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O Lucky Man | 1973, Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren

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O Lucky Man | 1973, Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren

Of all Lindsay Anderson’s films this was probably the most ambitious. A strange, sprawling, satirical odyssey, its targets include advertising, the military, science, religion, class and finally filmmaking itself. It’s a bewildering trip and the tone veers wildly between black comedy and surreal fantasy, but the scattershot approach throws up some memorable sequences and McDowell himself turns in a performance equal to his role in A Clockwork Orange.

Mick Travis, the revolutionary public schoolboy of If…, is now a coffee salesman. Half naive-young-charmer, half cynical chancer, he’s singled out for promotion and embarks on a fantastical journey through Britain. En route, he encounters police and civic elders at a sex party, is tortured by the Ministry Of Defence, ends up in prison and then undergoes a quasi-mystical revelation. Finally he ends up auditioning for a film: Lindsay Anderson’s If…

At three hours long, it sometimes wanders off track. But a quality cast give great performances and when the film finds its focus – a business conference intercut with footage of Vietnam involving a gruesome torture sequence – you’re left in no doubt that, for Anderson at least, Britain has its head in the sand while the sea comes in. Alan Price, whose songs act as chorus here, sums up the bitter message: “Smile while you’re making it/ laugh while you’re taking it/ even though you’re faking it/ nobody’s gonna know.”


O Lucky Man! forms the second chapter in a loose trilogy of Anderson films that began in 1968 with If… and ends in 1982 with Britannia Hospital.


Someone has to win in the human race. If it isn’t you then it has to be me. – Alan Price sings


A film that approaches its material not as a Swift or an Orwell but as the Carry On team might under the temporary influence of surrealism. In short, all puff and no thought. None the less, interesting. – Phil Hardy, Time Out

Malcolm McDowell as Michael Arnold Travis / Plantation Thief
Ralph Richardson as Sir James Burgess / Monty
Rachel Roberts as Gloria Rowe / Madame Paillard / Mrs. Richards
Arthur Lowe as Mr. Duff / Charlie Johnson / Dr. Munda
Helen Mirren as Patricia / Casting Assistant
Graham Crowden as Stewart / Prof. Millar / Meths Drinker
Peter Jeffrey as Factory Chairman / Prison Governor
Dandy Nichols as Tea Lady / Neighbour
Mona Washbourne as Neighbour / Usher / Sister Hallett
Philip Stone as Jenkins / Interrogator / Salvation Army Major
Alan Price as Himself
Mary MacLeod as Mary Ball / Salvationist / Vicar’s Wife (as Mary Macleod)
Michael Bangerter as William / Interrogator / Assistant / Released Prisoner
Wallas Eaton as John Stone (Coffee Factory) / Col. Steiger / Prison Warder / Meths Drinker / Film Executive
Warren Clarke as Master of Ceremonies (Nightspot) / Warner / Male Nurse
Bill Owen as Supt. Barlow / Insp. Carding
Lindsay Anderson as Director
John Barrett as Bill
Geoffrey Palmer as Examination Doctor/Basil Keyes
James Bolam as Attenborough/Examination Doctor
Christine Noonan as Coffee Trainee / Mavis (Girl at Stag Party)

Director: Lindsay Anderson
Producers: Michael Medwin , Lindsay Anderson
Writer: David Sherwin
Photographer: Miroslav Ondricek
Composer: Alan Price

UK | 183 minutes | 1973

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