O Lucky Man!

Dir: Lindsay Anderson, 1973


Many films have sequels that you didn’t know about. They may not have deserved a sequel, or the follow up is at totally the opposite ends of the spectrum.

But, there’s few more surprising than Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man!. A sequel to Anderson’s earlier anti-establishment film if…., this follow up sees Malcolm McDowell reprising his role as Mick Travis, the truculent and recalcitrant public schoolboy from the earlier movie.

Mick Travis (McDowell) works in a coffee factory and is tasked with travelling Britain selling coffee.

On his journey, the newly appointed salesman experiences a sort of “pilgrim’s progress”. Starting his journey on a positive, Travis is caught up in all manner of things. On his travels he is met by a variety of eccentric chracters, including a mad doctor and musical hippies, before receiving a prison sentence and his eventual redemption.

O Lucky Man!, is an incredibly surreal film, and one that doesn’t really make much sense. Actors play several parts, there are numerous references to if…. and some people play themselves. Anderson, himself, has a cameo as a director auditioning for if…..

The film doesn’t really know what it is. Courtesy of Alan Price, O Lucky Man! is strategically punctuated by musical numbers, acting as a kind of narrative. Mixing that with horror, fantasy, comedy, drama and a touch of sci-fi, you have a smorgasbord of genres, creating an uneasy blend of eclecticism.

Running at three hours, the film is definitely far too long and should have been shortened at the script stage. A much more manageable two hours, would have allowed Anderson to tell the story without the problem of lagging. It all feels self indulgent.

A good majority of the actors from if…. return, albeit in a different role. The references to the earlier film, are rather fun, but cause confusion in the context of this movie.

There’s nothing wrong with a film being different, or trying to be out there. Many movies have melded genres together, and it’s all come together, fine. But, here, Anderson can’t make the concoction work successfully.

In terms of O Lucky Man! being a sequel, it has no correlation to its predecessor, aside from a fleeting question, asking whether Travis agreed that his school did the right thing in expelling him. However, this could have been done deliberately, with the intent of keeping the ambiguity of that film’s end, open.

The film is supported by a great soundtrack, with the songs of Alan Price perfectly capturing the mood. A definite must have LP, to add to any one’s collection.

As inventive as the film is, it’s ultimate downfall is the length. There is so much potential for O Lucky Man! to have rewatch appeal, but three hours is too much, and to fill the epic runtime, there is a lot of padding.

This second entry in the Mick Travis trilogy, isn’t terrible or bad. In fact, it’s rather good. But, it’s tough to sit through, and the middle section becomes a slog, turning what should be an enjoyable experience into a chore.

If more liberalism had been employed with the scissors, O Lucky Man! would have a much higher rating.

Strange and different, the film is certainly a curiosity piece that is worth a watch. Just don’t expect anything of the magnitude of if…..

Reasonable fare.


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