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…. 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, O LUCKY MAN! is an energetic piece of work which shows our country retreating from its imperial past but managing to retain some influence in the world by means of corrupt dealings with foreign dictators. 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 dishonest 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.
Anderson has described O LUCKY MAN! as an "epic in the classical, poetic sense." Travis changes careers frequently and philosophies as many times, enjoying good fortune and enduring injustice and suffering. Because of this, the character bears marked similarities to Perceval, the archetypal quester of medieval romance. The film has aged well because many of the issues - the class divide, corruption of authority, the immorality of international affairs and the ruthlessness of science - are all still relevant. Science comes off especially badly at the Millar (Graham Crowden) research laboratory, where Mick narrowly avoids having his genes spliced with those of an animal – he’s luckier than another who has had his head grafted onto the body of a sheep. Sherwin’s script hits out in all directions, giving the work a disjointed feel of a series of prolonged sketches; apart from McDowell, the only real constant is the score of Alan Price, who provides a commentary for the serendipitous events. His lyrics could act as a warning, but atypically remain unheard.
BRITANNIA HOSPITAL - lost when initially released during the Falklands conflict - is an English political cartoon similar to MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE.