Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

If... (1968)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

If... (1968, UK)

In director Lindsay Anderson's violent, anti-establishment and controversial British coming-of-age social drama - it presented a firm condemnation of the British Public School (a symbolic microcosm of a repressive Establishment-oriented society) and its long outdated and archaic traditions, rituals and customs, brutal social hierarchy, and many brutal whippings and other indignities (and perversions) suffered by the male boarding school students. The film's plot was told from the point-of-view of a non-conformist, rebellious young upperclassman who had reached his breaking point, after clashes with authority figures (and oblivious adults) resulted in constant condemnation, criticism, and persecution.

It was considered a precursor to Stanley Kubrick's own controversial A Clockwork Orange (1971, UK). The film was originally X-rated (but subsequently edited and re-rated as R). It was one of the first films to mix color and black-and-white footage in an impressionistic way to connote fantasy vs. reality. It was notorious and controversial for its frontal male nudity (in a shower scene) (excised by censors), female nudity, sex, violence and homosexuality. It was most noted for its controversial finale - a violent, vengeful bloody revolt led by an anti-authoritarian student anarchist accompanied by his girlfriend, against the school's pupils, teachers, and parents. See Sex in Films for uncensored version

  • in the film's opening set in the late 1960s, students arrived at a British public school for the new school year; there was the ever-present rivalry and bullying between the younger, first-year, lower-form boys (treated as slaves and called "Scum"), and the upper-form senior prefects (known as "Whips") who enforced discipline and took advantage of the junior boys by making them their slaves
  • returning student Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell in his debut film role) was introduced as a rebellious and anti-authoritarian character, called Guy Fawkes by one of the prefects ("It's Guy Fawkes back again") - a foreshadowing; he removed the black scarf on his face (hiding his mustache), spoke into the mirror: "My face is a never-failing source of wonder to me," and soon after was shaving off the illegal growth of hair
  • Mick made some off-handed, fatalistic quotes while speaking to his roommates: "The whole world will end very soon - black, brittle bodies peeling into ash...War is the last possible creative act....(looking at a side-profile of a nude pinup model in a magazine) Hello, sweetheart. There's only one thing you can do with a girl like this. Walk naked into the sea together as the sun sets. Make love once. Then die"
  • Mick and his classmates were punished by the Whips for being "degenerate" - they were subjected to a two-minute cold shower [Note: the full-frontal male nudity was excised by censors]

