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Thread: If...

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    Film 4 are showing Lindsay Andersons ‘IF’ this Friday at 10.50. I remember seeing this at the cinema as a mere 16 year old in 1968 and will be interested to see how it ages. Apparently the famous black and white sequence with Malcolm Mc Dowell and the machine gun on the roof oft hailed as a piece of artistic brilliance actually occurred because they ran out of colour film and money...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandragora
    Film 4 are showing Lindsay Andersons IF this Friday at 10.50. I remember seeing this at the cinema as a mere 16 year old in 1968 and will be interested to see how it ages. Apparently the famous black and white sequence with Malcolm Mc Dowell and the machine gun on the roof oft hailed as a piece of artistic brilliance actually occurred because they ran out of colour film and money...
    One of my favourite films of all time. I saw it on TV many years after it was made, and I was at a similar school for a couple of years, so when they start shooting at the masters a big grin always appears on my face "If.......only!"



    As for the stuff about running out of money for colour film this is from IMDB: "Contrary to the story that says some scenes of the film are in BandW instead of colour because the production company was running short of money and saved money by having some scenes processed in monochrome, according to interviews with Malcolm McDowell, Lindsay Anderson and the cameraman, they first shot the scenes in the school chapel in monochrome because they had to use natural light that came in through the big stained-glass window, requiring high-speed film. The high-speed colour stock they tested was very grainy and the constantly-shifting colour values due to the angle of the light through the stained glass made it impossible to colour-correct, as well. So they decided to shoot those scenes in monochrome, and, when he saw the dailies, Anderson liked the way that it "broke up the surface of the film", and decided to insert other monochrome scenes more or less at random, to help disorient the viewer as the film slipped from realism to fantasy".


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    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
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    I saw an interview on TV with Lindsey Anderson in which he admitted that for years he'd been telling stories about the artistic and cinematic decisions to use monochrome and not colour in certain scenes. He said outright in this interview that they had indeed run almost out of cash and could only afford the monochrome stock. He laughed as he said it ....



    Whatever the truth, If... is a great film featuring a superb performance from Malcolm McDowell.



    Bats.

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    I always thought the black and white sequences were ART

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    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Compton
    I always thought the black and white sequences were ART
    So did I until I saw that interview! Of course, he may simply have been telling another story.



    Bats.

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    Stupendous movie. Saw it yonks ago and love seeing it again. Love that music 'Sanctus' so much I bought the single!

    Thanks for telling us - will have the video set up ASAP.

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    Love that music 'Sanctus' so much I bought the single!



    Oh yes I remember Sanctus now! I liked it so much I bought the vinyl album and still have it in a cupboard somewhere. Its part of a native Congolese roman catholic mass sung by a Congolese choir with some rudimentary percussion..

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    Senior Member Country: UK Moor Larkin's Avatar
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    Those were the days......




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    The year of rebellion: If... not when

    Forty years ago, against a backdrop of riots and rebellion across Europe, Lindsay Anderson released his violent film If... about schoolboys who kill their teachers. Our writer revisits his school, where the film was shot, and recalls its profound effect on himself, his friends and even his headmaster



    Simon Worrall



    In the Summer of Love, 1968, the film-maker Lindsay Anderson came to my school to shoot what would become one of the most celebrated, and iconoclastic, films of that turbulent era. It was called If... and told the story of an armed revolt at a public school, led by a surly, charismatic schoolboy named Mick Travis, who was played by Sixties' bad boy, Malcolm McDowell, later the star of A Clockwork Orange.



    In the notorious climax, Travis leads a group of boys on to the roof of the library during Visitation Day. Swigging vodka, they machinegun and mortar the parents and teachers to the sound of the Missa Luba, a haunting Congolese Mass that Anderson chose for the film's soundtrack. As the headmaster rushes across the lawn to plead with the boys, Travis's girlfriend, played by Christine Noonan, takes out a revolver and shoots him through the forehead.



    The original script, by David Sherwin, was called The Crusaders. Anderson scouted locations in the summer of 1967. He visited Dulwich College and Charterhouse, but both refused him permission to film.



    Eventually, he persuaded his alma mater, Cheltenham College. That school was used for the chapel and the playing field scenes. The heart of the film, like the gym where Travis is sadistically beaten by a group of prefects, or the wood-panelled dining-hall, was filmed at Aldenham School, in Hertfordshire, during the summer holidays of my lower sixth-form year.



