Directed by Lindsay Anderson
Written by David Sherman, based on an original idea by Malcolm McDowell
Starring Malcolm McDowell, Ralph Richardson, Rachel Roberts, Arthur Lowe, Helen Mirren
In 1968, British director Lindsay Anderson had a success with the movie, If…, starring Malcolm McDowell in his first major film role as a British schoolboy who ends up leading a bloody revolution against his school. McDowell want to work with Anderson again, and the director suggested he write a screenplay based upon his life so far. A few years later, McDowell, now a big name after his lead role in A Clockwork Orange, handed a treatment to screen writer David Sherman.* The result was O Lucky Man!
In the meantime, Anderson had struck up a friendship with songwriter Alan Price, planning a documentary about the band touring England. That fell through, but Anderson decided to ask Price to write the songs for the movie. These were quickly included and an album released.
The movie is hard to describe. It shows Mick Travis** trying to find his way in life, starting out as a coffee salesman*** and moving on, trying to keep his principles in a world where success requires he ignore him. It’s a very picaresque movie, where Mick goes from one thing to another, some real, some surreal. Actors play multiple characters throughout the film and there’s an allegorical subtext about the entire enterprise.
The final scene is memorable: Travis ends up at a casting call, where a director (Lindsay Anderson) is clearly casting If…
Throughout, the Alan Price songs comment on the action.
The movie was a critical success and eventually Anderson and McDowell were reunited for a third Mick Travis film,Britannia Hospital. The three films a a long allegory about life in the UK in the 60s, and are fun to watch on many levels.
*Screenwriter of If…
**The same name of McDowell’s character in If…
***A job McDowell had before he became an actor.