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Britannia Hospital

Britannia Hospital

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Britannia Hospital is a 1982 black comedy
Black comedy
A black comedy, or dark comedy, is a comic work that employs black humor or gallows humor. The definition of black humor is problematic; it has been argued that it corresponds to the earlier concept of gallows humor; and that, as humor has been defined since Freud as a comedic act that anesthetizes...

 film by British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 director Lindsay Anderson
Lindsay Anderson
Lindsay Gordon Anderson was an Indian-born, British feature film, theatre and documentary director, film critic, and leading light of the Free Cinema movement and the British New Wave...

 which targets the National Health Service
National Health Service
The National Health Service is the shared name of three of the four publicly funded healthcare systems in the United Kingdom. They provide a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use to residents of the United Kingdom...

 and contemporary British society. It was entered into the 1982 Cannes Film Festival
1982 Cannes Film Festival
- Jury :*Giorgio Strehler *Jean-Jacques Annaud *Suso Cecchi d'Amico *Geraldine Chaplin *Gabriel García Márquez *Florian Hopf *Sidney Lumet *Mrinal Sen...

 and Fantasporto
Fantasporto
Fantasporto, also known as Fantas, is an international film festival, annually organized since 1981 in Porto, Portugal. Giving screen space to commercial feature films, auteur films and experimental projects from all over the world, Fantasporto has created enthusiastic audiences, ranging from...

.

Britannia Hospital is the final part of Anderson's critically acclaimed trilogy of films, written by David Sherwin
David Sherwin
David Sherwin is a British screenwriter best known for his collaborations with director Lindsay Anderson and actor Malcolm McDowell on the films if.... , O Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital .Sherwin attended Tonbridge School, a major British public school, which provided...

, that follow the adventures of Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell
Malcolm McDowell
Malcolm McDowell is an English actor with a career spanning over forty years.McDowell is principally known for his roles in the controversial films If...., O Lucky Man!, A Clockwork Orange and Caligula...

) as he travels through a strange and sometimes surreal Britain. From his days at boarding school in if.... (1968) to his journey from coffee salesman to film star in O Lucky Man!
O Lucky Man!
O Lucky Man! is a 1973 British comedy-drama fantasy film, intended as an allegory on life in a capitalist society. Directed by Lindsay Anderson, it stars Malcolm McDowell as Mick Travis, whom McDowell had first played as a disaffected public schoolboy in his first film performance in Anderson's...

(1973), Travis' adventures finally come to an end in Britannia Hospital which sees Mick as a muckraking reporter investigating the bizarre activities of Professor Millar, played by Graham Crowden
Graham Crowden
Clement Graham Crowden was a Scottish actor. He was best known for his many appearances in television comedy dramas and films, often playing eccentric 'offbeat' scientist, teacher and doctor characters.-Early life:...

, whom he had had a run in with in O Lucky Man. All three films have characters in common. Some of the characters from if...., that didn't turn up in O Lucky Man, returned for Britannia Hospital.

The absurdities of human behaviour as we move into the Twenty-first Century are too extreme — and too dangerous — to permit us the luxury of sentimentalism or tears. But by looking at humanity objectively and without indulgence, we may hope to save it. Laughter can help. – Lindsay Anderson

Plot


A new wing at Britannia Hospital is to be opened, and the Queen Mother
Queen mother
Queen Mother is a title or position reserved for a widowed queen consort whose son or daughter from that marriage is the reigning monarch. The term has been used in English since at least 1577...

 – referred to as HRH – is due to arrive. The administrator of the hospital, Potter (Leonard Rossiter
Leonard Rossiter
Leonard Rossiter was an English actor known for his roles as Rupert Rigsby, in the British comedy television series Rising Damp , and Reginald Iolanthe Perrin, in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin...

), is confronted with demonstrators protesting against an African dictator who is a VIP patient, striking ancillary workers (opposed to the exotic gastronomic demands of the hospital's private patients) and a less-than-cooperative Professor Millar (Graham Crowden
Graham Crowden
Clement Graham Crowden was a Scottish actor. He was best known for his many appearances in television comedy dramas and films, often playing eccentric 'offbeat' scientist, teacher and doctor characters.-Early life:...

), the head of the new wing. Rather than cancel the royal visit, Potter decides to go out and reason with the protestors. He strikes a deal with the protest leader — the private patients of Britannia Hospital are to be ejected and, in return, the protestors allow a number of ambulances into the hospital. However, unbeknown to the protestors, these ambulances actually contain the Queen Mother and her entourage.

Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell
Malcolm McDowell
Malcolm McDowell is an English actor with a career spanning over forty years.McDowell is principally known for his roles in the controversial films If...., O Lucky Man!, A Clockwork Orange and Caligula...

