MovieChat Forums > Britannia Hospital (1982) Discussion > One of the worst British Black Comedies ...

One of the worst British Black Comedies of all time

I saw this film at the cinema with my boyfriend way back in the 1980s. With a good quality cast I found this film very offensive. I am not a Malcolm Mcdowall fan as everything he does seems to be very weird. This was a very weird film and nothing like the comedy which was around at the time. I am sure there will be others who disagree out there so I am very happy to read their views.

The best films are made in an intelligent format.


On the contrary, I find Britannia Hospital to be a superior British (or any, for that matter) black comedy. It would be fair to say the satire is broad, even to the point of being hamfisted, but I don't think that's automatically detrimental, and besides, you haven't really spelled out any specific complaints.

Things I love about the film include:

1. It pulls no punches. Having set up in the first exchange that the film will be extending behavior to logical extremes, it never once deviates from that premise. Everyone in the film behaves as his specific priorities demand, without remorse and whatever the cost. This is not the only way to effectively satirize a subject, but it remains one of the most brutal (if blunt).

2. The ultimate madman is ultimately the sanest in an insane world. Again, within the framework of a story of extremities, the Dr. Frankenstein stand-in's final speech is an elegant reversal wherein his seeming megalomania becomes an almost humble servitude to racial progress. Let's not also fail to note that his dire predictions about the future of the planet and humankind are all true. (Also, and as an aside, I've always been an admirer of Peter Finch, and there are moments in this speech where I'm convinced the actor is doing his impression of Finch, of which I approve.)

3. It's hilarious. Although the humor is frequently bleak to the brink of despair, in my estimation it never goes over the edge (this is of course subjective). But then, I've always liked films (and plays) that make one wince after the laughter dies down.

It's always been popular to hold that Britannia Hospital pales meekly in comparison to its predecessors, but I don't think that's true. Though I may personally prefer If...., somewhat, and think that BH is perhaps the bluntest of the trilogy, I don't think that If.... and O, Lucky Man *vastly* exceed it: only somewhat. And that's like being a little worse than Citizen Kane.


I just saw it and didn't like it at all. I never thought there could be such thing as 'dull surrealism', and this movie proves me wrong. Overall, 'O Lucky Man' is the superior movie in the trilogy, followed by 'If'. This is just a mess. I wish there was black humor in it, but I didn't see any. All I saw was what appears to be writer's block.


"Let's not also fail to note that his dire predictions about the future of the planet and humankind are all true."

No, they're not. Maybe in general, but listen to the timeframe he gives. According to his predictions, the earth should be more or less dead by now. It may be struggling, but it's not dead yet.


This film is genius & could never have been made in America.