Writer David Sherwin began working on the concept a decade earlier, after he saw Rebel without a Cause -- this script was titled The Crusaders in its embryonic stage -- but if...'s eventual release in 1968 couldn't have been timed better. With French students taking to the streets in Paris and American students being beaten by police at Chicago's Democratic National Convention, critics were able to write Sunday newspaper "think" pieces about whether if... was inspiring, real-life events. The narrative -- a series of surrealistic "chapters" building up to the bloody climax -- flows entertainingly and often ingeniously, demonstrating at every turn the school's brutal, often sadistic traditions until the students' assault on the school at the film's seems eminently sensible. But as there are almost no sympathetic characters in if... (McDowell is likeable by default), you just can't get worked up by it like you can with agit-pop classics like The Battleship Potemkin or even Easy Rider. That's probably why if... was never a smash in the States, though the initial "X" rating didn't help (there may also have been just too many scenes set in school for the student to plunk their money down). Critics debated the significance of if...'s switching back and forth between black and white and color, but years later Anderson said he simply ran out of money one day and had to shoot whatever was left in the less expensive black and white. Palme d'Or Cannes Film Festival.
Adapted from VideoHound's WORLD CINEMA page 177