It is one thing to make a movie no one can quite classify and another to make one nobody would bother trying to classify. "The Class of Miss MacMichael," now at area theaters, is more a case of calcification than classification anyway; the film updates "To Sir with Love," only this time it's "To Sir, with a Rock."
Judd Bernard based his screenplay, a true cretin's delight, on a Sandy Huston novel about maladjusted students at a mythical London school called Selkirk. From the very start of the film we don't know whether we're to take the maulings and fits of these unruly thugs as socially charged drama or as St. Trinianesque comedy, but since they are equally pointless and repulsive taken either way, it doesn't much matter.
Director Silvio Narizzano, whose reputation was made by "Georgy Girl" and then unmade by every other picture of his that followed it, is at several losses here. He cannot establish a coherent tone for the picture, he cannot keep up the pretense that the film is anything but a series of slapped-together scenes, and he is unable even to depict disorder convincingly.
Glenda Jackson, whose choice in movie roles remains befuddingly quixotic, plays the put-upon Miss MacMichael, who must deal not only with students who are louts and sluts but with a headmaster who is a childishly overdrawn bureaucratic fascist buffoon played by Oliver Reed, who looks like a tractor wearing glasses. The Reed character is supposed to embody boorish incompetence -- he refers to the hooligans as "kiddie-winkies" and tells one disadvantaged boy, "No wonder your mother is in the nut house" -- but Jackson's MacMichael is such an ineffectual stammering jitterbox that she fails to represent an alternative.
Narizzano apparently has a fondness, though no discernible affinity, for stories about beleaguered educators. His last film, the Canadian-produced "Why Shoot the Teacher?", starring the enigmatic Bud Cort, was no prize, but at least it had a gentle temperament and a streak of humane humor. The film was never released in the United States; would that the same could be said for "The Class of Miss MacMichael." The only fit place for it to be shown is at one of Idi Amin's dinner parties.