) is a reporter who is shooting a clandestine documentary
Documentary film
Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

 about the hospital and its dubious practices. He manages to get inside and starts to investigate Millar's sinister scientific experimentation, including the murder of a patient, Macready (Alan Bates
Alan Bates
Sir Alan Arthur Bates CBE was an English actor, who came to prominence in the 1960s, a time of high creativity in British cinema, when he demonstrated his versatility in films ranging from the popular children’s story Whistle Down the Wind to the "kitchen sink" drama A Kind of Loving...

). As mayhem ensues outside, Travis is also murdered and his head used as part of a grim Frankenstein
Frankenstein
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is a novel about a failed experiment that produced a monster, written by Mary Shelley, with inserts of poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen, and the novel was published when she was twenty-one. The first...

-like experiment which goes hideously wrong.

Eventually, the protestors break into the hospital and attempt to disrupt Millar's presentation of his Genesis Project, in which he claims he has perfected mankind. In front of the assembled audience of Royalty and commoners, Genesis is revealed — a brain wired to machinery. Genesis is given a chance to speak and, in a robotic voice, utters the "What a piece of work is a man
What a piece of work is a man
The phrase "What a piece of work is a man!" comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act II, Scene 2, and it is often used in reference to the whole speech containing the line.-The speech:...

" speech from Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

, until it continuously repeats the line "How like a God".

Cast


  • Leonard Rossiter
    Leonard Rossiter
    Leonard Rossiter was an English actor known for his roles as Rupert Rigsby, in the British comedy television series Rising Damp , and Reginald Iolanthe Perrin, in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin...

     as Vincent Potter
  • Brian Pettifer
    Brian Pettifer
    Brian Pettifer is an actor who has appeared in many television shows. Pettifer was born in Lower Durban, South Africa, and briefly brought up in Glasgow and London. He intended to become a photographer, but pursued a career as an actor...

     as Biles
  • John Moffatt
    John Moffatt (actor)
    John Moffatt is an English actor and playwright, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Hercule Poirot on BBC Radio....

     as Greville Figg
  • Fulton Mackay
    Fulton Mackay
    Fulton Mackay OBE was a Scottish actor and playwright, best known for his role as prison officer Mr. Mackay in the 1970s sitcom Porridge.-Early life:...

     as Chief Superintendent Johns
  • Vivian Pickles
    Vivian Pickles
    Vivian Pickles , is an English actress.She began her career as a child star after being chosen by Mary Field for a series of Saturday Morning children's films, including the lead roles in Jean's Plan and the serial The Adventures of Peter Joe...

     as Matron
  • Barbara Hicks as Miss Tinker
  • Graham Crowden
    Graham Crowden
    Clement Graham Crowden was a Scottish actor. He was best known for his many appearances in television comedy dramas and films, often playing eccentric 'offbeat' scientist, teacher and doctor characters.-Early life:...

     as Professor Millar
  • Jill Bennett as Dr. MacMillan
  • Peter Jeffrey
    Peter Jeffrey
    Peter Jeffrey was a British actor with many roles in television and film.Jeffrey was born in Bristol, the son of Florence Alice and Arthur Winfred Gilbert Jeffrey. He was educated at Harrow School and Pembroke College, Cambridge but had no formal training as an actor...

     as Sir Geoffrey
  • Joan Plowright
    Joan Plowright
    Joan Ann Plowright, Baroness Olivier, DBE , better known as Dame Joan Plowright, is an English actress, whose career has spanned over sixty years. Throughout her career she has won two Golden Globe Awards and a Tony Award and has been nominated for an Academy Award, an Emmy, and two BAFTA Awards...

     as Phyllis Grimshaw
  • Robin Askwith
    Robin Askwith
    Robin Askwith , is an English film actor, most famous for his role as Timmy Lea in the Confessions... sex comedies.-Confessions...:...

     as Ben Keating
  • Dave Atkins
    Dave Atkins (actor)
    Dave Atkins was an English actor mostly known for portraying Sharkey in Britannia Hospital, Moving Man #1 in Clive Barker's Hellraiser in 1987, and pub landlord Les in Men Behaving Badly....

     as Sharkey

  • Malcolm McDowell
    Malcolm McDowell
    Malcolm McDowell is an English actor with a career spanning over forty years.McDowell is principally known for his roles in the controversial films If...., O Lucky Man!, A Clockwork Orange and Caligula...

     as Mick Travis
  • Mark Hamill
    Mark Hamill
    Mark Richard Hamill is an American actor, voice artist, producer, director, and writer, best known for his role as Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy of Star Wars. More recently, he has received acclaim for his voice work, in such roles as the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series, Firelord...

     as Red
  • Richard Griffiths
    Richard Griffiths
    Richard Griffiths, OBE is an English actor of stage, film and television. He has received the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Featured Actor and a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor...

