pour the cups and the boys are leaning over the counter to check out her legs and short skirt. She slides the cups over to them and Mick grabs her, pulls her close and kisses her hard. She breaks away and slaps him across the face. Mick puts two big spoons of sugar in the coffee and walks away to a table. He puts the coffee down and goes over to the jukebox. He picks a song, once again it is the "Sanctus." He is facing the jukebox when the Girl comes up from behind and slides her hand up his shoulder. She tells him to look at her and he does. She tells him to look in her eyes and he does. She tells him that sometimes she looks in the mirror and her eyes get bigger and she is like a tiger. Mick sniffs her like an animal would and lashes out at her like he has claws. The Girl chases him back and growls and jumps on him and they roll around on the floor. Mick breaks free and she leaps on him. Then we see they are naked and she bites him on the shoulder.
    The Girl goes to sit at the table now fully dressed again. Mick sits down as well and goes to his coffee for the first time and makes a motion to her to play rock, paper, scissors. He picks scissors, she picks rock, he picks paper, she picks scissors, he picks rock and she wraps her hand around his and says paper. The "Sanctus" starts playing again.
    The shot returns to color as the three of them are shown on the bike circling around a field. Mick is driving and the Girl is standing on the seat between him and Johnny with her hair blowing.

5 - Discipline

    Rowntree inspects the boys working in the Sweat Room at night. Switch to black and white as Denson inspects the grounds. He comes across someone working under a car in the garage. It is Mr. Thomas, he didn't realize how late it had gotten. Meanwhile Wallace and Phillips are in the armory talking and smoking. Wallace then hears footsteps on the gravel and sends Phillips out the back door before Denson finds him. Denson asks what he is doing and who was with him, but Wallace says he was alone. Denson knows he is lying, but can't prove anything.
    Later on Wallace, Johnny and Mick are in Mick's room. Mick has a bag over his head suffocating himself. After three breaths he takes the bag off and Johnny asks him how it felt and he tells him it was like drowning. They then talk about the worst ways to die and when Mick says to have a nail banged through the back of your neck slowly - everyone starts to laugh uncontrollably.
    The Whips are eating with Mr. Kemp in his private dining room. Rowntree is telling him that there is a discipline problem and examples are going to have to be made. Mr. Kemp says the headmaster doesn't like too many beatings and Rowntree tells him it is better than the house getting a reputation for decadence. Mr. Kemp tells them to do what he thinks best and they leave.
    The boys are heard singing as we cut to the dining room. Everyone is there and Rowntree announces that as soon as they are done eating that the juniors are to go to the Sweat Room and the Seniors to their studies and are to wait in silence.
    The juniors are shown going to their desks furiously wondering what is going on and Peanuts is shown in his study with all kinds of astronomy garb. Off camera we hear Rowntree shouting, "Travis! Wallace! Knightly!"
    The trio is shown walking down the corridor to the Whips room where they are all waiting for them. They knock and are let in. Rowntree asks them if they know why they are and Mick says no. Rowntree tells them it is for being a nuisance and having bad attitudes and that they are going to beat them for it. Denson then yells at them for not standing properly, slouching around and tells them they have become a danger to the morale of the whole house and everything is a joke to them. Mick mocks him and the others step forward labeling them. Rowntree asks them if they have anything to say and Mick does. He mocks the way he acts and calls him frigid and that his whole life he will be frigid. Rowntree doesn't respond, he just tells them to go down to the gym and wait outside.
    They head down the hallway, into the gym and wait there, saying nothing. The Whips eventually pass them by and close the double doors to the gym. The shot doesn't change, it shows the view from outside as Wallace is called in. We can hear running footsteps and then a whip crack down. This repeats four times. Rowntree tells him to get up and he comes through the door grinning because he is happy that it was only four times. Johnny is called in and he takes of his jacket and hands it to Mick. Mick peeks through the door to watch him get hit and sees a low shot. Wallace takes his pants off and asks Mick to see if there is any blood and Mick tells him there is. Then Johnny gets his fourth shot and Mick knows it is his turn and eagerly heads toward it, opening both doors at once as when finally see the shot change to the inside of the gym. The Whips are standing near the door and on the opposite side is a long bar. Rowntree tells him to take of his coat, head over to the bar and bend over. He does all this with the look of someone without a care in the world. Rowntree hits him once, walks back and then runs over and hits him again.
    The Sweat Room is right underneath the gym and the boys are looking up in silence wondering why it is happening. They can hear every footstep and every crack of the whip on Mick. We see them react to the third and fourth hits.
    After the fourth time Mick grabs his coat and starts to get up. Rowntree yells at him to get back down until he is told. Wallace and Johnny are puzzled as to why Mick hasn't come back out and they hear Rowntree hitting him a fifth time. He is hitting him hard enough to move the entire bar and we can see Mick is in pain.
    The shot goes to Peanuts looking at something under a microscope and he can hear the whip cracking in the distance.  He is unphased. After ten lashings Rowntree tells Mick to get up. He does slowly and tries to hide his tears by quickly wiping them away. He walks over to the Whips and Rowntree has his hand out. Mick shakes it, thanks him and exits.

