(UK - 1986)
Directed by Christopher Morahan. Written by Michael Frayn. Cast: John Cleese, Penelope Wilton, Alison Steadman, Stephen Moore, Sharon Maiden, Michael Aldridge, Joan Hickson, Benjamin Whitrow, Geoffrey Palmer, Pat Keen, Geoffrey Hutchings, Constance Chapman, Ann Way, John Bardon, Angus Mackay, Chip Sweeney, Sheila Keith, Tony Haygarth, Nicholas le Prevost, Nick Stringer, Peter Cellier, Peter Jonfield. (PG, 96 mins)
Given a spotty release on the US arthouse circuit by Universal in the fall of 1986 and into 1987, the British import CLOCKWISE was written by playwright Michael Frayn with Monty Python vet John Cleese in mind to star. Best known for his play Noises Off!, made into a film by Peter Bogdanovich in 1992 and required by law to be performed by every high school theater department in America, Frayn stages CLOCKWISE as a door-slamming farce reworked as a slapstick road movie of the pre-smartphone era, with Cleese channeling his loud, harumphing FAWLTY TOWERS persona as Brian Stimpson, the uptight, micro-managing headmaster of the Thomas Timpion Comprehensive School. Obsessed with punctuality, down-to-the-second time-management, and keeping his students in line by calling them out on the playground from his office perch with a PA system when he spots misbehavior, Stimpson has turned the school around and as such, is being rewarded with a new post as the chairman of an elite headmaster's association, the first such chairman to come from a common, public institution. He's set to depart on a 10:25 am train trip to Norwich, allowing him plenty of time for his 3:00 pm speech. But after his nurse wife Gwenda (Alison Steadman) drops him off, he realizes he's on the wrong train--due to his boorish habit of declaring "Right!" and being a general pain in the ass with the ticket taker and getting confused when he's told the Norwich train is on the left. He gets off the wrong train but isn't able to get onboard the Norwich in time, watching in horror as it departs without him, then realizing he left his speech on the other train at the exact moment it takes off in the opposite direction. Running out to the parking lot to see Gwenda driving away, Stimpson is stranded with no way to get to Norwich and no speech to give even if he could.