Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"O Lucky Man" find corruption in society

Cleveland Press August 30, 1973

If Kafka had written "Candide" the result would have been "O Lucky Man."

"O Lucky Man"' is a surealistic movie, a modern morality play, the story of a young man in search of success. It is uneven with brilliant moments and others that are merely self-indulgent.

The picture stars Malcolm McDowell and is based on an idea of his. McDowell is the fine young actor who starred in "A Clockwork Orange." The movie was directed by Lindsay Anderson, best known for the offbeat "If," which also starred McDowell.

The influence of author Anthony Burgess and director Stanley Kubrick (of "Clockwork") is everywhere present and Anderson has also extended his own fantasy techniques from "If." Missing are the logic of Burgess and the bravura technique of Kubrick.

Anderson presents his story as a fantasy, a fable about a modern Everyman encountering the corruptions of modern society.

In the beginning the satire is sharp, the comedy strong as the movie comes in for closeups of its characters who are just slightly real.

The hero, Mick. played by McDowell, is a salesman trainee for a coffee company. There is a sense of possibility in these early scenes that make them work, for without such a sense fantasy doesn't work.

The training sessions, the glib speeches, the importance of a sincere smile, the platitudes, the slogans are sharply satiric.

The characters -- the pompous boss with an overdeveloped sense of self-importance; the smoldering, man-hungry psychologist: the landlady who likes to occupy the bedroom of her star boarder -- these are sharply and quickly sketched characters

The scene in which Mick -- young, innocent, not fully trained -- is sent into the field to replace a star salesman who has defected -- is a delightful parody of the espionage plot.

The emphasis. shifts, subtly at first, from Mick and his encounters. The emphasis is on the things counters, the evidence of a corrupt society. With the the shift to larger targets the picture loses its sharpness, deals with cliches. The satire is dulled in the interest of the polemical.

Mick is trapped in a military installation that creates horrible weapons, is captured and forced to confess to some unspecified crime, and is casually released from the electric chair by the tea lady. He escapes a holocaust only to find himself in a hospital that experiments on humans, flees that then joins a rock group.

From there he storms the citadel of high finance, becomes the assistant to a wealthy leader and is framed for a crime and sent to prison where he learns humility and to believe in goodness.

There is more, much more to the adventures of Mick, but it is like a clock winding down Not helping is the use of blackouts between scenes. Any number of time you expect the movie is over.

Framing the movie and interrupting it for comments is a rock group headed by Alan Price, once of the Animals. The function is that of Greek chorus, commenting on and explaining the action:

"Smile while you're makin' it

"Laugh while you're takin' it

"Even though you're fakin' it

"Nobody's gonna know..."

Frequently there is more point to the music than to the movie which tends to dissipate its efforts through sheer bulk.