If…. (1968)

if poster 1968 movie malcolm mcdowell
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Malcolm McDowell, strange tone

Very English set-up might not be understood by some viewers

Movie Info

Movie Name:   If….

Studio:   Memorial Enterprises

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   December 19, 1968 (UK)

MPAA Rating:   R

if mick travis room malcolm mcdowell

I’m so hip it hurts…

At an esteemed public school, tradition and proper etiquette are pushed.  This does not sit well with Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) and his friends Wallace (Richard Warwick) and Johnny (David Wood) who learn that etiquette and tradition mean years of beatings and demands of conformity from the prefects under the teachers’ orders.  When Mick is pushed to the limits, someone will pay…and Mick, Wallace, and Johnny will get their revenge.

Directed by Lindsay Anderson, If…. (stylized as if….) is a dramatic fantasy.  The film was rated X by the British Board of Film Classification when it was released and featured the first full-frontal nudity in an approved movie.  The film was critically acclaimed and often is now listed as one of the best British films of all time despite controversy upon its release.  A remastered version of the film was released by Criterion (Criterion #391).

If…. is the reason that Malcolm McDowell got A Clockwork Orange.  He had done TV, but Kubrick cast him after he saw this film and you can see Kubrick’s Alex in If….  It is a film with interesting ties to strictly British culture, but it is accessible to a wider audience.

if mick travis shower scene malcolm mcdowell shirtless

Oh no, the dreaded shower torture!!!

First, the basic thing that might throw viewers who aren’t from the UK is that “public school” is means “private school” (state school is the term for what people in the United States would consider a public school).  If you’ve seen read or seen films like Harry Potter, you kind of understand the school layout with the prefects and older children serving as the “bosses” of the school.  While Mick isn’t particularly likable and actually kind of a bad kid in many ways, he and his friends don’t deserve the treatment they receive from boys who are essentially their peers (it seems like a messed up system).

Malcolm McDowell really runs this movie (much like A Clockwork Orange).  His character has a ton of personality that oozes from the screen even when he isn’t speaking.  I don’t think the movie does enough to develop Richard Warwick and David Wood’s characters (I would have liked to have seen it a bit more balanced), but I do like some of the supporting characters (especially the “whips” that torment the students).

if mick travis shootout ending malcolm mcdowell christine noonan

“Girl with a Gun”…I’d watch this movie

The film has this weird surreal approach that has you questioning if some events are real or just fantasies of the characters like the whole end sequence (which also leads in to the title).  The violence of the end feels a bit dangerous in today’s world with school shooting and similar ambush attacks at school (especially in the US).  Stylistically, the movie also flips between color and black-and-white which was because the filmmakers like the look it gave the picture…I wish the fantasy portions had been black-and-white for more of a tonal difference.

If…. was considered part of the British counter culture method that rose in the late ’60s like the hippies of the United States.  People were starting to turn against the establishment and even the “haves” were joining the “have nots” in protesting what was considered good and proper.  If…. might be very English, but the message with bullying and abuse of power jumps the pond and can be a lesson to anyone.  A true sequel was planned for If…. that was never made but McDowell returned in O Lucky Man! (1973) and Britannia Hospital (1982) which featured a character with the same name of Mick Travis (but in unrelated stories).

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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