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Anchor Bay presents
Britannia Hospital (1982)

"This is disgraceful."
- Sir Anthony Mount (Marcus Powell)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 23, 2002

Stars: Leonard Rossiter, Graham Crowden, Joan Plowright, Jill Bennett, Marsha Hunt, Malcolm McDowell
Other Stars: Mark Hamill, Robin Askwith, Peter Jeffrey, Alan Bates, Robbie Coltrane
Director: Lindsay Anderson

Manufacturer: Grace & Wild Interactive Development
MPAA Rating: R for (nudity, violence, medical mayhem and gore)
Run Time: 01h:56m:11s
Release Date: December 11, 2001
UPC: 013131141399
Genre: black comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+A-A- C+

DVD Review

Many years after completing the films If... and O, Lucky Man!, both starring Malcolm McDowell as British everyman Mick Travis, director Lindsay and Anderson and writer David Sherwin revisited the character in this third film in the loose trilogy. A shade less accessible than the previous two, Britannia Hospital lets loose with complete anarchic glee to savage all factions in British life. Mick Travis this time around is an investigative television reporter. Travis is attempting to sneak into Britannia Hospital, where Professor Millar (Graham Crowdon) is busily engaged in mysterious "transplant" experiments that have a Frankensteinian edge to them. Meanwhile, the hospital is plagued by strikes on all sides, with the workers objecting to such matters as the private-pay patients being permitted special food. Protestors outside the hospital get violent as they object to the housing there of a cannibalistic African strongman modeled after Idi Amin, and in the midst of all this, to celebrate the hospital's 500th anniversay the Queen Mum is coming for a tour of the hospital and a presentation on Millar's Genesis Project. Administrator Vincent Potter (Leonard Rossiter) must attempt to keep a lid on everything without HRH finding out anything is amiss. Anderson and Sherwin, though leftist in their sentiments, are completely brutal to both left and right in their satire. Trade unionists are treated with the same utter contempt as the racist aristocrats in the private wing. As the name obviously implies, the hospital is an extended metaphor for Britain itself, and anglophiles will find much to cringe at here. Everyone else (with a strong stomach) will find piercing and nasty black comedy that foreshadows the nightmarish dystopia of Gilliam's Brazil. Like the later film, the red tape and utter helplessness of the establishment (except when it comes to breaking heads) are the central focus of the humor. McDowell's part is rather small here, after the epic lengths of O, Lucky Man!, but he still manages to be the center of attention. Graham Crowden is a bit over the top, but Leonard Rossiter is excellent as the harried administrator who hurriedly patches everything together as best he can with spit and a promise. Mark Hamill has a funny bit as Mick's doper assistant, and the always reliable Peter Jeffrey stands out in a small role as one of the hospital's directors. Robbie Coltrane of Harry Potter fame has a tiny blink-and-you'll miss him part.There is plenty of gore and gross-out comedy here, intermixed with the social satire. There's also full-frontal (but nonsexual) male nudity from McDowell, so those offended by such material will want to give it a skip. Released during the Falkland War, Britannia Hospital unsurprisingly disappeared without making any impression at all; perhaps we're now distant enough to be able to appreciate Anderson's satire for what it is.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture looks very nice indeed, It is slightly soft and lacking in detail, but features very good color and excellent black levels. There are no visible artifacts or edge enhancement, and the source material appears flawless.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono track sounds quite good as well. It is clear and crisp throughout, with decent presence for a mono track. Alan Price's score, which largely consists of warped variants on Rule, Britannia, comes through without distortion. Hiss is barely audible on close listening. A very well done mono track.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The primary extra is an 11m:26s interview with Malcolm McDowell (looking shockingly older than his 58 years) regarding his close friend Lindsay Anderson (1923-1994). Although brief, it isn't a mere fluff piece and goes into the craft of acting as McDowell learned it from Anderson. The presentation is 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, but is unfortunately plagued by video artifacts during the non-interview segments. This featurette is accompanied by lengthy bios for Anderson and McDowell written by Mark Wickum, as well as selected filmographies for both. Wrapping up the package are a full trailer and teaser trailer, both in anamorphic widescreen, and in better shape than such trailers usually are found. The trailers manage to make the film look completely unfunny, which no doubt helped it to its dismal showing at the box office.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Anderson's wicked satire cuts like a scalpel on all levels. A fine presentation helps, and the extras, though brief, are worthwhile. Definitely worth a look for those desiring dark humor.


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