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Chris O'Loughlin | Brisbane, Queensland Australia | 10/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Britannia Hospital, an allegory for what was transpiring in England at the time, was released in 1982, and is the final part of Lindsay Anderson' brilliant trilogy of films that follow the adventures of Mick Travers as he travels through a strange and sometimes surreal Britain. From his days at boarding school in If.... (1968) to his journey from coffee salesman to film star in O'Lucky Man (1972), Travers' adventures finally come to an end in Britannia Hospital. Mick is now an investigative reporter, and is investigating the bizzarre activities of Professor Miller, played by the always interesting Graham Crowden, whom he had had a run in with in O'Lucky Man. Checkout the Pig Man scene. This is well before Seinfeld. The events in Britannia Hospital take place over tyhe course of a day. The hospital administration, headed by the perpetually agitated Mr Potter, performed with great aplomb by Leonard Rossiter, prepares for the arrival of a royal visitor (a Queen Mum type figure) to open its new ultra modern Miller wing. His job is not made easy due to the fact that the majority of the staff are out on strike. the union, lead by Ben Keating, is causing waves. And that Professor Miller is conducting bizzarre scientific experiments. Checkout the scene where Miller eats a piece of human brain, after cutting it in half and liquefying it in a blender. A nutricious drink, no less. Amongst all this mayhem, there is a full scale riot later on, Travers tries to get the goods on Miller. With the assistance of Nurse Persil, played by Marsha Hunt, stiffy inducing in her tight uniform, and Red and Sammy, played by Mark (Star Wars) Hamill and Frank Grimes respectively, both of whom end up getting stoned out of their brains on a cocktail of drugs, Mick infiltrates the Miller wing and soon finds himself witnessing, and unwittinglly participating in, one of Miller's outragous experiments. Meanwhile, chaos ensures as Britannia Hospital runs out of control and all of Potters plans are sent awry. He is even forced to resort to commit murder. As is usual with an Anderson film the acting, by a top notch cast, most of whom had been in the previous two, is uniformly good. It is professionally shot by Mike Fash, although his work doesn't have the same feel to it that Miroslav Ondricek brought to the proceeding istalments, and is well produced. All three films have recurring characters from each. Some of the charaters from If...., that didn't turn up in O'Lucky Man, returned for Britannia Hospital. The film was lambasted by the English critics on release, with one actually comparing it to a carry on film??? Yet, this wasn't wholly unexpected, as the other two weren't exactly welcomed with open arms, more so O'Lucky Man than If.... All three films are skillfully written by david Sherwin, with O'Lucky Man being based on an idea by Malcolm McDowell., who plays Mick travers in all of them. From its opening scene where an elderly patient is left to die on a gurney to its final revalatory scene of Miller unvailing his greatest scientific achievement, the film is choc full of surprises. One character is played by a dwarf and another by a man in drag. Yet one of the more pleasant surprises is the performance of Robin Askwith as Ben Keating, the school bully from If...., Askwith' film debut. Keating has organised a strike by the kitchen staff in retaliation for Potter ordering sixty-five ambassador class lunches from Furtnum's. Askwith handles his role with skill, making Keating quite a likable character. It just goes to show what a good director and good dialogue can achieve. It is certainly a far cry from his sex film days. And it is good to see what he is capable of, given the chance. Unfortunately, it was all a bit too late, and after appearing in two seasons of the telly series the Bottle Boys, he slipped into obscurity, doing panto and clubs, only to reappear sixteen years later in Eastenders. Britannia Hospital also proved to be one of the last decent films Malcolm McDowell was to appear in. The British film industry was in dire trouble by this time. Arab oil money had dried up and the Americans were pulling out. Also, the notorious film Caligula, which McDowell had filmed back in 1977, had recently been released to universal outrage, combined together, this put the kybosh on his career in England. However, he didn't fair any better in the states, where he had moved to after making Time After Time (1979). And his career since then has been an almost endless stream of B-grade drivel. Over the years Britannia Hospital, as with the other two, has been reivaluated and is now considered another classic from the Anderson stable. I could have told them this when I first saw it back in '82. Trivia: *McDowell didn't take a fee for the film as a favour to Anderson, due to the fact the budget was so low. *Alan Bates plays a patient who is murdered by Miller, so he can use his head in his latest experiment. This was Arthur Lowe's last fim. He died not long after the film came out. So put a day aside, grab If...., O'Lucky Man and Britannia Hospital and take an epic journey into the humorously dark and surreal world of Lindsay Anderson. There will never be another."
Off the Rails
James Carragher | New York | 08/07/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Something happened to Lindsay Anderson between O! Lucky Man and Britannia Hospital. They, like If..., are both ferocious satires, but where O! Lucky Man attacked its targets with wit and energy, Britannia is an angry, predictable bludgeon. It's as if all the ingredients in the film are, like half a brain in one particularly witless scene, tossed into a blender, whirled together and served frenetically for nearly two hours. All in all, it's misanthropy times 10, mitigated only by an equally savage, but appropriate, satire of the mad, egocentric doctor's purported improvement on humanity. Remember Anderson for If.. and Lucky Man, but not this."