6 - Resistance

    In the Library Fortinbras is reading in Latin from Plato's Republic for his history class. The Classics Master asks him to translate which he does. He gets the passage right until one word at the end which trips him up. No one else knows it either and the Master has Rowntree look it up.
    Cut to Mick sitting on his couch smoking a cigarette and shooting an air gun. Obviously he is in a slow burn from the whipping. He takes careful aim and shots at the pictures on his wall. He shoots a nude's breast, an old bureaucrat, a dog, Audrey Hepburn, Mel Ferrer, a father, the butt of another nude, a refugee, Big Ben, two glasses and a man in the carriage with the queen.
    Back to Rowntree who is now giving a speech to the juniors. They have won the Bigley Memorial Marathon Chalice and there is much cheering over this. He quiets them down as Jute brings in the chalice and hands it to Denson and Barnes who hand it to Rowntree. He holds it up and calls for the house thump. The boys start banging their fists and elbows on the table and shout "College House" over and over.
    Cut back to Mick in his study. Wallace and Johnny are now there and Mick is again drinking from a  vodka bottle. There isn't much left and he pours a little into Wallace's mouth, then Johnny's and throws it aside. Mick tells them they are on their own and the time will come soon. He goes into his desk and takes out his straight razor. He cuts his palm and then theirs and they make a blood pact to kill their oppressors. He goes to the window and reaches for something on the ledge.  He has real bullets hidden there and hands two to each of them.
    In Mr. Kemp's bedroom he is singing as Mrs. Kemp plays the recorder in bed. In the Matron's room she is sitting in a rocking chair by a fire. Change to black and white as we see the junior's dorm. We see them all sleeping in their beds except for Phillips who is with Wallace. Peanuts is looking at the stars with his telescope and Mick goes to see him. He tells him there has to be other life out there somewhere and to have a look. Mick does, but aims the telescope down to a window on a house where the Girl is brushing her hair. She sees him and waves.

