"One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place."
Description: Malcolm McDowell as Mick Travis, a British boarding school student prepares to lead a revolt in the motion picture If.... (1968).
Michael Arnold "Mick" Travis, is a junior at a private military prep school in Britain. Mick challenges the stodgy and repressive tradition of a school whose mind set is stuck in the middle ages. But with his disdain of the establishment comes consequences. Mick philosophy on life is reflected below:
- "The whole world will end very soon - black, brittle bodies peeling into ash..."
- "War is the last possible creative act."
- "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."
- "What stands, if freedom falls? Who dies, if England lives?"
- "There's no such thing as a wrong war. Violence and revolution are the only pure acts."
At the school, the Seniors, called the "Whips" routinely misuse their power over the students who rank below them. According to tradition, the Seniors can freely use the Freshman as their personal servants, like running errands, making tea and totting golf clubs and other belongings. If a senior gives a simple command like "Run! Run in the corridors!" the Freshman fearfully obey. Anyone who rubs the Whips the wrong way are corporally punished by caning. Head Whip Rowntree once said to a student, "Markland warm the lavatory seat for me. I'll be ready in three minutes."
"This term I've just one thing to say to you. One rule. Follow it and you won't go wrong. And it is this: 'Work. Play but but don't mix the two of them'...Just remember that life here is a matter of give and take. We are your new family and you must expect the rough and tumble that goes with any family life. You find here in College House a discipline not only of your mothers but also to help yourselves...help the house and you'll be helped by the house." - Headmaster
Three students on the Whip's radar are juniors (aka, the "Crusaders") Mick Travis and his two friends, Johnny Knightly (David Wood) and Wallace (Richard Warwick). When the Whips are fed up with their rebellious attitude, Mick and company are called to a Whip's counsel lead by Rowntree (Robert Swann), the head of the house where Travis lives.
|Rowntree:||[knock on the door] Come in. Good Evening, I'd like you to know why you are here.|
|Rowntree:||For being a nuisance. A general nuisance in the house.|
|Travis:||What do you mean being a nuisance? What have we done?|
|Rowntree:||Done? Your general attitude. You know exactly what I mean.|
|Rowntree:||And we've decided to beat you for it.|
|Oxfam:||Stand up property when the head of the house addresses you. There's something indecent about you, Travis. The way you slouch about. You think we don't notice you with your hands in your pockets. The way you just sit there looking at everyone. You three have become a danger to the moral of the whole house.|
|Oxfam:||You can' take that cheap little grin off of your mouth. I serve the nation. [shows the monogram on his jacket] You haven't the slightest idea of what it means, have you? To you, it's just one bloody joke.|
|Travis:||You mean that bit of wool on your tit.|
|Rowntree:||You'll earn the six form now. You should be prepared to set an example of responsibility. And, as such, you must be punished. Well, have you anything to say. Any of you?|
|Travis:||Yes, I have. 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.|
|Rowntree:||Go down to the gym. Wait outside.|
For their punishment, Travis, Wallace and Johnny are brutally beaten with a cane to the point thier buttocks bleed. To make things worse, the three are, according to tradition, required to shake hands with their tormenters, and say, "Thank You" at the conclusion of the embarrassing and painful ritual.
In the end, Travis rebels against the teachers who physically molest students (chaplain/ geometry teacher (Geoffrey Chater) fondles his students in class); rebels against the unwarranted canings and beatings; rebels against the perversions (Mrs. Kemp, the Housemaster's wife enjoys walking naked through the boys' dormitory and washroom); and rebels against the sense of privilege among the upper classmen who treat those below them with contempt.
Securing a cache of automatic weapons and mortars, Travis begins a war against the establishment as he takes position on the rooftop of the school. With the help of his followers, he sets off a smoke bomb that forces the parents, staff and boys who have come to celebrate Founders' Day to retreat outside to the courtyard. The student's rebellion was telegraphed earlier in the film when Wallace said to a student, "One night, We're going to massacre you, Stephans. I'll do it for free."
As they exit the building, Travis and company open fire with a spray of bullets and the explosive shocks of mortar rounds. When one of the teachers (Peter Jeffrey) pleads for peace, Mick's girlfriend (Christine Noonan) shoots him in the forehead with a revolver.
"Go on. Look at me. Look at my eyes. I'll kill you. Sometimes I stand in front of the mirror and my eyes get bigger and bigger. And I'm like a tiger. I like tigers. Rrrrah!" - Mick's Girlfriend
As the firefight continues, one of the visitors, a military general who had come to campus to deliver a speech, leads a resistance and fires back with weapons he finds in the Combined Cadet Force armory.
The film fades out on Mick's determine face as the echo of gunfire continues to shatter the air. The last thing seen is the word "If..." emblazoned in red on the screen.
Note: The movie title infers: If you treat people with brutally, you will get the same in return. You get what you give...As you sew, so shall you reap. Or as Paul McCartney of the Beatles once said, "And, in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make."
The motion picture If (1968) was inspired by the film Zero de Conduite (1933) about students attending a school in France, who lead a revolt against the system. Instead of firing from the roof tops, the students toss garbage.
Another "If" reference is contained in the TV series THE SILENT FORCE/ABC/1970-1971 which opens with this narration: " 'If you do not, on a national scale, attack organized criminals with weapons and techniques as effective as their own, they will destroy us...Robert F. Kennedy.' An attack has been mounted from Washington; an undercover team of federal agents is the spearhead of that attack...THE SILENT FORCE."