    �Of course, when we were making it, we had no idea what it was about,� recalls Steve �Plugger� Goodwin, who worked on the film as an extra. �It wasn't until we went to a press screening in London that we realised. At the end there was total silence. Then everyone applauded. We were all thinking: �Wow! That's different.'�



    If captured the Zeitgeist. Anderson exaggerated the cruelties of boarding-school life, recreating a world that more closely resembled his own school days at Cheltenham in the Forties (which he enjoyed). Ours was a so-called minor public school, Eton-lite; its brutalities less theatrical than If... suggested. �Scumming,� where younger boys do chores for the older boys had been stopped. And the infamous scene in the gym could not have happened at our school. By 1968, boy-on-boy corporal punishment had been banned. Caning by the head or housemasters was increasingly rare.



    Yet it still happened. On one occasion, a group of friends and I absconded during an opera outing to Sadler's Wells, hopped on a bus to North London and watched the second half of a match between Arsenal and Tottenham. The next day I had to bend over the housemaster's desk and receive four, short sharp blows. Like Travis, I made it a point of honour not to flinch.



    We were also subjected to a constant stream of what would today be called physical abuse. Masters tweaked our ears and slapped us across the head and threw board rubbers at us. I was once ejected from a maths lesson for reading D.H.Lawrence under my desk with a boot up the rear so hard it felt like I had been kicked by a carthorse.



    Perhaps because he was gay, Anderson intentionally softened the latent - and often overt - homosexuality that was part of our lives (one former pupil told me �it wasn't homosexuality, it was just lack of girls�).



    In one scene, which would not have been out of place in a commercial for Fairy Liquid (Anderson shot many advertising films, notably for Kellogg's), a scrumptious-looking boy named Philips slowly lowers a sweater over his head while ogling Wallace, one of the three rebels at the heart of the film, who turns circles on a gym bar dressed in a pair of tight-fitting, white trousers.



    Reality was less romantic, and even more cinematic. On a dark, January night, soon after I arrived at the school, our housemaster called us together and informed us that a master had hanged himself in the woods. He did not tell us why. But the next day, rumours flew round the school that he had been accused by a boy - some say maliciously - of molesting him. It was said that the crows had pecked out the master's eyes.



    What the film did capture with extraordinary accuracy was the oppressive, hierarchical world in which we lived. Every aspect of ours lives, from which door we could use to how many buttons we could have unbuttoned on our jackets, was governed by an arcane code of petty rules and regulations. It was a cruel, Darwinian society where the vulnerable suffered the most. On my first night I was put in a two-bed dormitory with a pale, delicate boy called Williams. I can still hear him sobbing all night.



    It was a hermetically sealed society, almost cut off from the outside world. There were no televisions, no phones, scant newspapers. Yet echoes of the events shaking the world still reached us, like rattling palm fronds in a hurricane.



    In May 1968, students in Paris tore up the cobblestones. In Grosvenor Square, there were anti-Vietnam war riots. Values and social structures that had held fast for generations - deference to authority, class hierarchies, religious observance and military duty - were being swept away by rebellion.



    �There was all this stuff going on,� recalls Simon Farr, who missed the filming because he was hitch-hiking to Istanbul.



    After art college and a spell in the East London Marxist Leninist Association, Farr moved to Aldeburgh, Suffolk, where he now works as a political cartoonist and illustrator. �Music, art, drugs, clothes, everything was in ferment. And we were just gagging to get at all that stuff that was happening! It was like a party going on in the next room, and we couldn't go it.�



    If...came out just before Christmas, 1968. One foggy Saturday afternoon I set off on a bicycle with my smoking companion, Martin �Puggy� Pike, to cycle to Watford, the nearest town with a cinema. As we pedalled back, I imagined that I was Mick Travis and that my clunky, iron bicycle was the gleaming BSA motorbike that he and his sidekick, Johnny, steal and then ride across a field, with Christine Noonan standing on the pillion seat, arms outstretched like Christ, black hair flying in the wind.



    The film's effect on the school was incendiary. Mick Travis joined Che Guevara and John Lennon in our pantheon of heroes.



    We imitated his lines - �Whatever you're doing now, don't!� - and re-enacted scenes, especially the one where he and Johnny spar on a crowded high street with imaginary flick-knives. One boy, Peter �Tuke� Taylor, decorated his study exactly like Travis. As juniors filed past to chapel, Tuke �would sit with the window open, firing darts at the pin-board from an air pistol, with Sanctus, the title track of Missa Luba, belting out from his record player.� The film was the ultimate schoolboy fantasy,� he recalls. �And we cranked up whatever we were doing as a result. It was a general feeling of: let's rip the place apart. Basically, it was fun being rebellious.�



    In an article written many years later, the headmaster, Paul Griffin, a strict disciplinarian and Christian in the Pauline mould, described the blowback from the �brilliant and destructive film� that he had allowed to be made at the school. �Our boys, seeing themselves in what seemed to them romantic circumstances, enthusiastically transformed themselves into images of the heroes of the film.