7 - Forth to War

    In the chapel the Chaplain is speaking. He is telling the boys what a soldier's duty is and that there is one betrayal which cannot be forgiven - desertion. He tells them that Jesus is their commanding officer and if they desert him they can expect no mercy - and they are all deserters. Jute is in uniform in the audience and is staring at him.
    Return to color as the Chaplain is on horseback leading the Cadet Corps marching across the grass. More platoons enter and a marching band plays.
    Back to black and white inside the house corridor. We see a chair, then in the gym there are shots of clothes and a hockey stick on the floor. Then Mrs. Kemp is seen walking naked down the corridor. 
   Return to color as we see the Chaplain leading the parade of troops outside.  Back to black and white as we see a still naked Mrs. Kemp now walking through the senior's dorm. She walks slowly like she is in a daze looking and touching a bar of soap and a towel.
    Return to color in the woods. There is gunfire as the house platoon is running. Denson is in command with Keating nearby carrying a wireless set. Mick, Johnny and Wallace are in the back. Denson tells them their objective is a tree. They are to attack and destroy it. Nobody moves. He tells them again and Stephans pushes Johnny forward. They stay back as the trio goes out. Mick, Johnny and Wallace are running along a fence when Mr. Thomas runs over. He is a referee and blows his whistle and tells them to go on the other side through a dense patch of thorns and thicket.
    The Chaplain is on his horse surveying the battle. Cadets are running, orders are shouted and the whistle blows again. Cadets are now ordered to move single file.  Mick, Johnny and Wallace are still struggling through the undergrowth as cadets go by single file and shots ring out. Mick falls and takes the Bren gun from Wallace and climbs through a hole in the fence. Denson and Stephans are now coming up from behind.
    Mick, Johnny and Wallace finally scramble out and wearily collapse into some grass. A loud yell is heard and they all look up in surprise. Peanuts is yelling and leading the juniors in a bayonet charge down the hill. When they get to the bottom he tells them they were awful because they forgot their yell - the yell of hate. He yells again and tell them to follow him. They all charge down the hill screaming.
    Mick, Johnny and Wallace trundle off single file and you can tell they really don't care at this point. An explosion goes off nearby and they stop. They look around and there is a group leading a charge on a some huts. Smoke is pouring out of the nearest one as cadets run and fire from all sides. Fire comes from inside the hut and some cadets go down.
    Mick, Johnny and Wallace start moving when another whistle sounds. Mr. Thomas yells at them to stop and get down. He lights a firework and throws it at them and it explodes near Wallace's feet. They look at it and reluctantly fall to the ground. Mr. Thomas is all happy saying they are all dead and he has won. The Chaplain see this, is not happy about it and then rides off. The battle is now over and the Chaplain calls it off by blowing the whistle. Mick looks at him with hatred. The Chaplain calls Denson and his group in. He finds Jute and heads over to the giant tea dispenser on the back of a truck with him. He begins pouring a cup for Biles and the other boys on line when a bullet rips through the dispenser and tea shoots out.
    Mr. Thomas hits the deck and the Chaplain yells for everyone to take cover as more bullets come flying in. Someone turns over a table as more cadets go down low. The Chaplain yells out for whomever is out there to show themselves. The shooting stops and the Chaplain marches over to the hill looking for the shooters. Mick, Johnny and Wallace emerge from the brush and the Chaplain heads over to them telling them to empty their rifles. He is in control until Mick fires at him and he goes down. Now the Chaplain is curled up in a fetal position on the ground and whimpering like a baby as Mick goes to bayonet him.
    Mick, Johnny and Wallace are now in the Headmasters' office. He is not happy about their antics on the battlefield and demands they apologize to the Chaplain. He heads over to a drawer on the wall and opens it. The Chaplain pops up from it and the boys go over and shake his hand. Then the  drawer is closed with him still inside. Surprisingly the Headmaster isn't really that mad at them. He goes and sits at his desk and tells them he understands their need to rebel. He explains that he has an open mind and feels this relates to the "hair problem" about how boys today want to grow their hair long. He even feels some of them are quite brave in spite of it all.  He tells them that the cost of enrollment breaks down to 15 guineas per week and that they are too smart to be rebels and that it is too easy a path. Instead of punishing them he is going to give them jobs, a chance to work and serve.
    In the Main Hall Phillips is sitting on the stage reading a book. Behind him a trap door is opened from the stage and Johnny comes out wearing a gas mask and carrying a bust. He takes the mask off and tosses the bust. Wallace then helps him pull out a large alligator prop and Phillips grabs the tail and they haul it outside and toss it on a blazing bonfire.
    Switch to black and white as we see what is happening under the stage. There is a large storage room filled with old books, papers, desks, stuffed animals, flags and other assorted junk. Mick is down there going through stuff and hands an eagle to Johnny. Johnny then moves some frames and a blackboard aside and finds a large cupboard behind them that is locked. He motions to Mick and he grabs an axe and comes over. He smashes the lock open with and opens the doors. The cupboard is filled with old glass jars that still hold old biological specimens from experiments. One jar holds a human fetus and Mick picks up. He looks at it and turns around and hands it to the Girl. She looks at and then puts it back and closes the door.
    Mick climbs up and finds a gap in the wall behind the cupboard and climbs through. Everyone follows into another room back there that is completely dark. Mick lights a match and the Girl finds a light switch. When the light bulb comes on they all see that it is a long forgotten ammunition room. Mick opens one crate up with a bayonet and finds bullets. Johnny, the Girl, Wallace and Phillips all start opening crates and find mortars, bombs and grenades - all live. They start working on distributing them.