     as Cheerful Bernie
  • Arthur Lowe
    Arthur Lowe
    Arthur Lowe was a BAFTA Award winning English actor. He was best known for playing Captain George Mainwaring in the popular British sitcom Dad's Army from 1968 until 1977.-Early life:...

     as hospital patient
  • Alan Bates
    Alan Bates
    Sir Alan Arthur Bates CBE was an English actor, who came to prominence in the 1960s, a time of high creativity in British cinema, when he demonstrated his versatility in films ranging from the popular children’s story Whistle Down the Wind to the "kitchen sink" drama A Kind of Loving...

     as Macready
  • Dandy Nichols
    Dandy Nichols
    -References:* Dandy Nichols at screenonline.* Dandy Nichols at The Museum of Broadcast Communications.-External links:...

     as Florrie
  • Betty Marsden
    Betty Marsden
    Betty Marsden was an English comedy actress.Originally from Liverpool, she attended the Italia Conti Stage School and ENSA.In the radio series Beyond Our Ken, she played Fanny Haddock, a takeoff of Fanny Cradock...

     as Hermione
  • Liz Smith
    Liz Smith (actress)
    Liz Smith, MBE is a British actress, best-known for her roles in the sitcoms The Vicar of Dibley and The Royle Family. She also appeared in the 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.-Early life:...

     as Maisie
  • T.P. McKenna as Theatre Surgeon
  • Michael Medwin as Theatre Surgeon
  • Valentine Dyall
    Valentine Dyall
    Valentine Dyall was an English character actor, the son of veteran actor Franklin Dyall. Dyall was especially popular as a voice actor, due to his very distinctive sepulchral voice, he was known for many years as "The Man in Black", narrator of the BBC Radio horror series Appointment With Fear.In...

     as Mr Rochester
  • Robert Pugh
    Robert Pugh
    Robert Pugh is a Welsh film and television actor.Pugh was born in Cilfynydd and graduated from Rose Bruford College in 1976. In 2007, he co-starred alongside Genevieve O'Reilly and Geraldine James in ITV1 drama The Time of Your Life, where he played a parent whose 36-year-old daughter was...

     as Picket


Production


Britannia Hospital took a number of years to set up. It was originally called Memorial Hospital, and according to David Sherwin's diaries Going Mad in Hollywood, was going to be financed by 20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation — also known as 20th Century Fox, or simply 20th or Fox — is one of the six major American film studios...

 under Sherry Lansing
Sherry Lansing
Sherry Lansing is a former actress and American film studio executive. She is former CEO of Paramount Pictures, and when president of production at 20th Century Fox was the first woman to head a Hollywood studio In 1996, she became the first woman named Pioneer of the Year by the Foundation of...

. The Fox deal fell through but the project was then saved by producer Clive Parsons who managed to set up financing through EMI
EMI
The EMI Group, also known as EMI Music or simply EMI, is a multinational music company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the fourth-largest business group and family of record labels in the recording industry and one of the "big four" record companies. EMI Group also has a major...

 under Barry Spikings
Barry Spikings
Barry Spikings is a British film producer who worked in Hollywood. Spikings is best known as the producer of the 1978 film, The Deer Hunter, which won five Academy Awards....

.
It was filmed at Shepperton Studios
Shepperton Studios
Shepperton Studios is a film studio in Shepperton, Surrey, England with a history dating back to 1931 since when many notable films have been made there...

.

Reception


Britannia Hospital was a box-office failure. The film was lambasted by the British critics on release, although Dilys Powell
Dilys Powell
Elizabeth Dilys Powell was a British journalist, author and film critic.She was born into a middle class family in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. Her mother was Mary Jane Lloyd; her father, Thomas Powell, a bank manager...

 listed it as one of the films of the year. Britannia Hospital was withdrawn by EMI a month after its release. Critic Ian Haydn Smith considers Britannia Hospital the "nadir" of Anderson's career. "Replacing satire with broad comedy, the film fails on every level in its attempt to critique the state of the National Health Service
National Health Service
The National Health Service is the shared name of three of the four publicly funded healthcare systems in the United Kingdom. They provide a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use to residents of the United Kingdom...

". The film won the "Audience Jury Award" at Fantasporto
Fantasporto
Fantasporto, also known as Fantas, is an international film festival, annually organized since 1981 in Porto, Portugal. Giving screen space to commercial feature films, auteur films and experimental projects from all over the world, Fantasporto has created enthusiastic audiences, ranging from...

.

It has since been widely available on both VHS
VHS
The Video Home System is a consumer-level analog recording videocassette standard developed by Victor Company of Japan ....

 and DVD
DVD
A DVD is an optical disc storage media format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions....

.

External links