Director Lindsay Anderson and screenwriter David Sherwin continue their story of Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell), who played the rebellious school boy in the 1969 film IF and the go-getter coffee salesman in the 1973 film O LUCKY MAN! In BRITANNIA HOSPITAL, Mick Travis is now an undercover investigative TV reporter in another allegorical story of the decline of the West. Set in a large, 500-year-old public hospital, BRITANNIA HOSPITAL is a dark, scatter-shot, Swiftian satire of the class conflicts in pre-Thatcher England. The hospital, staffed by megalomaniacal doctors, is in a state of near anarchy as its administration prepares for a visit from The Queen. Striking workers only allow “croakers”–patients near death–into the hospital, the kitchen staff refuses to prepare food until union leaders are bought off with promises of O.B.E.’s, and the head surgeon (Graham Crowden) conducts, with public funds, expensive, deranged experiments, like inventing a modern Dr. Frankenstein, while poor patients are deprived of basic services. On the day of the Royal visit, busloads of protesters arrive, and after a battle with riot police, attempt to prevent the Royal ceremony.
Working in a less apocalyptic and surreal style than the style of O LUCKY MAN!, but still more fantastic than the American comedy THE HOSPITAL, Anderson and Sherwin try to anchor this extremely black comedy to a somewhat realistic setting while still aiming at nothing less than a comic indictment of all the ills of Western culture.