theatrical release poster by Tom Jung
|Directed by||Christopher Morahan|
|Produced by||Michael Codron|
|Written by||Michael Frayn|
|Music by||George Fenton|
|Edited by||Peter Boyle|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|March 1986 (UK)|
October 10, 1986 (USA)
For his performance Cleese won the 1987 Peter Sellers Award For Comedy at the Evening Standard British Film Awards. Most urban scenes were shot in the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, while rural scenes were largely shot in Shropshire.
Brian Stimpson (Cleese), headmaster of Thomas Tompion Comprehensive School, has been elected to chair the annual Headmasters' Conference meeting at the fictional University of Norwich. Extremely disorganised as a young man, Stimpson is now obsessively organised and punctual, and his school runs "like clockwork". He is the first headmaster of a comprehensive school to chair the Headmasters' Conference, that honour usually being reserved for heads of the more elite public schools.
Despite repetitive rehearsal of his speech and preparations for the journey to the conference, Stimpson's ordered world unwinds as a series of misadventures plague him en route. He mistakenly boards the wrong train, missing his connection for Norwich, owing to a lingering habit of saying "right" as emphasis in situations where it would be mistaken for a direction; then, in his desperation to board the departing correct train, he leaves the text of his speech behind on the wrong one, and is finally left at the railway station by his wife, who thinks he departed on the train.
Frantic to get to Norwich on time, Stimpson searches for his wife at home and then at the hospital where she volunteers looking after dementia patients, but narrowly misses her. Attempting to hail a taxi, Stimpson stumbles across Laura, one of his sixth form students (grades 11-12 in some countries, ages 16-18) who is driving truant during a study break; he commandeers her and her car in a bid to drive to Norwich. Stimpson's wife sees the duo at a petrol station and assumes the worst, suspecting that her husband is carrying on with the student and taking her down to attend the conference. Mrs. Stimpson (who is still looking after three senile old women) drives after Stimpson and both parties forget to pay for their petrol. The police are called and, responding to a call from Laura's parents (reporting the car as stolen and their daughter as missing) as well, attempt to find Stimpson and arrest him for kidnapping. Stimpson's wife, Laura's parents, the police and Mr. Jolly, a music teacher at Thomas Tompion who has secretly been dating Laura, all pursue Stimpson and Laura to the conference.
En route, Stimpson and Laura try to call the conference from a telephone box. A local mistakes them for vandals after Stimpson vents his rage at the malfunctioning phones, and calls the police. The local sends her daughter Pat to Stimpson, but she turns out to be a childhood friend and former girlfriend of Stimpson. Stimpson coerces her into driving them to the conference.
After a series of wrong turns, the group desperately turn into a farm field in order to escape cows and a lorry, and shortly after get stuck in deep mud. Brian leaves the stuck car to seek help, and ends up at a monastery where he is persuaded to take a bath and collect himself. While he's gone, a local farmer tugs the car out of the mud; Pat finally drives away in the car but is soon arrested for assaulting a police officer. All the while, Stimpson's wife and the others arrive at the conference uninvited, much to the annoyance of the headmasters; they attempt to sequester the growing group of concerned parents, wives, senile ladies and police officers as the conference continues.
Stranded without transport, Laura and Stimpson (who is dressed in monks' robes, leaving his muddy suit with the monks) attempt to hitchhike. They are picked up by a wealthy car salesman, whom they persuade to come for a walk in the woods. They trick the traveller into swapping clothes with Stimpson under the ruse of naughty fun, but Stimpson and Laura run away and steal his car.
Stimpson finally arrives at the conference in the torn suit of the car salesman and delivers an improvised recount of his lost speech, which becomes increasingly strident and imperious in tone to the shocked headmasters. During his speech various characters including the old women, Mr. Jolly and Laura's parents walk into the hall, and Stimpson addresses them like he would late pupils, commanding and shaming the entire collected group with the same strict demeanour with which he runs his own school. Finally, he directs all of the headmasters to stand and sing the hymn "To Be a Pilgrim", as he walks out of the building to face the police. The headmasters rush like excited children to watch as Stimpson, his wife, Laura and her parents, Mr. Jolly and the senile old women are all lead away by policemen, with Stimpson still giving headmasterly orders to all the officers in the car.
- John Cleese as Brian Stimpson
- Penelope Wilton as Pat
- Alison Steadman as Gwenda Stimpson
- Stephen Moore as Mr. Jolly
- Sharon Maiden as Laura Wisely
- Benjamin Whitrow as Headmaster
- Geoffrey Palmer as Headmaster
- Peter Cellier as Headmaster
- Nicholas Le Provost as Headmaster
- Joan Hickson as Mrs. Trellis
- Pat Keen as Mrs Wisely
- Constance Chapman as Mrs. Wheel
- Ann Way as Mrs. Way
- Tony Haygarth as Ivan with the tractor
- John Bardon as ticket collector
- Michael Aldridge as Prior
- Sheila Keith as Pat's mother
- Mark Burdis as Glen Scully
- Nadia Sawalha as Mandy Kostakis
- Richard Ridings as Policeman at crash
- Alan Parnaby as Policeman at phone box
The film was an original script by Michael Frayn, then better known as a novelist and playwright. Frayn wrote it on "spec". He said, "I had always wanted to write something about a man who is late because I have considerable problems in relation to that myself, and only get places early by enormous expenditure of psychic energy."
He showed it to theatrical producer Michael Codron, who had produced five Frayn works on stage including the hugely successful Benefactors and Noises Off, and asked if Codron would like to produce it. "I said, 'Why not?'" said the producer. "I've always been interested in movies."
Codron showed the script to Nat Cohen at EMI Films who gave it to the company's head of production Verity Lambert and she agreed to finance. The title was originally Man of the Moment but this was changed when it was realised that had been used for a Norman Wisdom film.
John Cleese was signed to star. "No one will believe it but I didn't have an idea for casting," said Frayn.
Cleese later said the script was "the best I've ever seen. The same day it landed on my front door, I rang my agent and said, 'I have to do this.' "
"Stimpson is a victim of circumstance," Cleese said. "As the pressures increase, his behavior becomes more and more erratic. Comedy is about things always going wrong, and that's just what happens to him. When you first see him, he's in charge. But as events take over and he can't cope-that's when he falls apart." 
Codron, Cleese and Lambert had a meeting to decide the director. They selected Chris Morahan, who had directed Frayn's Chekov adaptation Wild Honey on stage and had recently directed Jewel in the Crown for TV. 
Filming took eight weeks in June and July 1985 in Hull, Shropshire and Birmingham.
Cleese later recalled a scene, "there was a scene where I had to make a call from a public phone booth. None of the phones worked and I had to go from booth to booth with increasing fury before I found one that did. In England, that scene got a big laugh because no one here expects the phones to work. But it played to total silence in America, where they all expect to get through on a phone the first time."
- Hullabaloo: They are calling Hull's first film festival the Cannes of the North The Guardian 13 June 1985: 11
- "Clockwise (1986) - Box Office Mojo". www.boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- Clockwise Locations' at Gloucestershire On Screen
- Three of the best: David Newpart on three big theatrical names going into films Newport, David. The Guardian 1 Aug 1985: 11.
- JOHN CLEESE WANTS OUT OF THE ART HOUSES Honeycutt, Kirk; Los Angeles. Philadelphia Daily News1 Nov 1986: 21.
- ENTER STIMPSON Hall, William. Los Angeles Times 23 Feb 1986: 21.
- PYTHON'S CLEESE STARS AS A SALESMAN FOR `WANDA'Lewin, David. Los Angeles Times 25 Oct 1987: 27.
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