“O Lucky Man” – A Brilliant Movie’s “Seinfeld” Connection!
First, if you are not aware of this 1973 British film, this post will change all that. “O Lucky Man” is a brilliant, little known masterpiece starring Malcolm McDowell, who also conceived the idea for the film.
The Path From Malcolm To Cosmo!
So how does “O Lucky Man!” end up on “Seinfeld”? Well, it is a journey through the student revolts of the 60’s, the Cannes Film Festival, the brilliant Director Stanley Kubrick – AND Helen Mirren TWICE! – and it ends up on TV as Kramer’s worst nightmare!
Malcolm McDowell is a great character actor, with dozens of movie roles in a career that includes films like “Time After Time” AND “Caligula”, and has lasted more than 40 years…in fact, here is a post I did about his involvement in one of the most notorious movies ever made – CALIGULA:
But here is how Malcolm McDowell exploded onto movie screens in the late 60’s!
It All Began With “If…”
“If…” is a searing look at class structure in Great Britian, directed by Lindsay Anderson. “If…” is a prescient look at rebellious youth, and the film was released on the eve of the real student upheavals of the late 60’s…
“If…” was McDowell’s film debut. It’s an indictment of the British public school system, as we follow Mick and his friends through a series of indignities at the hands of the British school system. When Mick and his friends rebel – and rebel violently – the catch phrase, “which side will you be on” becomes quite real.
“If…” won the Palme d’Or for best film at the Cannes Film Festival during the French student riots of 1969…it was a chaotic time in history, with student protests and riots that spread around the world.
Stanley Kubrick and “A Clockwork Orange!”
McDowell’s brilliant screen debut in “If…” caught the attention of Director Stanley Kubrick – who had just made “2001: A Space Odyssey.” He was in the process of adapting another novel into a film – the disturbing vision of the future: “A Clockwork Orange”.
Malcolm McDowell landed the lead role in Kubrick’s controversial masterpiece – at the time, it was nominated for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay.
At this point, McDowell was one of the hottest Actors in Hollywood…which led him to his most personal work ever…
O Lucky Man!
After the success of “If….”, Malcolm McDowell suggested to Lindsay Anderson that they should work again. Anderson replied that good scripts don’t grow on trees and that McDowell should consider writing his own if he wanted to give himself a good part. Although the actor was only 30 at the time, he based the film around the concept of his own life story – and then brought it to writer David Sherwin who then crafted the screenplay.
Here’s the terrific trailer for the film:
It’s a modern day retelling of “Candide”, starring Malcolm McDowell as a young coffee salesman looking to conquer a world gone mad. Just as in the film “If…”, McDowell is named Mick. Here the young Mick is being trained in the world of coffee sales by veteran British Actress Rachel Roberts.
“O Lucky Man” is a sweeping epic of youthful ambition that runs headfirst into the moral complexities of the real world. McDowell and Director Anderson take us on a three hour trip into the surreal world of capitalism and greed – with some of the most unique images and storytelling techniques ever seen…
Introducing Alan Price!
Here’s an example of an innovative idea in the film: the movie includes Alan Price’s outstanding soundtrack. And I mean INCLUDES IT.
What I love about the film is that you see Price performing much of the music live in the film. And the opening credits are over footage of Price singing the title track in a studio, while the film’s Director Anderson films him. In the photo above, you see the Director on the left in the chair as Price performs to the far right. Here is the song:
Director Lindsay Anderson conceived the role of Alan Price’s music as a kind of Greek Chorus, commenting on the action – an eventually he becomes part of it as well.
That’s just one of many unique directing touches on display in the film, which is a look at one man’s quest to succeed – at all costs.
Introducing Helen Mirren!
Also, look for Helen Mirren in one of her first roles as well, as the daughter of a wealthy industrialist…
Helen Mirren would not only star with McDowell in “O Lucky Man”, but also in “Caligula.” They both give dynamic audio commentary on the “Caligula” film, by the way…fascinating.
Here is my post on that notorious film!
Mick’s journey is an amazing film to watch, and now the uncut british version of “O Lucky Man!” is available on DVD!
