The Criterion Collection

Remember when Malcolm McDowell was known for being one of the world’s greatest actors? The fine work he’s turned in occasionally in the last few years notwithstanding one does have to wonder what happened to the intense angry young man, the irreducible dreamer that he played in movies like this. If… serves as a sad reminder that he used to make movies that had the power to do more than distract viewers.

If…. tells the story of McDowell and a group of boarding school friends who buck the authority around them at every turn to tragic results. As tempting as it is to see it primarily as a film of its time If…. emerges as much, much more getting not only deep under the skin of the society it criticizes but aging quite well. At its heart If…. is timeless telling the story of anyone who has had to defend themselves against institutional politics and providing a benchmark for how institutions provide safe haven for cruelty, bigotry and provincialism.

The extras here are impressive. The two disc set offers Commentary by film critic and historian David Robinson and actor Malcolm McDowell and a new, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek and assistant editor Ian Rakoff. Also offered are an episode from Cast and Crew featuring interviews with McDowell, Ondricek, Rakoff, director’s assistant Stephen Frears, producer Michael Medwin, and screenwriter David Sherwin, New video interview with actor Graham Crowden, and Thursday’s Children (1954), Academy Award–winning documentary about a school for deaf children, directed by Anderson and Guy Brenton and narrated by Richard Burton. Rounding out are theatrical trailers and a booklet featuring pieces by critic David Ehrenstein, screenwriter David Sherwin, and director Lindsay Anderson.

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