Unman, Wittering, and Zigo (1971)

Unman, Wittering, and Zigo (1971)

“My form — lower 5B — say they murdered Mr. Pelham.”

When a new teacher (David Hemmings) at a British public school is told by his students that they killed his predecessor, he cannot get his headmaster (Douglas Wilmer) to take him seriously; soon he is intimidated into letting the boys run his classroom.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Boarding School
  • Bullies
  • “No One Believes Me!”
  • Play Adaptation
  • Psychological Horror
  • Teachers

This quietly frightening tale of mass intimidation represents every instructor’s worst nightmare: although the idealistic Hemmings wants nothing more than to be a teacher, he quickly finds himself bullied by his own students, who possess an eerie sense of entitlement. Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that the boys — who, for the most part, are presented en masse rather than as individuals — remain deferential on the surface (they never neglect to call Hemmings “sir”), yet confidently maintain the upper hand, never doubting that they will get their way. While some have argued that the story — based on Giles Cooper’s radio play-turned-television drama — is unsatisfying due to its lack of definitive resolution, I think it holds interest throughout, and remains intriguing viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • David Hemmings as the tormented new teacher
  • A creepy tale of psychological intimidation
  • The frightening scene in which Hemmings’ wife (nicely played by Carolyn Seymour) is nearly gang-raped by the boys

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.


One thought on “Unman, Wittering, and Zigo (1971)

  1. First viewing. Not a must – but full marks for trying!

    ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ meets ‘If….’–I believe Paramount distributed all three, and ‘U, W & Z’ was a coat-tail follower. There’s also a dash of ‘Village of the Damned’ (as noted, the ‘coven’ is pretty much “presented en masse”), as well as ‘Lord of the Flies’.

    Director Mackenzie makes the most of tricky material but, although it’s fairly compelling throughout, it is ultimately unsatisfying. Something is wanting here – a relatively implausible situation needs that extra push. I don’t share the opinion that the film lacks a “definitive resolution”. But I do find the ending odd.

    Best line is Seymour’s as she looks at the group of boys stripping: “Well, now that you’ve succeeded in exciting each other, which one of you ‘men’ is going to start?”

Leave a Reply