Returning Student Mick's Disallowed Mustache

Mick Speaking Fatalistically With His Roommates

Cold Shower Punishment For Mick and His Classmates
  • during a slow-motion, black and white homoerotic gymnastic scene with great sexual tension, Wallace (Richard Warwick) flirtatiously and seductively grabbed the horizontal high bar and performed graceful rotational moves, at the same time that he knew that younger Bobby Philips (Rupert Webster), one of the 'prettier' boys, standing on the balcony above was pulling a sweater over his head and watching him [Note: Later in the film was a view of the two males peacefully sleeping in the same bed together]
The Homoerotic Gymnastics Scene Between Wallace and Younger Bobby
  • in another scene, Mick and friend Wallace disobediently went joyriding on a stolen motorcycle during a truant day from school and then stopped at the Packhorse Cafe coffee-shop; there, Mick rudely flirted with an unnamed coffee-house waitress, the Girl (Christine Noonan), and she slapped him across the face for stealing a kiss
  • during a fantasy sequence, she came up behind him at the jukebox and animalistically taunted him: ("Go on, look at me. I'll kill you. Look at my eyes. Sometimes I stand in front of the mirror and my eyes get bigger and bigger. I'm like a tiger. I like tigers. Rrrrah!"); he contemplated kissing her, but was fearful of getting too close, during their ritualistic mating (using the metaphor of two tigers); their love-making was accompanied by growls, sniffs, clawing, swipes, hissing, and biting - suddenly, they appeared totally naked as they rolled around and wrestled each other on the floor
  • Mick (and his pals Wallace and Johnny Knightly (David Wood)) had continually been regarded as a "nuisance" because of their attitude by one of the "Whips" - the mean head of house Rowntree (Robert Swann); Mick insulted him: "The thing I hate about you, Rowntree, is the way you give Coca-Cola to your scum, and your best teddy bear to Oxfam, and expect us to lick your frigid fingers for the rest of your frigid life"
  • in a protracted whipping corporal punishment scene in the gymnasium, Mick and his two pals were caned. The last to suffer a brutal lashing was Mick, who was bent over a bar and whipped with ten strokes instead of the usual four for his comrades (most of Mick's whippings were off-screen, accentuated by the sounds of quickening steps and the slashing whip against his buttocks); as he left the room, Mick was required - by tradition - to shake Rowntree's hand and thank him: "Thank you, Rowntree”
  • Mick contemplated a retaliatory and brutal attack on all of his enemies, during a blood-brother oath ceremony with his two buddies, when they all cut themselves on the palm of their hands with a straight-edge razor. A nihilist, Mick vengefully and fatalistically vowed to them: "Death to the oppressor. The resistance. Liberty. One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place. Real bullets."
  • about three quarters of the way through the film, (a dream fantasy of the boys?), the meek young wife of the House Master, Mrs. Kemp (Mary MacLeod), wandered down a hallway stark naked (seen in long-shot), and entered the empty washroom area where she was seen naked from a side-view; she fondled and caressed soap, towels and other objects the boys had carelessly strewn about [Note: it was reportedly the first instance of a full-frontal female nude passed by the British Board of Film Classification. In exchange for allowing the stark female nudity, the male frontal nudity in the earlier shower scene was excised.]
  • during a paramilitary exercise in the woods near the school, Mick, Johnny, and Wallace played a practical joke on the Whips and other adult supervisors by planting explosive paint bombs. The Headmaster (Peter Jeffrey) was called upon to punish the offending students. He delivered a reprimanding speech, offering them an opportunity and "privilege" to serve by performing work as punishment: "Now you boys are intelligent. You're too intelligent to be rebels. That's too easy. And it would be easy to punish you in the normal way. But I'm going to give you a privilege. Work. Real work. And I want you to think of this not as a punishment, but as an opportunity to give, to serve"
  • while cleaning the church's basement, the boys shockingly discovered a fully-developed fetus in a large jar, and a stock pile of WWII-era armaments, ammunition, weaponry, machine guns, mortar tubes and bombs; Mick decided to seek deadly revenge with the large cache of weapons against those who had abused and wronged him
  • the film's most notable segment was its controversial finale - a violent, vengeful bloody revolt, uprising, anarchistic attack and armed shoot-out at the conformist British public school (a symbolic microcosm of a repressive Establishment-oriented society) during Speech Day ceremonies; the attack was conducted by rebellious, revolting students (including the Girl), known as the Crusaders, from the rooftop of the school
  • after the church was smoked out to send everyone outdoors, the students opened fire with machine guns and explosions were set off; but then some in the crowd that were being fired upon acquired rifles and shot back, including the General, police officers, a mother, and some of the other students; when the Headmaster walked out into the open and called for a cease-fire, Mick's Girl coldly shot him between the eyes with a handgun while he pleaded: ("Boys, boys, I understand you. Listen to reason and trust me, trust me!")
  • the film's concluding "THE END" was substituted with "IF..."
Violent and Bloody Insurrection and Revolt

British Public School Hierarchy: Younger Boys Bullied by Senior Prefects

Wallace and Bobby Later in Bed Together

Mick Acting Rudely Toward Coffeehouse Waitress The Girl (Christine Noonan)

Mick's Cafe Fantasy Scene With The Girl

Mick's Brutal And Excessive Whipping by Head of House Rowntree

Blood-Brother's Oath Ceremony

Dream Fantasy of House Master's Wife Mrs. Kemp

The Headmaster's Reprimanding Speech

In Church Basement - The Discovery of Fetus in Jar and A Large Cache of Weapons


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