O LUCKY MAN!
(director: Lindsay Anderson; screenwriters: David Sherwin/original idea by Malcolm McDowell; cinematographer: Miroslav Ondrícek; editor: David Dladwell; music: Alan Price; cast: Malcolm McDowell (Mick Travis), Rachel Roberts (Gloria Rowe/Madame Paillard/Mrs Richards), Ralph Richardson (Sir James Burgess/Monty), Helen Mirren (Patricia, casting assistant), Graham Crowden (Professor Stewart/Professor Millar/Meths Drinker), Arthur Lowe (Mr Duff/Charlie Johnson/Dr Minda), Peter Jeffrey (Imperial Coffee Factory Chairman/Prison Govenor), Philip Stone (Interrogator/Jenkins/Salvation Army Officer), Edward Judd (Oswald), Wallas Eaton (John Stone/ Col. Steiger / Prison Warden/ Meths Drinker / Film Executive), Mary McLeod (Mary Ball/Salvationist/Vicar’s wife), Geoffrey Chater (Bishop / Vicar), Michael Bangerter (William / Interrogator / Assistant / Released Prisoner), Dandy Nichols (Tea Lady/Neighbor), Mona Washbourne (Sister Hallett/Usher/Neighbor), Geoffrey P almer (Examination Doctor/Basil Keyes), Warren Clarke (Master of Ceremonies (Nightspot) / Warner / Male Nurse), Anthony Nicholls (General / Judge), Jeremy Bulloch (sandwich-board man, sports car driver, young man), Michael Medwin (Vivian Pickles Captain, Dickie Belminster), Anna Dawson (Becky), Lindsay Anderson (film director); Runtime: 173; MPAA Rating: R; producers; Michael Medwin, Lindsay Anderson: Warner Home Video; 1973-UK)
“Its episodic sequences are surreal and are either a hit or a miss.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Lindsay Anderson (“This Sporting Life”/”The Whales of August”) directs this modern Pilgrim’s Progress allegory on the pitfalls of life, the corruption of both capitalism and idealism, and of the ineffectiveness of religious institutions. It’s also a provocative social satire and a road movie, as some of the characters play multiple parts. It’s cynically written by David Sherwin with the idea of being subversive. It’s based on an idea by the lead performer, Malcolm McDowell, an Anderson regular. Its episodic sequences are surreal and are either a hit or a miss, with the good ones powerful attacks on society and the weaker ones too implausible and simplistic to make an impact. The worst things about the film with such a sarcastic title may be that its length is far too long and it has unfortunately not dated well.
The ‘everyman’ Englishman Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell, using the same name he played in If…, who prior to being an actor was a coffee salesman) is an ambitious and amenable young man seeking fame and fortune, and willing to do anything to succeed. He’s in the Imperial Coffee training program to be a salesman, but when the company’s regular salesman Oswald (Edward Judd) jumps ship, a replacement for the North-Eastern region of England must be gotten in a hurry or the company will lose business. Travis is recruited by the company psychologist Gloria Rowe (Rachel Roberts), who advises the frazzled CEO (Peter Jeffrey) to chose him because he knows how to smile and make people like him.
While working the same territory as the missing salesman Oswald and learning fast on how he must make shady deals with those in his territory to get the coffee contracts, the company suddenly orders him to go to Scotland. While trying to get there, he mistakenly goes down a road where there’s a secret military installation and he gets brought in by the military security police for being a spy and a hostile interrogation takes place where he’s tortured into signing a guilty confession. When a fire breaks out in the facility, he escapes and soon hitches a ride with a driver who takes him to an experimental research clinic where he volunteers for a pittance to be a human guinea pig. But after seeing their ghastly experiments, realizes he must escape from the mad scientist (Arthur Lowe) or who knows what harm will come to him.
On the next leg of his journey Travis hitches a ride to London with a group of singers, led by Alan Price (former keyboard player for The Animals), whose songs (highly enjoyable) throughout the film set Travis’s odyssey to music. Included with the group is the non-conformist Patricia (Helen Mirren), whose industrialist father, Sir James Burgess (Ralph Richardson), is the wealthiest and most evil person in England. After Travis by chance quickly (too quickly to be believable) becomes Sir James’ assistant, he’s set up to take the rap for his boss in an illegal investment scheme with an African country. Travis is tried in a court that pretends to serve the people with justice but he is unfairly convicted and receives a 5-year prison sentence. After released, the reformed Travis, on his own preaches about kindness to those on London’s East End. But he not only can’t save the life of a woman determined to commit suicide (Rachel Roberts, again) but can’t even serve free soup to the hungry bums without being attacked for being a do-gooder. The long grind ends when Travis takes a flyer from a sandwich-board man (Jeremy Bulloch) walking the streets of London and attends a mass audition initiated by a movie director (Lindsay Anderson) looking for someone unknown to star in his film. And, the director chooses the lucky Travis.
REVIEWED ON 5/15/2022 GRADE: B +