Two Cheers for St. Trinian's: School's Out!

So we've reached the end of our odyssey through the St. Trinian's films. And what have we learned? 

Well, if a new teacher arrives at St. Trinian's School and she looks like Joyce Grenfell, then she's definitely a police spy. Also, never go on a foreign holiday or a "cultural tour" if it's organised by Cecil Parker - especially if Sid James is involved. Will they never learn? 

Let's remind ourselves of the films: 

The Wildcats of St. Trinian's (1980)

The first three films go together well. If you enjoyed one of them, then it's hard to imagine not liking the others. But the next two are not so successful.

So let's have some statistics.

Number of St. Trinian's headmistresses - 5

Alastair Sim as Amelia Fritton (or is it Millicent?) in The Belles of St. Trinian's and at the end of Blue Murder at St. Trinian's
Judith Furse as Dame Maud Hackshaw, very briefly in Blue Murder at St. Trinian's
Irene Handl as Miss Harker-Packer in The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's
Dora Bryan as Amber Spottiswood in The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery
Sheila Hancock as Olga Vandemeer in The Wildcats of St. Trinian's

But it's 6 if you include Lionel Jeffries' fake one in Blue Murder at St. Trinian's

As you probably noticed, there are many actors who appeared in several St. Trinian's films, sometimes playing different characters in each one.

Actors who reappear in the series

George Cole (4 films) *
Michael Ripper (4 films; 3 as the same character)
Joyce Grenfell (3 films) *
Lloyd Lamble (3 films) *
Richard Wattis (3 films) *
Eric Barker (3 films) *
Lisa Lee (3 films) *
Thorley Walters (3 films)
Rosalind Knight (3 films)
Cyril Chamberlain (3 films)
Alastair Sim (2 films) *
Irene Handl (2 films)
Sid James (2 films)
Raymond Huntley (2 films)
Terry Scott (2 films)

* These actors always play the same character in the films

It's hard to say if Terry Scott is playing the same character or not. Both are policeman, but he was always playing policeman in this period. 

You might have noticed that some plot points also recur in the films. But which ones?

Films where a detective has to go undercover with the school - 4
Films involving a criminal plot - 4
(5 if you include The Wildcats of St. Trinian's - that whole script was criminal)
Films involving a sheikh - 3
Films where the school goes on a foreign tour - 2
Films where the army is called in - 2
Films where a criminal's daughter has to infiltrate the school - 2

References to current affairs in the St. Trinian's Films

The marriage of Prince Rainier to Grace Kelly (Blue Murder at St. Trinian's)
The Suez Crisis (The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's)
The Great Train Robbery (The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery)
The 1964 General Election (The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery)
The Beatles awarded MBEs (The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery)
1970s Energy Crisis (indirectly) (The Wildcats of St. Trinian's)
The Winter of Discontent (The Wildcats of St. Trinian's)

And now I'm going to unveil my final, definitive ranking of the original five films.

Drum roll, please ...

1. Blue Murder at St. Trinian's (1957)
Controversially, I'm putting the second film in the series in top place. Although usually seen as second best to The Belles of St. Trinian's, I laughed like a drain at this one and thought it improved on the original in some ways, despite not having enough Alastair Sim in it.

2. The Belles of St. Trinian's  (1954)
The original film and an amusing romp. Not as funny, I think, as Blue Murder, but Alastair Sim is priceless and this entry sets the style and tone for the first three films, as well as most of the plot points.

3. The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's (1960)
More of a rearrangement of elements from the first two films than an original story, this is still enjoyable for anyone who liked the previous instalments and it can still boast original stars George Cole and Joyce Grenfell, even if Alastair Sim has now gone AWOL.

4. The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery (1966)
The first film in colour sometimes feels more like a kids adventure, and the topical plot suggests Launder and Gilliat were running out of ideas at this stage. It's mildly diverting, but there's a lack of star power and no one to make up for the loss of both Sim and Grenfell.

5. The Wildcats of St. Trinian's (1980)
This really is for completists only. Although its sheer misguidedness does give it a certain fascination.

So that's it. No more St. Trinian's - I promise!


Popular Posts