Wildcats? More like Mildcats
I enjoyed the first 3 "St. Trinian's" movies and whilst the fourth in 1966 didn't impress as much it wasn't terrible, sadly terrible is the only way you can describe "The Wildcats of St. Trinian's" which arrived 14 years later in 1980. Now considering when "The Wildcats of St. Trinian's" was made it is sort of clever that they came up with the girls forming a Union and rebelling, refusing to buckle under pressure from above, it's almost social commentary. But sadly everything which was good about those originals never manifests itself and instead we are left with weak caricatures and acting more suited to TV than a movie. And that is what "The Wildcats of St. Trinian's" ends up feeling like, an inferior 80s TV comedy than a movie.
The girls of "St. Trinian's" have had enough of all the work they are expected to do, despite not actually doing it and so under the guidance of Flash Harry (Joe Melia) decide to set up a union and go on Strike. And in order to make their cause work they kidnap a girl from a posh school and infiltrate it with one of their own. With new headmistress Olga Vandemeer (Sheila Hancock) trying to get to grips with things Hugo Culpepper Brown (Thorley Walters) from the Ministry of Schools gets drawn into the mess as they try to get the release of the kidnapped girl and bring an end to the strike by any means necessary.
As "The Wildcats of St. Trinian's" starts we get a rousing rendition of the St. Trinian's school song sung by school girls in the traditional school uniform and waving hockey sticks and for a split moment you think that it will be a movie similar to the originals. That moment doesn't last long as interweaved into this opening are scenes of Sixth Formers disco dancing in the shortest of skirts that they look no more than belts. It is terrible in fact it is worse than terrible and acts as a forewarning of the mixed bag of mistakes which follows.
Now the one reasonable thing about "The Wildcats of St. Trinian's" is the idea of having the junior girls deciding to form a union and go out on strike. It has those elements of the original movies about it as they plot and scheme, kidnap a student from a posh school and infiltrate it with one of their own. But sadly that is as good as it gets as after the idea is sewn and we have the girls out on strike it becomes incomprehensibly dull as we have the split storyline of the Ministry trying to get the release of the kidnapped girl whilst also quashing the student strike by any means necessary. It becomes so weak that you pretty much switch off to what is happening and only pay attention when a funny scene or a recognizable face crops up.
And sadly the funny scenes are short on the ground with some very weak pranks, science room explosions and a dash of nudity. It's all so very forced trying too hard to bring up to date the original humour and making a complete hash of it in doing so. It's almost a case that it either just had to try and be old fashioned or be modern but not a mix of the two as they don't work together. And in doing so it actually lacks the sexy naughtiness of the original movies and seems to be tacky in trying to be sexy with sixth formers posing for The Sun.
Things don't get any better when it comes to the characters and acting as there is not a single unforced performance in the whole thing. Sheila Hancock seems so ill at ease as new head mistress Olga Vandemeer and Joe Melia is so cheesy as Flash Harry that he makes you cringe when ever he features in a scene. And I could go on as Rodney Bewes, Julia McKenzie and Michael Horden all deliver unmemorable performances. The best it gets is the inspired casting of Maureen Lipman to play Miss Katy Higgs an undercover detective to infiltrate St. Trinian's and it is only inspired because it is almost a like for like take on what Joyce Grenfell did in the originals.
But what in many ways is worse is the acting of the various school girls as the assuredness which made these girls a force to be reckoned with in the originals is missing. It just feels like they were be prompted through out the entire movie both with their lines and what to do making it feel very awkward. And as for the sixth formers well they seem to have been picked because they either looked sexy or didn't mind being stuck in bikini's for most of the movie.
What this all boils down to is that "The Wildcats of St. Trinian's" whilst having a reasonable idea ends up making a complete hash of things and ends up the worst movie in the "St. Trinian's" series. It's a case that everything about it is forced from the humour to the acting and the weak characters don't help either. In fact it is one of those movies which is so poor that unless you are a fan of the "St. Trinian's" movies the temptation to walk away is seriously strong.