Clockwise 1986 Movie John Cleese realizing he's in a wrong train

Clockwise [1986]

Starring John Cleese, Clockwise is a wholesome, old-school British comedy that doubles as a road movie. It follows a headmaster of a public school obsessed with time as he’s trying to reach a conference in time for his big speech. After all, Rabbit Reviews’ selection of comedies is not all about toilet humor and shitting scenes. Although there is a fair amount of them. Here we have a comedy of errors with a lot of farce and hilarious dialogue on top. “It’s not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand” is just one of the slew of great lines. One small blunder leads to a bigger blunder and so forth eventually snowballing into a grand finale. The movie is unfolding in real-time and this helped immensely with the pacing. Plus there are a surprising amount of car chases and stunts.

John Cleese is the reason why Clockwise is still worth watching after all this time. His voice, his acting, and his very appearance just put a smile on your face. He makes this mainstream comedy zany enough to be enjoyed even by the most jaded movie lovers. Although I should also probably mention the rest of the gang led by the three old ladies on a road trip. They were simply adorable. Fucking Lou and the sherry glasses. The same goes for the rest of the characters we will meet along the way. If you wanted to go deeper, you actually could with this movie. It not only questions time but also a sense of identity, occupation, and eventually the meaning of life. It’s meant to disorient the viewer by constantly placing characters in situations where they act “out of character”. It’s a fun thing to keep an eye on.

Meet Brian Stimpson, a headmaster and a man obsessed with punctuality. He watches over his pupils perched high above them in his office. Today is a big day for him as he was elected to chair the annual Headmasters’ Conference. The conference is taking place in Norwich and Brian planned his journey carefully. However, when he boards the wrong train he will have to improvise if he wants to get to Norwich on time. This will lead to a series of unfortunate events…

Clockwise will take you back in time to the eighties in all its glory. The irredeemably bad hairstyles, clothes, and other memorabilia are quite entertaining on their own. There are, however, both good and bad things in the past, as always. The patriarchy again rears its ugly head even in this harmless comedy while the school system looks awesome. I’m sure most of you would prefer their kids have this type of headmaster with a hands-on approach. Someone who ultimately really cares about the students and tries to put them on the right path. There’s also a subtle theme of working-class vs posh, high-class fuckers.

Finally, if you’re looking for movies like Clockwise, I recommend you check out Nuns on the Run, Rat Race, Fierce Creatures, Erik the Viking, and A Fish Called Wanda. Almost all of these movies are starring John Cleese, so you can top them off with a healthy dose of an assortment of Monty Python movies. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention another great British actor Rowan Atkinson and Keeping Mum, a movie where this time a priest is getting ready for his annual conference. And if you wish to move to something similar but made-in-USA check out The Party, Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, and Fletch.

Director: Christopher Morahan

Writer: Michael Frayn

Cast: John Cleese, Stephen Moore, Alison Steadman, Nadia Sawalha, Joan Hickson, Constance Chapman, Ann Way, Michael Aldridge

Fun Facts: The name of the school was Thomas Tompion Comprehensive School. Tompion (1639-1713) is a famous clockmaker and an important figure in English clockmaking. He constructed some of the first spring-balanced watches, and some of the timepieces he made are still operational.


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