In addition to two shows a night every evening of their regular feature for that week, they also ran a special $1 midnight movie on Fridays and Saturdays. (In later years, "Rocky Horror" became the midnight standard for a couple of years.)
And that is where i saw "...if..." for the first time.
I've been an anglophile most of my life (beginning at a rather tender age with "Swallows & Amazons"), so i had some idea of what English Public (private) School life was likely to be like, and may have understood what was happening here more quickly than some of my firends who saw it with me.
In the context of what starts out as a pretty starightforward-appearing school film, Anderson & MacDowell give us a rather Marxist allegory of modern class struggle, steadily but almost imperceptibly moving from realism to a surreal parable of revolution.
The final sequences, with the little old lady with the submachine gun blazing away screaming "Bastards! Bastards!", the school prefects organising the "good" (loyalist) students to fight the Revolution and pitched battle raging, have stayed with me ever since, even when i wouldn't see the film for years at a time.
MacDowell (in his first real feature role) gives an incredible performance that both foreshadows and (in my opinion) *over*shadows his next role, as Alex in "A Clockwork Orange". "Clockwork" was hailed, pretty much rightly, as a view of a disintegrating society tearing itself to pieces -- "..if.." covers much the same ground, and does it better and more memorably in miniature than Kubrick's huge canvas and broad brush strokes.
MacDowell's Mick Travis and his friends are pretty much decent if disaffected characters; but the System, which cannot tolerate any variances, must either grind them down or drive them to rebellion -- they choose the latter, and you will never think of school in the same way again after you see their gradual radicalisation and the result.
((Don't believe the stories about not having enough money to print the whole film in colour being the reason for several black&white scenes in the film -- the real reason is that for the scenes shot in chapel they were not able to set up lights and had to shoot by natural light, which came in through a big stain-glass window. They tried some test shots on high-speed colour stock, but the results were hopelessly grainy and the colour values shifted constantly as the angle of the sun changed. So they decided to just go ahead and use B&W for those scenes, and, when Anderson saw how the B&W footage cntrasted with the colour, he decided to use B&W at other points to keep the audience off-balance as the film slipped from realism to surrealism.))
The opening quote from Lindsay Anderson's if... Read more