8 - Crusaders

    It is the day of the graduation ceremony and General Denson arrives in his staff car. There are flags flying and honor guards in armor. Rowntree and the Bishop are there to greet him. Biles, Jute and Machin follow them into the hall with a crucifix. The hall is filled with visitors, parents and students standing up singing the college song. On stage the Headmaster is waiting for the general and the Bishop to take their seats. They proceed up the aisle as the song is ending and take the stage. A Knight speaks in Latin and the Headmaster answers and instructs everyone to sit.
    He speaks about the history of the school and how important it is. The history goes back 500 years and how change is coming so fast. He then introduces the general. The general admits there probably isn't much he can teach them, but is going to give it a shot anyway. He tells the boys how lucky they are to be there and that they are privileged. He talks of freedom, tradition, discipline and obedience. The women behind him hang on his every word. When he talks of national pride, some people start to notice smoke coming up from the floor at the generals' feet. He does not notice and continues on. As he speaks the smoke gets thicker. People all across the room start to notice and begin pointing and murmuring, but the general is oblivious. Rowntree and the Headmaster start talking about it and people are starting to panic. The general continues as everyone else sees the smoke, but they are afraid to interrupt him. Sons are starting to help escort their parents out the door as many start coughing. The general continues speaking as almost everyone is now heading for the doors. When the general is almost engulfed in smoke he finally notices it. He tells them not to panic, but is soon drowned out.
    There is chaos as everyone is struggling and pushing their way out. The first group finally makes it into the courtyard as the smoke pours out overhead. They gasp for air when there is a sudden explosion. A flash of flame and smoke appear as a mortar blows up on the lawn. Many fall down dead and others run for cover - which there is little of. We see Mick and the Girl on the roof holding machine guns and ammunition spraying the crowd. Johnny is down the other end firing his own gun and Wallace and Phillips are manning the mortar shells. Mick, the Girl and Johnny continue firing as more people come pouring out of the smoke filled hall. Wallace and Phillips fire more mortar rounds. Masters and boys are crouching and running, the Headmaster is seen running near a wall as bullets narrowly miss him.
    General Denson finally emerges and seeks cover behind the only available place - his staff car. He begins firing his sidearm and sends some boys through a nearby window to get guns out of the armory. MPs are crouched behind their motorcycles firing. Bullets tear into the ground as women fall and scream. More men are now taking up position with their guns. The Headmaster heads out into the open and calls for a cease fire and the people near him stop shooting. He calls up to Mick and the others to put their guns down and that he understands them and wants them to trust him. Mick stands there saying nothing, but the Girl draws her pistol and fires once hitting the Headmaster right between the eyes.
    The headmaster then disappears, is it all a dream? Then the battle starts again with mortar shells exploding and guns pouring out a window to all the nearby boys and parents for them to fight back. Mick slides down the roof and fires relentlessly into the crowd. We see the Bishop caught in a hail of bullets and mortar explosions then a close-up of Mick with his back against the roof still firing as the screen turns black and the title "if...." comes up. The End.