Malcolm reteamed with Lindsay Anderson on more time – as their character Mick returned in the film “Brittania Hospital.” It was a less successful satire of the British health industry…
And Now, O Lucky Man’s “Seinfeld” Moment!
And now, here is how “O Lucky Man” ended up on “Seinfeld.” First, let’s get you set up: One of Mick’s many crazy adventures in the film involved him agreeing to be experimented on – in exchange for money…
The leading Doctor at the Institute is intrigued with Mick, and begins to perform tests on him – leading to this exchange:
Professor Millar: What do you think is the most successful animal that’s ever lived on this earth?
Mick: The ant?
Professor Millar: “The dinosaur. Uh do you realize that the dinosaurs dominated this globe for a hundred and forty million years before they became extinct? Man has been on this planet for only a fraction over forty thousand years and yet already he faces extinction. In fact, the species will be lucky to survive beyond the year two thousand and ten. Mankind has only one hope: science…The entire population of India could be rehoused on the moon within ten years. It’s only a matter of learning to live in a new way.”
“Learning To Live A New Way!”
“Learning to live in a new way.” Mick Travis finds out what that means, in a shocking hospital scene – as he sneaks into another patient’s room to find out how much money he is getting…and he pulls back the sheet to reveal THIS!
Which Led To: Kramer’s Reveal!
Now to the “Seinfeld” connection! We all know how inquisitive Kramer is…
Seinfeld: Season 5, Episode 5 – The Bris
In this classic episode, Jerry and Elaine get asked to be the godparents for their friend’s newborn baby. But unfortunately the position doesn’t last very long when Elaine hires a drunken rabbi to perform the Bris. While at the hospital, Kramer thinks he found a pig-man!
[Jerry reads newspaper]
Jerry Seinfeld: . Hospital receives grant to conduct DNA research. Government funds genetic research at area hospital… Yeah, so?
Cosmo Kramer: Pigman, baby. Pigman.
Elaine Benes: Oh, if I hear about this pigman one more time…
Cosmo Kramer: I’m tellin ya the pigman is alive. The governments been experimenting with pigmen since the fifties.
Jerry Seinfeld: Will you stop it. Just because a hospital gets a grant to study DNA doesn’t mean they are creating a race of mutant pigmen.
Kramer wanders into a room and begins talking to a patient – and you know what he finds – an exact copy of the “O Lucky Man” scene!
And one other note: remember when Kramer gets basted in the sun and turns out in Newman’s fantasy as THIS?
Again, a very similar look to what we saw in the film…Someone on the writing staff was an “O Lucky Man” fan!
O Lucky Malcolm!
And look for this great documentary all about Malcolm McDowell, a story he tells himself!
Categories: 70's Cinema, Academy Awards, Action Films, Awards, Books / Media, British Cinema, Cannes Film Festival, documentary films, Foreign Films, Golden Globes, London, Movies, Movies About Movies, Obscure Movies, Talent/Celebrities, TV Show, Uncategorized
Just found this: & wanted to comment as besides good to find a reference / appreciation of this under-recognised film, to share that I saw this a ‘blind’ (meaning, had no idea what to expect, just went along) double bill at my Uni film club (with ‘If, first, of course) in the seventies: the completely unexpected ‘experiment’ reveal was so shocking frightening at the time, it seered itself into my fear fan memory from so long ago! Never knew of the Seinfeld reference (homage?), so thanx for that: by which then, also think of further ‘update’ is Lanthimos’ ‘The Lobster’ with his film’s conceit of (offscreen) animal, ah, ‘transformations’: intriguing, huh, as possibly indicating Lanthimos also fan of McDowell / Anderson’s story?
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that’s great insight about “The Lobster”, and as for Seinfeld, it has to be…a pig man in the hospital? Thanks for the comment, great hearing your analysis!
Great piece! Wow, Mirren looks beautiful in this! I need to revisit it. It’s been a long time. Probably since the 80’s or so for me. Also enjoyed Price’s music clip you included.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Britannia Hospital. Looks amusing.
Oh and I LOVE the pig man ep of Seinfeld. Nice job!
Thanks for the comment! When I saw that “Seinfeld” I thought: that’s an “O Lucky Man!” homage! It’s a great, neglected movie for sure!