We've recently had the welcome release of Lindsay Anderson's If...on DVD, and next up is O Lucky Man!, not exactly a sequel, but featuring the same character, Mick Travis, memorably played by Malcolm McDowell. There is an amusing interview with McDowell in the Times today, in which he recalls Anderson's response to the script (into which McDowell had "input" as a result of his earlier career as a coffee salesman, also the profession of Mick in the film):
The urbane, spiky director of This Sporting Life and If ... had not made a feature film for five years, and hardly exploded with enthusiasm for the project. “He said, ‘Oh Malcolm, it's not very good is it?'” McDowell recalls. “I said, ‘Yes it is f***ng good, so f***ing good it's going to be your next film.'
The relationship between the two had changed since If ... “I had been a completely naive young actor who had never been in front of a camera. By the time we did O Lucky Man! I'd had a huge international hit with A Clockwork Orange, so I was much more on a par with Linds.”
McDowell became adept at getting under the skin of his prickly mentor: “I used to tease him like crazy about Stanley Kubrick being such a genius. He would say, ‘Yeah, but his films aren't very personal, are they?' I'd say, ‘But they're hits Lindsay, huge commercial hits, something that you wouldn't understand.'”
Unfortunately, my memory is that O Lucky Man! wasn't a very good film. And the last of the trilogy, Britannia Hospital, was even weaker. But perhaps that impression was coloured by the expectations that could not avoid being generated by the brilliant, exhilerating If... : exuberantly anarchic in those rather boring, constrained times (if you were about 14, that is). Maybe the intervening 30 years will provide a rosier perspective.