    �It would be stupid to pretend that no other factors entered in but If...was a powerful focus.� Life began to imitate art in even more alarming ways.



    �There was this boy in the shooting team, who had special access to the armoury,� recalls Taylor. �We tried to get him to help us get into it. It was just a fantasy. I don't think we would actually have shot the headmaster or anything like that. It was for kicks.�



    My attitude towards the school can be characterised as permanent trench warfare. I was a rebel and all my heroes - Kerouac, Shelley, Mick Jagger - were rebels. Rebels were cool. School prefects weren't. Ultimately, it was about autonomy. The school wanted me to be something I didn't want to be: deferential, devout, conservative. I hated going to chapel, I hated being told to sleep. I resented having my hair massacred by Mr Boggins, a Dickensian character who every few weeks would shear our heads like sheep.All through the winter of 1968, the mood of rebellion grew. A group of sixth-formers refused to be prefects and preached subversion. A mass walkout was staged at a debating society event. Drugs and counter-culture publications such as the International Times flowed into the school. �I don't think the school authorities understood what was happening,� recalls Simon Farr. �I used to have cannabis sent through the post; and I remember going to the Albert Hall to see The Incredible String Band dressed in my aunt's Indian dressing gown and a lot of beads. We were aspirant hippies.�



    Nick Pitt recalls: �By the end, we had virtually taken control of the school.� He was expelled in 1969 and later went on to serve a brief prison sentence after being convicted for assaulting a police officer at the Red Lion Square demonstration, where Blair Peach was killed. Today, he is a sports writer. �I kept a car in the village, I used to smoke and go to the pub. We didn't need to machine gun people. There had already been a rebellion in the school.�



    To stop things spiralling, the headmaster instituted a cull of what he regarded as the troublemakers. I was the first. Not for plotting to blow up the school; but for getting into Cambridge a year early. I had been a slacker, then suddenly, in 1968, a light went on in my head and I fell in love with the rebels of English literature.



    Disraeli Gears and Ode to the West Wind; Blake's The Little Chimney Sweep and Tommy by The Who, swirled around inside me. My English teacher, Richard Jones, spotted the potential and coached me through the autumn of 1968. I didn't want to go to Cambridge (and eventually didn't). I wanted to get out of the school. And when Corpus Christi College awarded me a place, Aldenham's hold was removed. I cut classes. I stopped going to chapel. I wore a pair of non-regulation, red-and-black shoes. I skulked around like Mick Travis. I was cocky, arrogant and bolshy. My housemaster, David Wallace-Hadrill, a humane, Socialist-minded man I liked, said I was �a dangerous boy�. �You just haven't made it, have you, Worrall?� the headmaster said when he told me that I was being expelled.



    �And you haven't f***ing helped,� I snarled.



    His wife, Felicity, was in the kitchen, washing up. As I strode past the window, she raised a rubber glove in salute. I jabbed my middle finger in the air. Two hours later, my father came to collect me. We drove in silence. I braced myself for the dressing down I was sure I was about to get. But after five minutes, he turned to me in the darkened interior of the car and, with words that became the touchstone of his love for me, said: �I don't know what happened, Si, but I just want you to know that your mother and I are 100 per cent behind you.�



    Four decades later, I wince with retrospective shame at my crude gesture as Felicity Griffin, white-haired now but still full of energy, serves me tea and biscuits in the pristine living room of the Suffolk cottage, where she and my former headmaster now live.



    I have come to interrogate the past. One thing has always intrigued me: why the headmaster allowed If... to be filmed in the first place. �Everyone thought that Lindsay Anderson was the cat's pyjamas,� he recalls of the director's first visit to the school. �But I didn't want Aldenham to come into disrepute. Anderson had been at Cheltenham. He said to me: �I was at a public school, I am not going to knock the public schools, am I?' But being a suspicious character, I asked him if there was anything more he could do to convince me. So he said: �I'll send you the script.' It was a very short script, only about ten or 12 pages. And, of course, there was nothing offensive in it. Where there was a violent or sexy scene it simply said: �He fantasises,' or �He daydreams.' So I said: �All right, go ahead.'� He pulls a face. �I was a useful idiot, I suppose.�



    Seeing my old headmaster arouses complex emotions. Part of me wants still to hate this conservatively dressed man. At school, he was a martinet, a coldly illiberal man, whom we rebels feared and hated. I can still hear his tight, high-pitched voice as he came up beside me and, tugging at my hair so hard that tears started in my eyes, squeaked: �Haircut, Worrall.� The long, thin face, the hawk-like nose and piercing, black eyes are exactly as I remember. So, too, are the polished brogues, severe haircut and tightly buttoned jacket. But he is 86 now, the same age as my father when he died.



