If... Blu-ray review

            Malcolm McDowell owes as much to filmmaker Lindsay Anderson as Robert DeNiro does to Martin Scorsese. Anderson was coming off of the successful release of This Sporting Life, which was a landmark in the “Angry Young Men” movement in British cinema. His casting of McDowell as Mick Travis, one of the more rebellious students of a boarding school in late 1960s England, is only one of the many brilliant aspects of If….

            If…. was ahead of its time in many ways, which make it profound even today. The marketing campaign for the film says it all, including both quotes from critics who panned the film as well as those who loved it. This was a daring satire, which used violence and sex in shocking manners while telling the coming-of-age tale of Mick and his cohorts, Wallace (Richard Warwick) and Johnny (David Wood). This is not your traditional film, often blending reality with a fantasy world, mixing black-and-white with color.

            The final climactic scene is what aroused much of the controversy over this film, and it feels no less shocking in days after tragedies such as the Columbine massacre of 1999. It is clear, however, that this is not meant to be taken in a serious manner. If…. is a film filled with many moments which blend reality with fantasy, and the picture as a whole seems to be a rebel cry. McDowell’s wild-eyed look is perfect for the anti-authority Mick, and it is easy to see why this role eventually led to McDowell playing a much more frightening version in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

            The Blu-ray release of If…. presents a restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by cinematographer Miroslav Ondříćek and assistant editor Ian Rakoff. The film also comes with an optional audio commentary featuring film critic and historian David Robinson, who is joined by McDowell himself. Additional special features include an episode of the Scottish television series, “Cast and Crew,” from 2003, which has interviews with many from the film. There is also an interview with actor Graham Crowden, and Thursday’s Children, an award-winning documentary which was directed by Anderson prior to If….

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