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John Cleese is considered to be one of Britain’s finest actors. Involved with classic TV comedies such as ‘Fawlty Towers’ and ‘Monty Python’, his movie career has been somewhat varied. Obviously he starred in such classics like the Monty Python series and ‘A Fish Called Wanda’, but he also been involved in awful films like the recent comedy ‘Rat Race’. Clockwise is a movie which I last saw over ten years ago. In fact I was quite surprised to learn while reviewing this movie that it is now over fifteen years old. Read on to see whether this is one of Cleese’s classics or turkeys!

Clockwise is based around everyone’s worst nightmare. Ever had a day when everything goes wrong? Well think of your worst day ever and you still won’t come close to the disaster that headmaster, Brian Stimpson (John Cleese) faced. Stimpson is the headmaster of a local comprehensive school in the UK. He is obsessed with the punctuality of his students and staff. His strict rules (9.20 execution for any wrongdoers) mean that the school’s image has improved vastly. The improvements are noticed by the local authorities and Stimpson is elected chairman of the next Headmasters' Conference. Proud of the fact that he is the first chairman from a comprehensive school, and that he will have the opportunity to make a speech to headmasters of all the great public schools, he starts organising his big day.

The day arrives and Stimpson sets off to Norwich for the conference. His planned train journey goes horribly wrong when a misunderstanding at the station means that he misses his train, having managed to leave his copy of the speech on a train headed for Plymouth! From this point everything goes wrong for him. Desperate to get to the conference on time, he tries to contact his wife. She is a volunteer at the local old hospital and takes elderly ladies out for drives in the country. For this reason she is uncontactable. (These were of course the days before mobile phones). Stimpson finds a life-line in the form of Laura (Sharon Maiden). Laura is one of Stimpson’s sixth form pupils, and stumbles across her headmaster while mitching from school.

Things go from bad to worse for Stimpson when his wife catches him with Laura. Having believed that her husband is on the train to Norwich, she instantly presumes that Stimpson is having an affair. I am aware that I have probably given away a lot of the storyline already so I am not going to go into any more details. The film turns into a chase in the countryside with various mishaps occurring along the way.

Fans of John Cleese will find enough funny moments in Clockwise to keep them happy. The character of Stimpson is very similar to that of Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers. He is clumsy and sarcastic, and trouble seems to follow him everywhere. Cleese, as would be expected, fits into the role with ease. With John Cleese you expect lots of outbursts, sly remarks, and the character he plays in this film has lots of those moments.

The humour provided with Clockwise is very much hit or miss. For example, my wife is a huge fan of the film. She has watched it many a time, and still laughs (sometimes even before a scene actually happens) out loud throughout the movie. There are some extremely amusing moments in the film like the scene where Cleese gets mistaken for a vandal. There are lots of funny scenes like this during the film, but there are also some cringeworthy moments as well. For me the ending to the movie is a huge disappointment. It is meant to be funny, but sadly compared to the rest of the film it lacking on the laughter scales! I am a firm believer of films ending with their best moments, so the audience leave watching the movie on a high. Unfortunately, Clockwise ends with a dull finale, which is a shame as the rest of the movie is quite amusing.

If you have a strong dislike for John Cleese or movies where everything goes wrong, then you will probably hate Clockwise.  Personally I found it to be a timeless comedy which has its funny moments. Lots of comedies these days concentrate on tacky sex scenes, so it is nice to watch a movie which has genuinely funny sketches which the whole family can watch.    

Clockwise is presented with an Anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer. Before I sat down to watch this movie I had visions of it being a poor transfer. I am glad to report that even fifteen years on Clockwise looks probably as good as ever on DVD. Credit must go to Warner for this transfer. It is not up to recent blockbuster releases but the picture is clear and crisp. Colours are quite dull but I think that is more down to the type of film that was used to make the movie in the 80’s. There was no sign of edge enhancement but at certain points in the movie the level of graininess is quite high. Flesh tones seem to be accurate and I noticed no obvious signs of artefacting.

The audio for this disc is pretty basic to say the least.  Most releases these days receive Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks even if they are dialogue driven. However, with Clockwise we are lumbered with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track. The dialogue is reasonably clear and crisp throughout and musical moments also come through well. It would have been nice to have a full surround track but overall the audio that is included is adequate. What surprised me however is that there are no subtitles included with this release.

Sadly the extras are non-existent on this release. All we have to look at is a theatrical trailer. The trailer has a running time of just over one minute. It is your typical 80’s trailer with dodgy music and a haunting voiceover. It is probably one of the poorest trailers I have seen in a long time for a couple of reasons. Firstly it shows too many of the funny scenes, and gives away the lot of the story. This is usual for a trailer, but this one goes too far! Also the trailer has some awful music playing in the background which would have put me off seeing the movie. If you buy this release, the trailer is definitely something to have a look at after you’ve seen the film, if only to remind yourself that the advertising of films in this way has become dramatically more commercial in recent years!

Clockwise is one of John Cleese’s better movies. It is has some very funny moments and is a prime example of British comedy at its best. It is a light-hearted comedy which all the family can enjoy. The transfer is actually much better than expected and the sound provided is adequate. Extras are kept to the absolute minimum, but with a retail price of £12.99 you can see why. Warner has tried to keep the price down and release a reasonable version of the movie. The region one version of Clockwise contains an interview with John Cleese, but apart from that it is identical. For the price, this region two version is a good purchase.