DVD Rating: *****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of If....

The commentary by Malcolm McDowell and ex-Times film critic David Robinson is a treat. McDowell has an easy, generous nature that tends to see the funny side. He remembers the second audition when he was asked to play the scene in the café with Christine Noonan. He read in the script about a passionate kiss, but not what came after. Without warning she slapped him in the face so hard he fell to the floor. The look in his eye of rage and shock was enough to get him the part. “It was a Zen moment. My introduction to Lindsay Anderson and my introduction to movies.”

Robinson is less spontaneous, as if reading from text. He fills out historical details about the director and the background to the film. The writers of the original script, called Crusaders, showed it to a couple of leading producers in England who said they deserved to be horsewhipped and the film should never see the light of day. Later, after Nicolas Ray, director of Rebel Without A Cause, passed on the film, Anderson was brought in and he made many changes.

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McDowell’s admiration for Anderson knows no bounds. He appeared in O Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital and they remained friends for the next 30 years until Anderson’s death. Although there was no ad libbing in If…, the beating in the gym, which McDowell considers the best scene in the film, was an exception. When the boys are brought in to face the whips, the actors had to improvise their lines, which they do magnificently. Another Anderson touch was in the scene when Johnny, Mike and Wallace are sitting around talking about death and drinking Vodka. “Lindsay provided a real bottle and we got completely laced.”

When Stanley Kubrick delivered the script for A Clockwork Orange, McDowell could not decide how to play Alex. He went to Anderson for advice. He told him that in the beating scene when he opens the door to face his tormentors he has a particular look of mocking defiance. “’That’s how to play Alex,’ he said, and I did.”

The Interview With Graham Crowden is equally enjoyable, because he is great fun and has charm oozing from every pore. If… was his first sizeable film role - he plays the history master who bicycles into class. He remembers when he first met the director and congratulated him on his latest film, Never Take Sweets From A Stranger, to which Anderson replied coolly, “That was Michael Anderson.”

Despite this inauspicious beginning, Crowden joined the Anderson Repertory Company and appeared in O Lucky Man! and starred in Britannia Hospital. “I admired him tremendously,” he says. “He was an extraordinary man.” He warned him not to intellectualise his roles. “’You’re an instinctive player,’ he said. ‘That’s what I like.’” Also, he gave him some excellent advice. “’Always regard the punctuation. It’s there for a purpose.’”

The documentary Thursday’s Children, written and directed by Guy Brenton and Lindsay Anderson in 1954 and narrated by Richard Burton, who gave his services free to the children of The Royal School For The Deaf in Margate, is a beautiful piece of work that follows children from the age of five, being taught to understand words and how they sound, even though they cannot hear a thing.

Reviewed on: 20 Jul 2007
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If.... packshot
Anarchy in the sixth form.

Product Code: PHE8082

Region: 2

Sound: Dolby Digital

Extras: Commentary by Malcolm McDowell and David Robinson; interview with Graham Crowden; Thursday's Children documentary; cast and crew

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