    I have grown older, too; and have a teenage son myself. To my surprise, I find myself feeling strangely affectionate towards Paul Griffin, and sorry that he was stitched up by Anderson. This confuses me. It's so much easier to cling to black-and-white, adolescent emotions.



    �Felicity and I went to see the film and laughed ourselves silly,� he recalls. �It was a marvellous film. Very funny; quite cogent.� The laughter drains from his face. �But the result for the school was disastrous. After 1968 everything changed. There was suddenly this terrible hatred.� He insists that at no point, as rumour had it, he feared an If-type rebellion was about to break out. �Lord, no! That's ridiculous,� he says. �I thought that there would be an awful lot of trouble. But I don't think anyone was planning to shoot me.�



    He is less adamant about another rumour: that as a result of the pain and embarrassment of having let Anderson in, he had a nervous breakdown. When I ask him, he lets Felicity answer.



    �Paul had faced considerable danger in Cyprus [Griffin had been a headmaster during the Cyprus crisis],� she recalls. �And then everything that happened at Aldenham...I think he was basically tired. He was looking for a way out.�



    He chimes in: �I had had enough. I was 52. I just thought: �I am done.'� As I am about to leave, I remind him that he expelled me from the school.



    �I'm terribly sorry,� he says, chirpily. �What did I expel you for? ...Are you sure? Well, I suppose you must have been bad.� He beams at me. I beam back.



    A quote on the original poster for If... called it �a hand grenade of a film�. In one of its most famous scenes, Travis turns to his two acolytes and says: �Revolution and violence are the only pure acts.�



    For one of my fellow schoolboys those words became more than a rhetorical gesture. He was a tall, slightly awkward boy from a wealthy family who, like many political radicals of that time, had a deeply fractured relationship with his father. While still at school, he joined The Socialist Workers' Party of Great Britain, an idealist Marxist-Leninist group, and spent hours in his study, poring over its publication, The Socialist Standard (I remember being deeply impressed that he owned a copy of Venceremos, Che Guevara's letters). At university he became a leader of a group of left-wing militants organising strikes and sit-ins. Eventually, he drifted into the arms of The Angry Brigade, Britain's equivalent of Germany's Baader-Meinhof gang or Italy's Red Brigades. Between 1970 and 1972, The Angries, as they were called, waged a bombing campaign on banks, businesses and the homes of Tory MPs, including that of Sir Keith Joseph, one of the architects of Thatcherism.



    At his request, I cannot name him and he declined to be interviewed. But over several phone calls, he talked about what he now calls �rash, pseudo-political activity� and its painful consequences. After serving time in prison, he emerged to find himself disowned by his family and shut out of the job market.



    �At the age of 20, I took a decision that ruined my life,� he says. �I don't regret some of the feelings and attitudes I had. But I regret believing that violence could be used to change people's minds. I feel that what I did was not right. Or that it was fair to my relatives.� He insists that If... had nothing to do with his decision to join the Angry Brigade (�I thought it was rubbish at the time�). Nor does he blame the school that he ended up what he calls a �cross, arrogant young man�.



    �I remember that there was a French teacher who used to bring in the French newspapers,� he recalls. �We read all about May 1968, mostly at the level of comprehension, but it was fascinating. Of course, like every rebellious, young man I wished I was there.�



    Looking back, he also feels fortunate that the punishment he received - six months in prison - was not more draconian. �Today you would get seven to 12 years.�



    As I drive through the gates of Aldenham after nearly 40 years, I am struck by how everything has changed; and everything is curiously the same. It is now a liberal, co-ed, mostly day school with few of the petty rules and regulations that dogged our lives. Pupils say �hi� to teachers, laptops are ubiquitous, caning a distant memory. The gym where Travis is beaten and where I did my A Levels is now a music school. The day before I arrived pupils had played Nintendo Wii in the chapel as part of a fundraiser.



    Yet, as I watched a line of boys come clattering down the stone steps, under the eye of Dorothy McGinty, the Scottish deputy head, a whiff of that distant era came back. Anderson used the staircase for If...'s opening scene, in which a column of boys jostle their way up, carrying trunks and tuck boxes. The colour of the paint has changed. But the cold, worn steps and steel railings have the same penitentiary feeling.



