This week I’m not going for bad, or cheesy, or no-budget. I’m presenting one of my all time favorite movies: O LUCKY MAN! (1973). That doesn’t mean it’s not weird, or occasionally cheesy, or generally odd. It is. But that’s not a bad thing.
O LUCKY MAN! is the second in an unofficial trilogy of Lindsay Anderson-directed movies with Malcolm McDowell playing a character named Mick Travis, the first being IF….(1968) and followed by BRITANNIA HOSPITAL (1982). Other than a couple nod-and-wink jokes, that’s the only unifying factor. You can still watch any of the movies out of order and not miss a thing. Thus, O LUCKY MAN is presented on its own.
The Mick Travis of this movie is a fresh-faced young man starting out as a coffee seller in England (the land of tea time). Through ambition and bright-eyed enthusiasm, he quickly works his way up to one of the most envied routes, charming customers and living a charmed life. While staying at a boarding house run by a lonely widow, he is given a “lucky” gold suit, and his luck does change….
It’s hard to do this movie justice with just a cheap one or two paragraph synopsis. In the words of Anderson himself, the film is “epic.” There is human experimentation, Travis finding himself an unwilling prisoner at a nuclear training facility, a Greek chorus performed by Alan Price and his band, and a cast of British stars (including Ralph Richardson, Rachel Robers, and a young Helen Mirren), most playing two or three different characters, political intrigue…..To fit it all in, the movie clocks in at almost three hours. I don’t think it feels that long, but nothing is lost if you watch this movie in shorter shifts.
A little trivia (and a minor spoiler, so skip this paragraph if you like). McDowell and Anderson were very good friends. The director of the film plays the director in the last sequence, and the script he slaps McDowell with is the huge script for this three hour epic. According to McDowell, they shot that slap many, many, many times. Anderson used the third take.
QUESTION OF THE NIGHT–What’s your favorite Malcolm McDowell role?