CLOCKWISE - DVD of the Week
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: Monty Python alum John Cleese hit it big as a solo act with ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ in 1988, but two years earlier he had his first solo starring role in this modest bit of fluff, which has been out of circulation for many years (released on VHS in 2006, it’s never been on disc in America). Thanks to Kino Lorber, it’s finally on DVD and Blu-ray in America (it was released on VHS in 2006 but this is its U.S. discs debut). My review was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 2, 1987.
Though it plays more like an extended television sitcom than a big-screen movie, “Clockwise” is actually a pleasant enough little comedy, one that should more than please fans of John Cleese.
Include me in that group.
While I enjoy the work of all six Monty Pythoners, collectively and individually, Cleese has always been a particular favorite. His TV series “Fawlty Towers” is, I think, one of the most hysterical ever produced.
John Cleese, on the right, dashes about for a late appointment in 'Clockwise' (1987)
But comedy is most difficult to assess in a review, since what makes me laugh might not make you laugh (as many readers who saw “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” of “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai” on my recommendation will tell you).
Particularly difficult is specialized comedy, and certainly this combination of wry British wit and slapstick, which is admittedly low-key, won’t please everyone.
But Cleese is one of my favorite comic actors, and some of his simplest gestures can have me rolling on the floor. So when, in “Clockwise,” he tangles with pay phones, “stolen” automobiles or silent monks, he has my full attention.
Cleese plays the headmaster of an ordinary public school who is taking upon himself the mantle of chairman of the Headmasters Conference, something usually reserved for headmasters of the more prestigious and expensive private schools. He is a meticulous man who lives by the clock and is most intolerant of tardiness.
Can you guess? Yes, Murphy’s Law is about to go to work.
Cleese is set to deliver the keynote address at the conference in Norwich, but after he boards a train to get there the inevitable domino effect begins to strike.
Through a series of circumstances, mostly not of his own making, he finds himself delayed and dismayed, dogged by a cruel fate and, more to the point, chased by policemen, pursued by the parents of a teenage girl he has innocently kidnapped, and in the company of an old flame he’d rather not meet again.
A film like “Clockwise,” which in some ways resembles those wonderful Alec Guinness comedies of the 1950s, desperately needs an actor who can express frustration and distress to expert comic effect, and surely Cleese is a master in that regard. Beneath all that pomposity he is, after all, merely one of us, a common man put-upon by the world.
Cleese makes the movie, and he makes it great fun.
“Clockwise” is rated PG for profanity and mild suggestiveness.