Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Belles on their toes

The Belles of St. Trinian's is based on a presumably beloved series of books by British cartoonist Ronald Searle. It is about an anarchistic English girlschool, whose evil little students commit mayhem, larceny and other vices.

The movie version features Alastair Sim as the headmistress (in drag) and her brother, a bookie. The plot revolves around a horse race: one of the girl's father is a sheik with a horse that is sure to win, and Sim (the bookie) has a horse running against him. It comes down to a battle between the vicious little girls in the fourth form backing the sheik's horse, and the sexier sixth form backing Sim's.

The fourth form have several advantages:
  • They are younger and more evil
  • The headmistress has bet the school funds on the sheik's horse
  • They have their own spiv: A shady character with a pencil thin moustache named Flashy 'Arry. He is their personal blackmarketeer, bookmaker and bootlegger (he sells the booze they make in chemistry lab)
Flash 'Arry is pretty much my favorite character after the two Sim roles. He is delightfully shifty, with his hands in his overcoat pockets, scrunched up shoulders and hat pulled low over his eyes. Just the kind of guy you'd expect to find supplying the illicit needs of 13-year-old girls.

Other than that, the film is a little flat. We don't get much definition on any of the girls, the disreputable teachers (even the Morticia-esque jailbird) or the undercover policewoman investigating the school (although she has a great loping stride as the games mistress). Maybe the film works better if you've read the books. Anyway, I felt a little left out, like there was a great joke being told, but I'm not getting the punchline.

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