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  Wildcats of St. Trinian's, The Class War
Year: 1980
Director: Frank Launder
Stars: Sheila Hancock, Michael Hordern, Joe Melia, Thorley Walters, Rodney Bewes, Deborah Norton, Maureen Lipman, Julia Mackenzie, Ambrosine Phillpotts, Rose Hill, Diana King, Luan Peters, Barbara Hicks, Rosalind Knight, Patsy Smart, Sandra Payne
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 2 votes)
Review: Olga Vandermeer (Sheila Hancock) was faced with a difficult choice: commit suicide or take up this new post as headmistress at girls boarding school St. Trinian's. She chose the latter, which could be viewed as a fate worse than death, as the establishment was packed with unruly kids running roughshod over the staff who tried and failed to keep them in line, but the worst was yet to come. As an anarchic force, the girls were a law unto themselves, but what if they actually got organised?

The Wildcats of St. Trinian's was the last film made by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, a redoutable team of British moviemakers who had made a true impact on the public's consciousness with their adaptations of the Ronald Searle cartoons. But Gilliat's contribution was apparently minimal here, and Launder carried the production, his first film at the helm for fourteen years - his previous one being another St. Trinian's effort. You might have thought that they were flogging a dead horse by this stage, and that's certainly what the audiences viewed this as.

Indeed, the reaction to this, an attempt to prop up the flagging British film industry by revisiting past glories, was not a good one, as American product was flooding the cinemas and seeming far more glamorous and attractive for the punters than anything out of grey old Blighty. Watching it now, the whole enterprise smacks of desperation, unsure whether it wanted to appeal to the kids who might have embraced the rebellion, or if adults were the target audience who would appreciate the cast or more dubiously appreciate the sight of actresses in their twenties dressed up as schoolgirls.

The ghost of the seventies Brit sex comedy was hovering over this, so we were even offered nudity to go along with the jokes, not a massive amount, but enough to have you wondering who the production was attempting to pander towards with its cast in visible stockings and suspenders. If that didn't leave you feeling uncomfortable, how about the plot, which tore its premise from the headlines as the schoolgirls decided to form a union, obviously leading to a strike. The way this played was about as funny as an actual union dispute, again prompting disbelief that these filmmakers thought there was any comedy potential in this whatsoever.

I'm All Right, Jack this assuredly was not, and the jokes were practically nonexistent as the story trundled from one deadly dull point to another: the St. Trinian's lot kidnap the daughter of an oil sheik (she's played by future Eurovision non-winner Frances Ruffelle), which gets the attention of the government, and they drag everything down to a war of words and occasionally actions as neither side wishes to back down. With the girls' demands so vague, it's clear this was not thought through, leaving a vacuum at the heart, with not even a cast of veterans who had amply proved themselves more than capable elsewhere able to do much with the material. There were further instalments in the series nearly thirty years later, which were fairly successful, so it's not as if there was nothing to be mined here for screen success, but when the impression this leaves you with is boredom and dejection, this was not worth your time. Music by James Kenelm Clarke.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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