My Review

    This film is a masterpiece. Thank you, good night. That would be an easy enough review. Like ACO, it is nearly impossible to find any flaws with the film. If anything, I would have liked more scenes with Malcolm, but this would've totally changed the style of the film. 
     The film is more a collection of short stories instead of a film where you just follow a main character, or characters, with a straight narrative. It seems the film takes place over the course of a semester, but there is no indication of time between scenes. It is like Lindsay just put cameras around a real school and taped what happened during the year and edited together the good parts. It is a unique film in this sense.
    It starts out by showing what it is like for Jute, a new scum, arriving in school. It would be easy to think he was the main character, after all he is in most every scene in the beginning. In fact, when Mick enters, we don't even know he does, or who he is at all! Since he is practically covered from head to toe and says nothing we don't think much of him, it is a very clever changing of the guard. The first time we see his face he has a mustache and before we can get used to that, he shaves it right off. Once again changing our perception completely.
    I really like how the characters are introduced and then usually fade into the background. Stephans is shown a few times in the first part as a big ass kisser, then almost never again. Brunning who is Jute's mentor has no lines after showing Jute the ropes. It really gives a good picture of life all across the school for those of us who never attended a school like that. I always wondered how Jute did on his test of the school words though. One of those completely meaningless indoctrinations you have to go through that stays with you for the rest of your life.
    Through the few scenes of Mick, Johnny and Wallace in the beginning we get glimpses of how much they hate the system, but do their best to get by. They are pushed and punished too harshly for them to stand by and take it. This leads to one of the best and most famous scenes in the film. When Johnny, Wallace and Mick are getting caned in the gym, each takes their turn and it is one shot - from one angle. This is stunning in it's simplicity. I've always hated the modern Mtv style where the camera cuts to a new angle every second. The violence in the gym isn't shown, but by hearing it, the tension mounts and makes it more powerful. The angle only changes when Mick throws open the double doors for his turn with the birth of Malcolm's classic wicked grin. That single shot speaks volumes and is one of the best in the film. He is telling them to "Bring it on!". They want him to be scared, but he won't give them that pleasure. They can beat him, but will never break him because he knows his spirit is more alive than theirs.
    The Headmaster had it all wrong when he told them it was too easy to rebel. It is too easy to blend into the background and attract no attention. When you are yourself and that is much different then the standard they want to set for you - then you are an outcast. It is much harder when you stand out and don't fit in - the fact that you are just trying to be yourself and not even actively rebelling is even worse. You'll always be looked down on and make enemies. Never speak out and give them what they want and you'll do well - even if you feel empty inside because of it. Since it is a military prep school, they are preparing for war. But I think the pictures of war in Mick's room  were an inspiration and a way to pump himself up for his own war.
    The Girl is the enigma here - who is she? Hell, she doesn't even have a name! When Mick spots her in the telescope she is in a nearby house - a school? And how did they sneak her into their project under the stage? And why is she so angry? She doesn't have to put up with the crap going on at College House, after all - she is the one who kills the headmaster. I think the girl is less of a character then more of the embodiment of women's liberation of the time. She is openly sexual and can hold her own with the boys when it comes to violence. When Mick hands her the human fetus in the jar he says nothing. I interpreted this as him saying "Let's get married and have a child of our own." By her putting it back on the shelf, she is telling him - no, that is the old way.
    The only true critique of the film I have is how the violence at the end is toned way down. The Crusaders on the roof have the students and the parents pinned in the courtyard. There is only one way out and they have it blocked. With all the gunfire and shells they pour into the yard, the blood should've been flowing in gallons. There would be no survivors since it was a choice of being burned up or escaping into the yard. I love how the last shot doesn't wimp out though. It shows a close-up of Mick still determined, even though he is now facing opposition. He doesn't die, doesn't waver, doesn't fall, doesn't give-up and never surrenders. The title comes up "if...." saying be careful how you treat people because this could happen to you.
    The acting here is all top notch. Everyone plays their roles like they were born to play them. This is especially noteworthy since so many of them were so young. Malcolm had an advantage of being 24 years old at the time, though he certainly doesn't look it. Eventually this would hurt his career because soon after he was a 30 year old man playing the parts of teens! When he finally grew into his body he wasn't the young rebel anymore that the studious wanted. Of course he was brilliant here and has the rare honor of being able to become a star in his first role which could be the greatest debut in the history of cinema. Even Harrison Ford's first roll was completely forgettable with only three lines. Robert Swann was a perfect bastard and started him on a career of authority type roles.  Hugh Thomas who also appears in O Lucky Man! was a great self righteous prick. Christine Noonan was perfectly sexy as the Girl and it was a loss that she didn't pursue acting after OLM!
     Though I didn't grow up in England, I relate to this film in a very big way. Of course everything about the film is British and this is what interests me most in having a site like mine. It doesn't matter - it's themes have a universal appeal. I acted very much the same way Mick did in school. I went to an all boys school and didn't fit in. I rebelled and got into fights with the authorities. Once I got in trouble for "ruining" the senior photo and the vice-principal punched me. I was always in and out of trouble during high school like Mick was. Also like Mick I was a smart student who knew more then many of the students who played by the rules. Even Denson, who is supposed to be so smart, during a class asks Mick what a mollusk is. Just like Mick, I was doomed to never fit in and was just biding my time until I could escape. 

Rating: 10/10

The Tiger Scene

Here's my take on the meaning of the scene between Mick and the Girl at the Packhorse cafe.

If tigers don't mate, they'll die. It is necessary for young adults to stake out an area of their own before they can start to breed. The ritual consists of a series of challenges; after each challenge one tiger has the opportunity to back away. Copulation may take place before sexual maturity, though pregnancy is extremely unlikely. She will signal her readiness for breeding in various ways, including roaring & moaning. Approaching males sometimes reply. The female will continue her efforts until a male is attracted.

Background: The scene came out of Christine and Malcolm's audition.  The photos of the big cats in Mick's room came in later by chance after coming across the photos when they were making the collages.

Together Again

1973 - Malcolm, Ben Aris, Geoffrey Chater, Graham Crowden, Peter Jeffrey, Arthur Lowe, Mary Macleod, Anthony Nicholls, Christine Noonan, Brian Pettifer, Hugh Thomas + Mona Washourne were in O Lucky Man!
1976 - Malcolm and David Wood were in Aces High.
1982 - Malcolm, Robin Askwith, Graham Crowden, Ellis Dale, Peter Jeffrey, Arthur Lowe, Mary Macleod + Brian Pettifer were in Britannia Hospital.
1985 - Malcolm and Brian Pettifer were in Gulag.
2003 - Malcolm and Peter Sproule were in I'll Sleep When I'm Dead.