NOT PART THREE
Michael Osborn | Seattle, WA USA | 02/16/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Britannia Hospital was initially a disappointment because it is generally considered to be the third part of the Mick Travis trilogy, which it isn't. The script and preproduction were already under way before Malcolm McDowell became involved with the film, and he was added only as an afterthought and was wasted. One of the minor and somewhat incidental character's name was changed to Mick Travis. This decision to "cash in" was fatal to the millions of fans of `O Lucky Man' and `If.." who came to see the further adventures of Mick Travis. And it subsequently killed this film like a James Bond movie would if it didn't have much James Bond in it. On its own, it is a quirky tale of a British government hospital that caters to the elite members of society as it prepares for a visit from H.R.H. (Her Royal Highness). The hospital director will stop at absolutely nothing to make this happen, to the point of absurdity. He persists despite the fact that outside the gates appear thousands of violent, communist, anti-monarchial protesters who despise the exclusivity of Britannia Hospital and also will stop at nothing to achieve their destructive goal. Between these two clashing groups is the staff research scientist, the Dr. Frankenstein-like Prof. Miller, who has perfected his technique for the revivification of flesh which he plans to use on a body he has sewn together from parts of dead bodies, nothing will stand in his way either. It is like the philosophy puzzle with a third element, "What happens when the unstoppable meets the immovable and the impossible?" Entertaining but very English in that the humor is dry and more of a `heh-heh' rather than a `HA HA'."
Anderson takes on British hospitals.
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 07/06/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's no ordinary day for Britannia Hospital. Today is the 500th anniversary of its founding and after a gala luncheon, HRH herself is planning a royal visit to officially open the new wing. Yet beneath the facade of its glorious name, the place isn't a nice place to be, as seen in the opening. A terminal pulmonary case is brought in on stretcher. The three ER personnel on duty go off on their tea break, and the man dies on the stretcher.Complications arise from a differing number of fronts. The cooking staff under Ben Keating have gone on strike, protesting the unequal treatment between ordinary patients and the privileged private patients. The latter can get eggs benedict and champagne, deviled kidney and passionfruit, and in the case of the President of Kenya, Ngami, accused of Idi Amin-like human rights abuses, trout grilled and garnished with mango slices. Keating says, "This isn't the Nairobi Hilton. This is a British hospital. It's the same for everyone or nothing at all."The hospital is expecting 150 people injured by a bomb attack, presumably IRA (it's unmentioned), and even the ER personnel are making salary demands. It's a wonder Vincent Potter, the hospital's chief administrator, doesn't crack up. He has a heck of a time juggling crisis after crisis, even from the two royal peers, one being Sir Anthony Mount, a midget, the other Lady Ramsden (played by a man(!))Also, outside the hospital gates, a group of demonstrators, waving placards are protesting the privileged private patients but there are also some Africans who are howling for Ngami's blood. Then there's Mick Travers, played for the third time by Malcolm McDowell. An investigative journalist this time around, he infiltrates the hospital to find out about Dr. Millar's unorthodox surgical experiments.Dr. Millar, an eccentric character specializing in high-tech transplant surgery, talks about a secret project, at one point saying, "Have you ever wondered how God felt on the sixth day of creation?" and "Today, the human experiment. Tomorrow, Genesis!"
And just what is that black pyramid of his? His speech at the movie's end is very timely and well worth the wait.These subplots are like icebergs slowly floating towards each other until... CRASH!Many famous faces appear here. Joan Plowright as Ms. Grimshaw, Fulton MacKay as Chief Superintendent Johns, Peter Jeffrey as Sir Geoffrey Brownhurst, and Leonard Rossiter as Vincent Potter. Robin Askwith, after cutting his teeth on Pete Walker films, really gets a great supporting role as the coarse, working-class Ben Keating. And Mark Hamill has a small role as Mick's helper Red, who spends most of the time being stoned.Britannia Hospital is the third in Lindsay Anderson's Mick Travers trilogy, the first two being if... and O Lucky Man. Hospital care has really gone down the tubes, as seen here, and it's the cause of rich versus poor, and how those on top try to keep those on the bottom in line by saying "...working men and women will always put unity before anarchy, royalty before self, and common sense before disruptive strife." Well, those words can only go so far."
Stand alone, I'm not sure
David W. Jackson | La Mesa, CA USA | 09/23/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm sorry. I can't be satisfied after "O Lucky Man!". It is bias, I know, but I just can't be satisfied. It probably is a great film in it's own right, but I don't think a perfect ending. When I watched it, I was overcome by a sense of finality. Originally, I wanted to see the late Leonard Rossiter(The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin) in a starring role. I found out that it was a third part of a trilogy I was only dimly aware of. I think that it is now hard to watch as anything but an end of a trilogy("If...", "O Lucky Man!", and "Britannia Hospital"). It is a strange film. And it has beautiful moments. Like the girl offering a flower to the riot squad policeman. It is a very loose end to the trilogy, but a stark statement of itself. Like the others, a definite statement about the future is open. That makes it more enjoyable. Crowden is very creepy and so so positive as Prof. Miller. There are some interesting cameos as well. Watch what happens to Mark Hamill(Luke Skywalker). Anderson ended this trilogy of movies on a realistic, but bleak note. What becomes of Travis is just a side note. The card with the original poster is great. I have made people watch this by itself, but I still suggest watching all of it together."