It probably helps to have had the English boarding-school experience, but anyone who was a disaffected teenager can relate to this still-controversial (it looks fairly eerie post-Columbine), never less than fascinating satire.Malcolm McDowell is Mick Travis (a character he would reprise in director Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital), who tries to keep his individuality as a student at the oppressive College House. The "whips" (upperclassmen who discipline the students) loathe him and make an example of him and his friends (Richard Warwick and David Wood).
Anderson dabbles in surrealism throughout, at one point staging a bizarre snarling match between Mick and a waitress (Christine Noonan) that turns into a sex fantasy whose nudity won the movie an X rating (it was later trimmed to get an R). Adding to the strangeness is the apparently random switches between color and black-and-white, reportedly out of financial necessity.
This preceded by a full two decades the similarly-themed Dead Poets Society, which looks ridiculously tame in comparison; of course, there's no warm Robin Williams figure among the teachers here, and the kids are alienated to the point of homicide. Considering its fiery climax, this might've been listed among the "dangerous" videos that supposedly inspired the Columbine massacre if it were better-known in America.Often funny, often sobering, with top-notch cinematography by Miroslav Ondricek. Stephen Frears and future Oscar-winning cinematographer Chris Menges worked on the crew.