Blue Murder at St Trinian’s (1957)

 “This is a girls’ school. Men ain’t safe here.”

blue-murderBlue Murder at St Trinian’s is the second film in the extremely popular St Trinian’s series. St Trinian’s is an all-girls school that is the bane of the local police force, the dread of the townspeople, and the thorn in the side of everyone at the Ministry of Education. The St Trinian’s films echo the theme of the original cartoons created by Ronald Searle, and chronicle the madness and mayhem of the totally out-of-control girls’ school. While the prim and proper students of elite boarding schools learn such valuable social skills as deportment and dancing, the girls of St Trinian’s learn how to make explosives and bootleg gin. If you are interested in the St. Trinian’s films, and haven’t seen any yet, then I recommend beginning with The Belles of St Trinian’s and watching the films in the order they were made:

The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954)
Blue Murder at St Trinian’s (1957)
The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s (1960)
The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery (1966)

Blue Murder at St Trinian’s begins with Miss Fritton (Alastair Sim) in prison. Meanwhile, the school’s resident fixer–Flash Harry (George Cole) is in control. Flash Harry has a number of business interests with the school–illegal gin, bookmaker for the 200 plus pupils, and now he also runs the St Trinian’s marriage bureau. Compiling albums of sexy photos featuring shapely 6th form St Trinian’s girls, Flash Harry then treks the globe to meet wealthy clients and arrange meetings. These arranged marriages work well for the girls as the unsuspecting foreigners have no clue about St Trinian’s stinky reputation, and so wealthy European males imagine that they are marrying the cream of delicate British womanhood while in reality, the wealthy families of Europe are slowly being seeded with delinquents.

Flash Harry’s latest customer is a wealthy Arab prince. The prince, while poring over photos of the long-legged lovelies, cannot decide which flower of British maidenhood to select as his bride, so he convinces Flash to agree to bring the girls over so that he can see them in the flesh. But how to pay for the trip? Flash Harry has a brainstorm. There’s a UNESCO essay competition that will send the winning school on a goodwill tour of Europe with stops at Paris, Florence and Rome. It would be a perfect opportunity to get The Ministry of Education to finance the trip, but there’s just one drawback, there’s no way that St Trinian’s will ever win that competition fair and square. They’ll have to resort to other means….

Meanwhile, St Trinian’s is without a headmistress. It seems that Miss Fritton is inexplicably detained at a ‘resort,’ and so the Ministry of Education employs a Dame Maud Hackshaw–otherwise–known as ‘Kill ‘em or Cure ‘em Hackshaw’–to replace Miss Fritton. But battleaxe Dame Maud (Judith Furse), who runs a Borstal-type institution has to sail from Australia (no one in England is daft enough to take the job). In the meantime, a state of siege has taken place at St Trinian’s with troops surrounding the school to maintain some sort of order. The troops are supposed to hold the fort until the headmistress arrives, but “the fiends in human form” test even the British Army’s mettle.

Dame Maud may be a dragon, but even years of experience with the delinquents of Australia find her woefully unprepared for the Girls of St Trinian’s. Luckily, or unluckily depending on your perspective, one of the girl’s fathers, Joe Mangan (played by Lionel Jefferies), a notorious jewel thief, hides out in St Trinian’s, and he finds himself enlisted as the new headmistress. Soon Mangan is on his way to Europe in drag while Dame Hackshaw is suitably…errr…retired.

One thing about St Trinian’s films: you only ever see fourth form and sixth form St Trinian’s girls. The fourth form mirror the original image created by Searle, messy, disheveled beasties who use violence to achieve their ends–whereas the sixth form are leggy, shapely beauties who use their sexuality to get their way. But where is the fifth form–the in-between stage of transformation when the fourth begin to morph into the sixth? The fifth is glaringly absent. Wisely, the films absent the fifth form and leave that transformation to the imagination.

Many of the familiar characters from The Belles of St Trinian’s appear in this film–Ruby Gates (Joyce Grenfell) is still engaged to Sgt. Sammy, Miss Fritton (Alastair Sim) sadly makes only a very brief appearance, and Flash Harry (George Cole) is still the shiftless, much-loved spectre who haunts the school grounds. This film, however, also showcases Terry-Thomas as the fortune-hunting, slightly seedy, bankrupt Dreadnought bus company owner, Romney. Romney is somewhat daunted by the prospect of driving the girls across Europe, but since he’s faced Rommel and the “Japs in Burma,” Romney accepts the job. Terry-Thomas, who was stricken later with Parkinson’s disease, is such a marvelous comedian, and this role is perfect for him. Romney sniffs that Ruby may be an heiress, and the scenes of Romney’s crafty romancing of poor Ruby Gates are priceless. The indomitable St Trinian’s school trip across Europe is hilarious, and their antics including hijacking a Mozart festival, the hospitalization of several dozen French schoolgirls, and the tour-de-force is the “liquid massacre” that takes place in Rome. I think the St Trinian’s Girls could give British football fans a run for their money.

From director Frank Launder, Blue Murder at St Trinian’s is written Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat.

Jolly Hockeysticks!!

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Filed under British, Comedy, St Trinian's

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