UNMAN, WITTERING AND ZIGO(Hemmings/Mediarts, 1971)—Mystery. Director: John Mackenzie; Producers: Gareth Wigan, Stanley O'Toole (executive), and David Hemmings (executive); Script: Simon Raven, based on the play by Giles Cooper; Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth; Music: Michael J. Lewis; Cast: David Hemmings (John Ebony), Douglas Wilmer (Headmaster), Anthony Haygarth (Cary Farthingale), Carolyn Seymour (Silvie Ebony), Hamilton Dyce (Mr. Winstanley), Barbara Lott (Mrs. Winstanley), Donald Gee (Stretton), David Jackson (Clackworth), and Michael Kitchen (Bungabine).
This underrated British film is neither as ambitious nor as subversive as Lindsay Anderson's* If... (1968), released three years before Unman, Wittering and Zigo. However, it complements the theme of Anderson's film by highlighting the repressive and destructive aspects of elite British schools. When John Ebony joins the teaching staff of a private school for boys and is placed in charge of Lower 5B, he learns that his predecessor recently died when he fell from a cliff while walking at night. This death was not an accident, as Ebony learns while marking the roll call on his first day when his class informs him that they murdered their former teacher when he imposed detention on them on a Saturday afternoon. Ebony, slowly, discovers that the boys were telling the truth and when he tries to alert other people, such as his wife, Silvie, or the headmaster, they refuse to believe him.
Unman, Wittering and Zigo reverses traditional images of good and evil. Although Lord of the Flies (1963) and other films have explored this theme of murderous schoolchildren (see also the St. Trinian's films), there is something chilling in Unman, Wittering and Zigo when “innocent,” polite, fresh-faced schoolboys are shown to be the source of evil, where manners and “breeding” mask thoughts of rape and murder.
When the headmaster tells Ebony that his teaching contract will not be renewed, productivity in the class comes to a halt as Ebony, disgusted with his