Christopher Morahan (director)
19 November 2019 (released)
19 November 2019
John Cleese won the 1987 ‘Peter Sellers Award for Comedy’ for his portrayal as the overtly strict and über-organized headmaster Brian Stimpson, whose obsession with punctuality lands him into big trouble in this 80s screwball comedy.
It’s a day like every other at Thomas Tompion Comprehensive School (the first in-joke, as Thomas Tompion was a famous 17th Century clockmaker) where headmaster Stimpson goes on about his business as usual. In other words, he watches his pupils’ every move like a hawk and even gives instructions via megaphone from his office window. Above all though, his almost compulsive obsession with time and punctuality – a result of his rather disorganized youth – tests not only the patience of his pupils but the patience of his fellow teachers and his long-suffering wife Gwenda (Alison Steadman). However, something unusual does take place on this seemingly average school day because Stimpson has an important announcement to make: he has been elected to chair the annual Headmaster’s Conference in Norwich, a great honour seeing how this role is usually reserved for toffee-nosed headmasters teaching in elite public schools. Preparing his speech and his journey to Norwich with the precision of a, er, clockwork, wife Gwenda drives her hubby to the station… somewhat miffed that he decides to travel to such a ‘historic’ event without her. Nonetheless, Stimpson insists she wait at a nearby car park “just in case”. In typical frantic Cleese manner he misunderstands the railway station attendant (left, no right, left I say, you mean right then?) and boards the wrong train going direction Plymouth. When he realises his mistake he manages to get out of the wrong train but it’s too late to jump onto the right one. To make matters worse he also forgot the paper with his speech in the carriage.
Desperately trying to fetch his wife, Gwenda - in the belief her husband is on the train, drives off. Stimpson has no other option than to take a taxi back home in the hope to find his wife there but she drove to the local hospital instead where she works as a volunteer looking after three dotty and senile old ladies: Mrs. Trellis (Joan Hickson), Mrs. Wheel (Constance Chapman) and Mrs. Way (Ann Way). Once again Stimpson arrives at the hospital just as his wife and her three ‘charges’ are off to a trip to the countryside. Frantically and only too aware that time is running short he spots Laura Wisely (Sharon Maiden), a sixth form pupil from his school, driving by in her car. Half begging her, half commanding her, the pair is soon on the way to Norwich but it’s not before long when everything descends into chaos. First off, it turns out that Laura took her parents’ car without asking their permission, worse still, the girl doesn’t even hold a driving licence! A short while later at a petrol station, Gwenda happens to spot her hubby pumping petrol into Laura’s car and immediately suspects he is having a secret affair with his pupil… in the ensuing chaos both parties forget to pay for the petrol and now the police is after them for theft while Laura’s parents report their car stolen and their daughter kidnapped. Mr. Jolly (Stephen Moore), a fellow teacher at Thomas Tompion Comprehensive School with whom Laura had an affair, is also hot on their heels. Can things get any worse? Oh yes they can! Enter Mr. Stimpson’s slightly unhinged ex-lover Pat (Penelope Wilton), a battered and broken down car, a vandalised phone box, a muddy field, a monastery, a hapless traveller who has his suit and cash stolen in exchange for a monk’s robe and you’ll know where it will end for Stimpson… However, before he’s led away by the police he manages to turn up at the conference at long last, looking dishevelled head to toe and delivering a speech which will be remembered for all the wrong reasons…
With an original script by renowned novelist and playwright Michael Frayn and with a stellar cast to boost, CLOCKWISE displays Cleese’s undisputable talent for comic timing and can be hailed as one of the best (if perhaps somewhat underrated) madcap English comedies of the 1980’s.
Newly restored in 4K and available in Blu-ray format for the first time this will make the perfect Christmas present to delight family or friends.