Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com
When we last left the hallowed (and reckless) school of St. Trinian's, it was still on the move. Foiling a train robbery and keeping most of the riches while properly making a mockery out of the new Labour Minister of Education was one dedicated act of mad transgression.
In the fourteen years between the movies, however, much has changed. The girls of St. Trinian's, once a power hungry rabble of anarchical glee, have quickly evolved into a united front as, um, a power hungry rabble. Whereas in the previous installments the girls had competed against each other or teamed up as the situation arose (and plot line faltered), here we find a uncannily united school, dedicated to bringing down the British educational system all in the name of longer vacations and cheaper snacks.
This round has the girls forming a labor union to unite the schools and strike until their demands are met. Like how the previous chapter was a riff on Britain's own 'Great Train Robbery', this one satirizes Britain's Labor Union movement during the 1970's.
Well, 'satirizes' is a strong word. But there are jokes about labor unions in here, so it's the closest I've got.
To do a political reading of the entire St. Trinian's series would be a mess; the girls are rival factions cooperating only when necessary, but openly hostile at other times. Most of the students come from crooks, liars, thieves, and gullible rich men. Their headmistresses range from those who encourage and promote their freedom to those who just kind of ignore it in fits of madness. The Ministry of Education/Schools (it changes between movies) is exasperated and useless against the institution, the police force often sends it's own people in just to get killed as the police force needs a good cover to do so, and the army is completely emasculated by the school, as it's general-- going in to taunt the girls during their retreat two movies ago-- enters the school boldly and exits in a dress, ordering his soldiers not to ask about it.
And if, after reading all of that, you say 'Hey, St. Trinian's is kind of like real life politics!', fuck you, only in horrible generalizations.
Truthfully, the best I can figure is that the movie is played off as light comedy while most of the films seem to speak to just how horrifying liberated women can be and are. These girls have spent the last four films as mobs of mad representations of femininity either purged or weaponized, only tentatively controlled by Flash Harry whenever he was around. Harry has never shown an interest in the girls in any regards other than either the paternal or commoditization perspective, but he often gives the group advice or plot points that are always heeded.
How does Harry fit into this 'fear of women' theme that I've been expounding? Well, he represents the patriarchy's only hope of controlling these women; as he's the only one with the power over these women because of his devious and more cunning nature. Men must be willing to exploit and demean women if they want any success in controlling them.
For an example, let's take a look at The Wildcats of St. Trinian's. (Woo hoo, full circle!)
The plot for Wildcats does have the girls forming their own union as I described above, and they realize to do this (with Harry's help) that they must infiltrate the other schools in Britain; you can't just have a few schools go on strike, or no one will listen.
Strangely, this is the first of the Trinian's films to seem to involve the girls as both the individuals and catalysts for the films. Some of the girls even have names this go around, though they're all patently forgettable since Harry seems to still be controlling the girls with his trademark sleaze.
Speaking of, since this film was made in the far more permissive 1980, there's actually some mild nudity in it from some shapely Sixth Forms. Also, since it's 1980, there is some disco. The latter is more notable than the former.
In all of it, with the ministry, administration, and nation captivated and shocked by the girls' rampant vulgarity; I suppose if there's one defining trait of these films other than the complete fear of women, it would be that they are very British. Stuffy, crusty, classically British. To a fault.
This movie is boring, dull, dumb, and barely registers as any different than the previous entries in this awful unfunny series. This is the last one I'm watching-- there are two more, though those are barely half a decade old and currently unavailable to me-- but this is a film series founded on a vaguely humorous idea that squandered that in the first thirty minutes of the first film.
Four films later and it's terrible. Terrible terrible terrible.
This film is currently available on VHS.
Directed by Frank Launder
Starring Joe Melia