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Clockwise (1986, John Cleese, Alison Steadman)



In comedy Clockwise Brian Stimpson (John Cleese) is a state school headmaster with an obsession for timekeeping who is invited to give the keynote speech at a conference in Norwich. Yet his miraculous plans soon go awry when he is misdirected to the wrong train while his speech rapidly departs on another. In an effort to arrive on time and save his reputation he flags down a passing car being driven by one of his sixth-form pupils (Sharon Maiden). Their travels through Midlands Britain in a desperate attempt to make the conference are both funny and touching, particularly when Stimpson meets up with old flame Pat Garden (Penelope Wilton), in spite of Stimpson’s growing sense of desperation and hysteria. Eventually, when a bedraggled Stimpson finally takes to the rostrum to deliver his speech to headmasters from Eton, Stowe and Harrow, it is with a very different mindset.

Cleese carries the film, drawing on many of his Python and Basil Fawlty-inspired characteristics, but Wilton and Maiden add weight to the humour – Maiden in particular, as she turns from nervous pupil to the stronger of the two in the relationship, determined to get her headmaster to the conference on time. A very British script from Michael Frayn plays to the strengths of Cleese in the lead role making this a painfully, and thoroughly enjoyable comic romp.

production details
UK | 96 minutes | 1986
Director: Christopher Morahan
Script: Michael Frayn,

Joan Hickson as Mrs. Trellis
Alison Steadman as Gwenda Stimpson
Penelope Wilton as Pat
Geoffrey Palmer as Headmaster
Benjamin Whitrow as Headmaster
Patrick Godfrey as Headmaster
John Cleese as Brian Stimpson
Sharon Maiden as Laura
Penny Leatherbarrow as Woman Teacher
Howard Lloyd-Lewis as Ted
Jonathan Bowater as Clint
Tony Haygarth as Ivan with the tractor
Nadia Sawalha as Mandy
Nicholas Le Prevost as Headmaster
John Rowe as Headmaster
Philip Voss as Headmaster
Michael Aldridge as Prior