The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s (1960)

“This is the final outrage. A soliloquy to striptease. What would the Bard have said?”

The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s is the third St Trinian’s film in the series of four, and out of the four films, this one and the first film, The Belles of St Trinian’s are my two favourites.pure hell

For those of you who don’t know, St Trinian’s is a notorious British boarding school for girls, and its pupils are out-of-control deliquents and hellraisers who run amok–much to the alarm of local residents, the police department and the Ministry of Education. The cartoonist Ronald Searle was the original creator of the idea, and four films were made based on his cartoons. Admittedly, there have been a couple of newer films to cash in on the St Trinian’s claim to shame, but since I’m not interested in them, they are not included here.

 St Trinian’s has an evil reputation, and both the Ministry of Education and the local police department long for the closure of the school, and in the beginning of the film, it does indeed look as though St Trinian’s days are finally numbered.

In The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s the girls are accused of setting fire to the school, and in an attempt to close St Trinian’s forever, the prosecuting counsel puts the entire school on trial–over 200 girls spill over the docks at the Old Bailey. With witnesses such as Lolita Chatterley Peyton Place Brighton and the rat who proposes to reveal the identities of the guilty girls for “knicker and a safe passage to Ostend,” the trial rapidly degenerates into a lot of rotten tomato throwing and several passes made at the judge.

Just as the judge is about to announce the sentence, a rather rum figure who calls himself ‘Professor Canford’ (Cecil Parker) proposes an “unorthodox approach” to punishment, and soon Canford and his potty headmistress–Miss Harker-Parker (played by the adorably cuddly Irene Handl) are given custody of the girls. Harker-Parker, by the way is the only one “who can produce a certificate to prove” her sanity. Canford plans to take the sixth form girls out of the country on a cruise to Greece, and to impress the Ministry he hosts a St Trinian’s Culture festival–and this includes such events as a paint battle, a fashion show that consists of tattily dressed urchins parading around, and then the “final outrage,” a version of Hamlet–complete with a striptease.

Canford leaves for Greece with the sixth form, and Policewoman Ruby Gates (Joyce Grenfell) succumbs to pressure from her fiance of 14 years–Sgt Sammy– to stow away on the ship packrat fashion–along with her recorder–and report back on the actions of the somewhat fishy Canford.

Soon “Operation Gymslip” is launched after the entire sixth form disappears. The British government decides the kidnapped sixth form must be saved as “after all, they are British,” but to avoid an international incident, the operation is secret. A mobile bath unit of the British Army (awaiting supplies of gin) is activated, and 2 school inspectors are dispatched with edible instructions. Serious help is on the way as the rest of the vicious St Trinians mob dash to the rescue.

This is yet another wonderful addition to the St Trinian’s series. Old favourites are here–the liftman from the Ministry of Education, George Cole as Flash Harry (and we see his tattoo in this film) has a much bigger role, and the 2 school inspectors, Culpepper-Brown and Butters return, and of course, the forever engaged “local copper’s moll” Ruby Gates (Joyce Grenfell) is back in a much-expanded role as the lovelorn, long-suffering policewoman, Ruby Gates.. Newcomers in this film include Cecil Parker and Irene Handl, but also Dennis Price as the marvelously snobby MP, Gore Blackwood, and Sid James–a truly great comedian–has a small role as Alphonse O’Reilly. One of the funniest sub-plots in the film shows the vicious hierarchy within the Ministry of Education, but even this hierarchy crumbles before The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s. From director Frank Launder and written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder.

Some quotes:

“You’ve got hold of the dirty end of the stick there, gov.”

“Morals is not going out with boys after dark.”

“I will give you the grift for 200 knicker and a safe passage to Ostend.”

“The outbursts of hooliganism are really intolerable.”

“Stands to reason they couldn’t be anything other than round the bend.”

“Interpol will take care of you.”

“Bitterness does not become you, my dear.”

Where was your self-control?”

“There’s only one thing for it…mutiny.”

“Play for me, gyspy.”

“I understand you’re partly responsible for providing me with these hellcats.”

“Well instead of calling me Flash Harry, they’re going to call me Flesh Harry. What will my mum think?”

“Girls! Girls! It’s the fourth form!”

“After all the things you said in the back of the police car.”

“It’s getting rough out there.”

1 Comment

Filed under British, St Trinian's

One response to “The Pure Hell of St Trinian’s (1960)

  1. madoods

    I would love to have a copy of the music the stressed out ministers, soldiers etc dance to in Pure Hell at St Trinians. Does anyone know if it exists on record or in sheet music anywhere?

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