Together Before

1963 - Lindsay and Arthur Lowe worked on This Sporting Life.
1967 - Lindsay and Arthur Lowe worked on The White Bus.

The X-Rating

From the official script book: According to Lindsay Anderson there are many versions of the movie floating around the world, most cut according to the dictates of that particular country's film censor boards. In the entire US, only NY had the uncut version at the time of its release while the rest of the country had the cut version. Lindsay mentioned that some scenes were done with different camera angles. Most film censor boards were offended by the showing of some of the boys' genitals in the shower scene and Mrs. Kemp's pubic hair as she wandered through the halls naked later on in the movie. Some versions have different camera angles and some have those scenes cut, either completely or severely pared down. The version of "if...." that is available in the US is 111 minutes. This is exactly the length quoted in the book. So it would be safe to say that the US version contains the "different angle" shots which were probably shown outside the NY area.

Understanding if....

If you are like me and live in the US then there are certain things about if...., like the school, that don't make complete sense. I asked Paul Sutton for help in explaining life in the British school system and more.

Q: if.... takes at place what kind of school?

A: It is a public school called Cheltenham College. A public school in England is a private school. It is called public because it is owned by 'the public' and not by the government. The state has no say whatsoever about what goes on in public schools (though the European parliament ordered the banning of canning in something like 1995). Lesser public schools, which are privately owned, are usually called 'Independent Schools'. Cheltenham is a major public school.

Peter adds:
Strictly speaking all independent schools (i.e. not state owned) are 'public' and many people use the terms independent and public synonymously, although the use of the term independent is increasingly popular as a less ambiguous term. 

Q: When they talk about "The House" in the film what does that mean?

A: Most public schools are boarding schools. Some are day students only, some are mixes of the two. The school is usually divided into five or six 'houses'. These are often named after famous past pupils, the present housemaster, or other things. Mick's house in if.... is simply called "College House". There are five other houses, but we don't see them in the film (except for at the rugby match). The boys sleep and eat 'in house', and the houses compete against each other in sport, behavior, discipline, etc. Good work usually gets you "House Points" and there are prizes for the best house. Ordinary lessons are grouped by ability and not by house. Thus boys from all the houses are mixed together.

Q: What are the age groups of the students when they talk about juniors and seniors?

A: You enter public school at 13 and you leave at 18, but this can be raised to as high as 20 in rare cases. Before going to public school you go to 'prep school' which are independent boarding schools from ages 7-13. Juniors are boys up to and including the fifth form (16 years). At the end of the form they take national exams. The seniors are the boys in their final two years. (at the end of which they do Advanced level exams). Many of the public schools in England are now co-educational, and many of the privileges and punishments have been done away with.

Q: Is it a high school or is that a term for military prep?

A: No. High schools are 'state' or government schools and are almost always co-educational (boys and girls).

Q: Are Rowntree and the whips the same age as Mick, Wallace + Johnny?

A: They are meant to be the same age as Mick, but he could be a year older.

Q: What does it mean to be a whip?

A: They are a group of final year boys (never more than about 14 in the whole school) who have been elected to the post. In some schools they are elected by the pupils and in others by the housemaster. They have special privileges often including the right to wear different uniforms (hence the colored waistcoats).

Q: The headmaster is the principal of the school?

A: Yes, he's the boss. In one or two famous schools he is actually called the Head Man.

Q: What is Confirmation Class?

A: In the Christian church (Catholic and Anglican - Anglican is the Church of England ) you have to take a confirmation class before you drink wine and eat the bread at communion. It usually takes about three months, usually after the age of 13 and only on an explicit request from the communicant (or person) themselves, IE your mother can't book you into a confirmation class, and you can't be compelled to attend them, you have to choose to attend yourself.

Q: What is Mr. Kemp's role?

A: He's the head of College House. When boys apply to go to public school they are usually obliged to sit in an entrance exam (the standard one is called The Common Entrance Exam) and they are interviewed both by the Headmaster and the Housemaster.

Q: What is John Thomas, the new teacher's role? 

A: His official title, which varies from school to school is under-master, which means that he has been employed by the house master. The staff at English boarding schools also live at the school with only a few exceptions. New teachers, because they are young and usually healthy are asked to take junior games (although schools now employ a specialist sports staff). But it is still a requirement at most boarding schools for new teachers to be qualified to teach sports.

Zero de Conduite

This obscure 1933 film by Jean Vigo was inspiration for if..., but that doesn't mean if.... is a remake.
Zero de Conduite page

Pictures Paramount.
Everything else 1999-09 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net