In an inditement of the British Boys School, we follow Mick and his mostly younger friends through a series of indignities and occasionally abuse as any fond feelings toward these schools are destroyed.
When Mick and his friends rebel, violently, the catch phrase, "which side would you be on" becomes quite stark.
"If.." has always been a firm favourite of mine, particularly as I have been in much the same situation (minus B+W/Colour changes, and gun battles, naturally), and indeed still consider myself a hair rebel. It captures perfectly the horrors of public shool-The fawning, smarmy head-master, the rigors of cadet training and founder's day, it's all drawn from horrible reality.
Saw a late night showing yesterday, and on the cinema screen the fabulous direction and power of the photography- so still and unobtrusive, yet so iconic-becomes apparent. That final looped shot of Mick firing the brenn Gun is just stunning! I left the cinema feeling so goddamn moved!
At times the sheer 60s-ness, and random dialogue ("I like Johnny") can seem to undermine the viewing experience, but the spirit of bold rebellion which saturates this marvelous film wins you over. A favourite joke which I had never spotted before, is near the start, where the whips tick off a list that goes something like "Measles, tape worm, conformation class"..marvellous..
* The film was shot at director Lindsay Anderson's actual old school in Cheltenham, as well as Aldenham School, England.
* Contrary to the story that says some scenes of the film are in BandW instead of colour because the production company was running short of money and saved money by having some scenes processed in monochrome, according to interviews with Malcolm McDowell, Lindsay Anderson and the cameraman, they first shot the scenes in the school chapel in monochrome because they had to use natural light that came in through the big stained-glass window, requiring high-speed film. The high-speed colour stock they tested was very grainy and the constantly-shifting colour values due to the angle of the light through the stained glass made it impossible to colour-correct, as well. So they decided to shoot those scenes in monochrome, and, when he saw the dailies, Anderson liked the way that it "broke up the surface of the film", and decided to insert other monochrome scenes more or less at random, to help disorient the viewer as the film slipped from realism to fantasy.
* Malcolm McDowell's film debut.
* The first film of Simon Ward.
* In order for the full-frontal nude scene of Mrs Kemp to be passed in the UK chief censor John Trevelyan asked Lindsay Anderson to remove shots of male genitals in the shower scene. Anderson agreed to this and the film was released uncut with an X certificate.
* The painting in the dining hall is Richard Platt from Aldenham School. The Hall scene was an amalgamation of the school halls at Cheltenham and Aldenham.
* The Packhorse Cafe doesn't exist anymore. It was on the Tewkesbury Road about four miles outside Cheltenham. The road in the film is lined with Elm trees and most of them vanished in the mid-70s because of an outbreak of Dutch elm disease, they've been replaced by another type of tree.
* Although the film was shot at Cheltenham College, the script "Crusaders" was based on the authors' old school Tonbridge School. Tonbridge was the original choice for the outdoor shots, but the school declined believing it would bring bad publicity. All-boys boarding schools were receiving quite unfavourable press at the time, which might explain Tonbridge's decision.
* The title of the film was suggested by the secretary of Memorial Films when she overheard Lindsay Anderson and David Sherwin endlessly debating possible titles.
* The filmmakers sent the school a fake script omitting the students turning on the staff and parents with guns.
* Rupert Webster was dubbed by Robert Langley.
* The motorcycle stolen by Mick is a 1968 BSA A65L Lightning (654cc parallel twin).
* The final shot actually repeats the same short bit of action backward and forward several times (smoke can be seen rising and then going back down, for instance) before finally going to a freeze frame
* Based on Jean Vigo's short film, _Zero De Conduite (1933)_
* The driver of the red car stopped by Mick on the roundabout in Cheltenham was Michael Medwin, the film's producer.
Malcolm McDowell ... Mick Travis
David Wood ... Johnny
Richard Warwick ... Wallace
Christine Noonan ... The Girl
Rupert Webster ... Bobby phillips
Robert Swann ... Rowntree
Hugh Thomas ... Denson
Michael Cadman ... Fortinbras