A leading theatre director, Lindsay Anderson was also an eloquent and perceptive critic, editing Sequence - still widely regarded as the most influential film magazine ever published in Britain.
O LUCKY MAN! and BRITANNIA HOSPITAL complete a trilogy of boldly conceived and literate films from director Lindsay Anderson, scriptwriter David Sherwin, and actor Malcolm McDowell as everyman Mick Travis, which began with the schoolboy rebellion allegory if… (1968). Despite the shared name, Travis isn’t the same character in the three, nor do the stories follow-on; they do, however, jointly illustrate through fantasy and satire the sobering reality of how our institutions succeed in dehumanisation.
A study of Britain during the first half of the 1970s - using McDowell's real-life experiences as a coffee salesman as its springboard - O LUCKY MAN! is an energetic piece of work. Within its lumbering three-hour timeframe, Travis starts off as an ambitious coffee salesman who finds unexpected riches in the North East, narrowly avoids being blown up by the army and killed in the name of science, makes a fortune associating with a corrupt businessman, and finally becomes a movie star. At the end, Mick is lucky not because he is successful, but because he has survived a world where cruelty is random and kindness rare.
BRITANNIA HOSPITAL - lost when initially released during the Falklands conflict - is an English political cartoon similar to MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE.
Much more than a scathing satire on British healthcare - and unfairly dismissed as by far the lesser entry of the trilogy - BRITANNIA HOSPITAL acts as a grotesque sledgehammer to where the world was heading. Anderson presents a society incapable of accepting any responsibility, or communicating in anything other than demand. There are no heroes - here, Travis is reduced to an investigative reporter whose head is used for Millar’s monster, and even the hospital administrator (Leonard Rossiter) fells a striking worker with a shovel. However mad, Millar is the only authority figure who inspires loyalty from his staff, and the only character who cares about the world around him. In his climactic monologue, Millar prophetically announces that a “motion picture entertainer of North America will receive enough money in a month as would feed a starving South American tribe for a hundred years.”