Starring: Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Janette Scott
Director: Robert Hamer
Running Time: 94 mins
Schools For Scoundrels is a British film about a man down on his luck in life and love who visits the school of lifesmanship, where he learns the keys to stop being a loser, and start being a winner.
Although at its heart a light-hearted and ultimately positive comedy, there’s something that I just really didn’t like about School For Scoundrels. Apart from the fact that it isn’t all that funny, for the majority of its duration the film tells a dispiritingly manipulative and mean-spirited tale that’s often quite unpleasant to stomach.
Basically, the story follows a nervous but kind-hearted man who learns the tricks to getting one up on everyone around him, so he can have the life he wants and the woman he loves. As nice as that is, the tactics are almost entirely selfish and manipulative, and the entire film plays out as an irritating display of what happens when you’re either on the receiving end or giving it out.
So, for what should be both an enjoyable comedy and a potentially sweet tale of self-discovery and growth, School For Scoundrels is a really misguided film, and never provides the entertainment that its story really merits.
Despite fairly entertaining performances from Ian Carmichael and the ever-charismatic Terry-Thomas, the film never fosters much character intrigue, and you never develop a strong sympathy for Carmichael in the lead role as he’s beaten down again and again. Equally, when he begins to turn things around, it doesn’t feel particularly fun to support him given the rather mean-spirited nature of the methods he’s taught to use.
Ultimately, the film does show its true heart, and of course has a sensible side that doesn’t profess that manipulation is the key to happiness. However, it’s a ‘twist’ that’s far too little too late, and is less of a clever surprise in the finish, but more of a necessary reminder of morality that – if it weren’t there – would leave the film as a deeply depressing watch.
As a result, there isn’t much about School For Scoundrels that I enjoyed. It may have a degree of charisma and macho humour here and there, but it’s a frustratingly mean-spirited watch for the majority of its duration, proving morally unpleasant and equally unfunny throughout, so that’s why I’m giving it a 5.8.