    Today, If... is used in psychology classes to teach the upper-sixth about the relationship between hierarchical structures of authority and violence (as well as the dangers of revolution).



    �The idea that boys would be able to punish other boys as they do in the film is completely abhorrent,� says McGinty. �We have very strict rules about child protection and the rights of the child.� So what do today's pupils think of the film? I meet a group of three boys and two girls from McGinty's psychology class. �What shocked me most was that students got to give punishments out to other boys: proper punishments,� says Ross Rubin, a 17-year-old �flexiboarder� (a designation that makes me hoot with laughter). �The end of the film when they shoot everyone was just ridiculous. It was so exaggerated.� �I thought Travis, the main character, was arrogant,� says Jessica Cox, 18. �He might be making a statement. But I thought he was just breaking rules for the sake of it.�



    Abigail Shamah chimes in: �They brought it on themselves. �They were the ones that had an attitude problem.� Can they imagine a rebellion breaking out today? �I don't think that rebellion is a big issue in this school now,� says Ross.



    �There's not a lot to rebel against. Having our top button undone or not tucking our shirt in,� agrees Alex Fine, a 17-year-old with unruly black hair.



    So there's nothing that makes you angry? World hunger? Global warming? There is an embarrassed silence. Then a self-confident 18-year-old, James Charnley, who, like many sixth formers, drives to school (in a Beamer, no less), turns to me and says, without a hint of irony: �Parking.�

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    Thanks for the story. If... is truly an amazing film.

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    Member Country: UK Ealingfilmfan's Avatar
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    Superb film.....



    "You're a degenerate Travis"............Lol!

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    Superb post, what is it's origins ? I'm going to 'fess up and admit that although Simon Worall's name sounds familiar, I cannot place him.

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    Article well hunted down DB

    A cathartic film for any aspiring teenager. I didn't see it until I was 16, but the haunting Missa Luba and the sheer rebellious nature of Travis (McDowell ) made this so memorable.

    Only managed to revisit this film a few months ago after purchasing it in HMV for �7. Just as good as I remembered.

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    So is Lindsay Anderson's If the antithesis of Rudyard Kipling's If ?



    Mick Travis does seem as though he might of read this and then taken exception to it and then went about to destroy everything it stood for? - I think Kipling's famous poem stands for that mythical creature the British stiff upper lip or maybe it's a remnant of the long lost Empire or even some quasi standard bearer?



    Travis certainly didn't take to it







    [IF]

    If you can keep your head when all about you

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you

    But make allowance for their doubting too,

    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,

    Or being hated, don't give way to hating,

    And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:





    If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,

    If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;

    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;

    If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:





    If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

    And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breath a word about your loss;

    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,

    And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"





    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

    Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,

    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

    If all men count with you, but none too much,

    If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

    Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

    And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!



    Rudyard Kipling
    Simon

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    Wasn't it originally called "The Crusaders" ? According to legend one of the girls in the office came up with the title "If" in some kind of office sweepstake !

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    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by billy bentley
    Wasn't it originally called "The Crusaders" ? According to legend one of the girls in the office came up with the title "If" in some kind of office sweepstake !
    The IMDb says the title of the film was suggested by the secretary of Memorial Films when she overheard Lindsay Anderson and David Sherwin endlessly debating possible titles.



    The script was originally titled The Crusaders. Although the film was shot at Cheltenham Boys' College (Lindsay Anderson's old school), the script "Crusaders" was based on the authors' old school Tonbridge School. Tonbridge was the original choice for the outdoor shots, but the school declined believing it would bring bad publicity. All-boys boarding schools were receiving quite unfavourable press at the time, which might explain Tonbridge's decision.



    Steve

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    I first watched the Lindsay Anderson film If... when I was at public school back in the 1970s and I remember the last frame after the gun battle as the Latin tag "Miles, sed pro patria".



    I have seen the film more recently several times and the last frame is a repeat of the title If... .



    Have I mis-remembered the the final frame or was it changed to accomodate the non-Latin speakers in the country?



    Please clear this up for me someone.

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    I can't help you Simon, but out of interest what does the Latin mean ?

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    Bentley ! Asleep during latin class again. Take 400 lines.





    Simpn - Just checked out my copy of If..., which was taped off-air about 20 years ago. The final frame is "if". The titles are extremely wonky at the begiining and end. Probably due to the budgetary constraints.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Country: England seeall's Avatar
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    Miles, sed pro patria



    Soldier, but for fatherland - (country, homeland)

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