“if….” introduces the world to the brilliant Malcolm McDowell

In the mood for a dark meditation on the class system in 1960s English boarding schools? Then I’ve got the film for you!

“if….” is the name of the 1968 film that introduced the world to the actor Malcolm McDowell. McDowell plays Mick Travis, a new student at a private boarding school that is from the wrong family… one that is not connected or monied. He is hazed (more like tortured) to the breaking point… but telling more about what happens after he breaks will spoil a surprising climax.

If it wasn’t for “if….” we wouldn’t have had A Clockwork Orange… At least, we wouldn’t have the Clockwork we know today. When Stanley Kubrick was looking for an actor to play Alec, the lead character, he screened a copy of this film. Twice. After the second viewing, according to McDowell, “He had his Alec.”

The film is harsh and bleak, and when you watch certain scenes you squirm. Mick is really put through the ringer in the film, and stylistic flourishes (such as cutting from color to black and white) add emphasis to the moments in unexpected ways. It is a nihilistic film, one that is uneasy to watch – especially if you were hazed or bullied at any part of your life.

I had the pleasure to meet Mr. McDowell a couple of years ago and thank him for the film – after several hours of hearing people talk only about Clockwork, he brightened and shared some stories about the production. Lindsay Anderson, who directed the film, was one of his favorite directors and loved the experience.

McDowell gives Anderson a great performance to work with, so it’s no wonder “if….” is an exceptional piece of filmmaking. See it.