Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Belles of St. Trinians (1954)

So much has prevented me to keep up with my blogs: medical and technical issues. Alas, I shall endeavor to find a way to write about my movie treasures!

Have you heard of St. Trinians?

I stumbled upon this after watching the contemporary version with Colin Firth (oh I will blog about about that one...don't you worry). I was absolutely smitten with the movie so I did my usual digging around extras and imdb and realized that this was only a newest edition to a long standing series based off of cartoons! Well....I just had to dig deeper...

St. Trinians is a boarding school from hell as imagined by Ronald Searle (who just passed away in 2011). The cartoons involved very wicked boarding school girls in acts of murder, violence, and sheer mayhem. The teachers are just as wicked encouraging or improving such acts. The cartoons are awesome. Definitely check out the compiled version called "St Trinians: The Entire Appalling Business". The style reminds me of the covers of Roald Dahl's books: spindly and somehow creepy. I love it. 

There have been about 4 or 5 comedy films based off the cartoons. The contemporary version even has a sequel coming up with DAVID TENNANT!!!!! oh hell yeah I'm gonna watch it! So I have taken it to task to watch every single one of them leading up to the newer ones (hopefully the sequel would have been released in the US by then).

"The Belles of St. Trinians" was the first movie based off the cartoons. After watching the others, this has been the truest adaptation to the source material I have seen. The students are conniving, sneaky, violent, and immoral. The teachers are lazy, ex-convicts, and drunk.

An arabian princess (for some reason) arrives at St. Trinians. The girls soon learn that the princess's horse will be racing. After quickly learning the basics of betting and racing, it is estimated that the horse has a huge chance of winning the race. The younger class quickly work together to pool their sources to bet on the horse. The older girls, led by the headmistress's niece, come up with a counterplan to take the horse away and rig the race. Meanwhile, the headmistress is in huge financial debt. Not knowing of the students manipulations of the race, she also places her whole savings into the race. While all this is going on, the police send in an undercover female cop posing a teacher to ferret out details to bring the school down. 

 The students are played almost as if they stepped off from the comics. They have such adorable voices and faces but in one scene, they have a girls tied  up to a torture device as they elicit details from her. The older girls constantly use sexual appeal to seduce stable men to give up details on their horses. They're wearing garter belts underneath their uniforms. In chemistry class, they're distilling gin to be sold through their outside man, Flash.

Flash is the added character to the story (in the modern version, he's played by Russell Brand ::shudder:: ). He was some boy that grew up on the grounds and now just runs illegal errands for the girls. Flash really grew on me. At first, I couldn't understand a word he was saying. But then he just became this lovable helper that eventually saves the girls. The way he walks when he's summoned is so cute.

The other staple addition to the story is the headmistress and her twin brother.Both by the same man, Alastair Sim. This trend is so far continued in the contemporary version. I love the headmistress but I feel that her character is kind of at  odds with the school. She knows the wickedness of her students since she dodges their tricks but she still loves them. I would have expected an aloof and uncaring headmistress but Alistair Sims played her amazingly. So many times I forgot it was a man. The headmistress is a posh, "delicate" woman who has a very quick mind. On one hand, she tries to encourage the girls to have decorum but then she looks away when they knock out the referee and opposing team out cold during a game.

The annoying thing for me was the undercover cop. She does the job because her superior is her fiance and won't marry until St. Trinian's is closed up for good. I felt kinda bad for her but she was so damn annoying that I started to feel bad for the superior for being engaged to her. She was obvious in her snooping and she spent most of the movie getting knocked out. Hoorah.

As a first movie based on the series, it was a lot of fun to watch. My favorite part was when the "old girls" come in to rescue the school. You never seen their faces since they bunch up in a tight group holding tribal weapons. Then they go into all out battle mode. That was so much fun to watch!It does trod on a bit slow sometimes but it still grew on me. Maybe because I'm watching the newest ones first that I can't help but do fond comparisons. Either way, I was pretty happy with it.

Besides,  the whole idea of a boarding school where all hell just breaks loose is so freeing. I've never been to a boarding school but I've watched enough British movies to know that I would go insane in such a rigid structure. I would probably end up at St. Trinians.

I just found out what the school motto was: "In flagrante delicto". A legal term used in divorcei cases loosely meaning : getting caught while in the act of sex. Hell yeah.