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Film / St. Trinian's

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"We are the best,
So screw the rest.
We do as we damn well please.
Until the end,
St. Trinian's,
Defenders of Anarchy!"

St. Trinian's is a film series based on a series of cartoons by Ronald Searle (also known for molesworth and Dick Deadeye, or Duty Done). The setting is a disreputable girls' school, where the only rule is that there are no rules. The girls themselves are teen and pre-teen horrors who are not above using their feminine wiles to get away with murder. The teachers? They teach the girls how to get away with crime in foreign countries, and mixing drinks. The headmistress, Miss Fritton, has no interest in maintaining any form of order. And there is a local spiv, Flash Harry, who makes money from whatever schemes the girls cook up (usually). The series skilfully avoided any accusations of bad taste by limiting the girls to only two distinct types, the Lower 4th (who were the exclusive focus of Searle's cartoons) who were a group of feral little monsters who were barely human and the Upper 6th(added to Searle's original anarchic concept to give the films some sex appeal) who were (literally) uniformly hotties who were 20 if they were a day.

The original film series consists of:

  • The Belles of St. Trinian's (1954): The decrepit school is desperately in need of some money, so Miss Fritton (Alastair Sim) allows the girls to place bets on a horserace. Things quickly get out of hand when the classes place bets on rival horses.
  • Blue Murder at St. Trinian's (1957): Flash Harry (George Cole) sets up a marriage agency, resulting in a prince wanting to meet the girls. Problems arise when the jewel-thief father of one of the girls decides to hide out at the school.
  • The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's (1960): The girls, having been placed in care of a dubious shrink after they burn down the school, are kidnapped and forced to defend themselves against the sons of an Arabian Emir, who want them as their wives.
  • The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery (1966): The school find a new home in a mansion where robbers have hidden money.

In 1980, a revival was made, The Wildcats of St. Trinian's, which follows the girls as they go on strike by kidnapping a young oil heiress. Joe Melia took over as Flash Harry. The film was a critical and commercial failure.

In 2007, a new film was released, this time simply called St. Trinian's (St. Trinian's School for (Bad) Girls in DVD release), and starring an ensemble of well-known English talent. When the school is threatened with foreclosure by the bank and the ultra-conservative Minister of Education, the girls, faced with threats from all sides, decide to pull off the biggest heist ever concocted by a bunch of teenagers. This one features Russell Brand as Flash Harry, Rupert Everett as Miss Fritton, and Colin Firth as the Minister of Education, and thus avoids the Celebrity Paradox by making jokes about Another Country, Pride and Prejudice (1995) and Girl with a Pearl Earring. It's also notable for Firth and Everett performing "Love Is in the Air" over the end credits. Two years later followed a poorly-received (though not bad) sequel, St. Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold (featuring David Tennant as the villain).

Tropes that span the entire franchise:

  • Amazon Brigade: The field hockey team. In the older movies, it would be the fourth formers. Can be applied to pretty much the entire group when they get going.
    • One clear example is in the first film, when the Old Girls (former students) get in a scuffle against the sixth formers and an actual street gang... And not only the Old Girls win, the gangsters fall immediately, with the sixth formers being left to hold the line.
  • Badass Creed: "At other schools, they send young girls unprepared into a cold merciless world. But here at St. Trinian's, it is the merciless world which must be prepared."
    • The theme song for the 2007 and 2009 films (quoted at the top of this page) is heavily implied to be, at least in part, a school song. Students can be heard chanting part of it before the hockey game in the first movie ("Feel the fear; we're maniacs.") and quietly singing the chorus before going into battle in the sequel.
    • There is also a line from the school song from the older films: Let our motto be broadcast: "Get your blow in first!" She who draws the sword last always comes off worst!
  • Berserk Button: Don't mess with any of the girls. If you do, the rest of the school will pay you their full attention.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: In an oddly comic way. The girls are criminal Karma Houdinis who should be in juvenile detention at the very least. In spite of this they are usually not as bad as their enemies, and they are loyal to their friends and their school. Whatever they get up to is however usually very funny as well.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: As illustrated by Ronald Searle's wonderful comics.
  • Bullying the Dragon: At times people who should know better pick fights with St. Trinian's. Traumatization ensues.
    • Subverted with the Ministry of Education: yes, they continue picking fights with St. Trinian's, but it's literally their job to try and close it down, and they aren't stupid enough to use heavy handed methods that would elicit a violent response.
      • The new minister Geoffrey Thwaites in the 2007 movie does use relatively heavy-handed methods... But only because they worked when he reformed the prison system, and had the sense of bringing with him journalists to expose how bad the place is and have the support to reform it.
  • Catholic Schoolgirls Rule: St. Trinian's isn't Catholic but the trope still applies to the some of the senior girls ("St. Trinian's Girl" is the British name for this trope, and the 2007 movie provides the trope image - helps the vast majority of the cast invokedwere in their 20s).).
  • Corrupt the Cutie: The school has an unsettling ability to turn normal new students from other schools into proper St. Trinian's girls:
    • When she arrives in the original movie, Princess Fatima is just a nice high class girl. Halfway in the movie she's helping the other Fourth Formers betting on horse racing by virtue of knowing the horses better than them.
    • Angela Hall from the 1980 movie is the most notable, as she had been kidnapped from her actual school, and by the time she's rescued a few days later she has already taken in the attitude and demands to be returned to St. Trinian's.
    • In the 2007 reboot, Annabelle, formerly of the very posh Cheltenham Ladies' College, gradually comes to identify with the various young offenders attending the school, culminating in a makeover scene where she comes out looking sexy. It helps that during the hockey game with her previous school the Head Girl personally mauled her old bully.
      • Something similar happens with Miss Dickinson, the idealistic new English teacher. When she discovers the extent of cheating at the quiz show, her immediate conclusion is that... Chelsea and the other posh totties are smarter than they think.
  • Custom Uniform of Sexy: In most English boarding schools, younger students are expected to abide by the dress code, whereas older students have a bit more liberty. In Real Life, this "liberty" usually amounts to older students ditching their ugly berets or hemming their skirts a tiny bit higher than regulation, but an old in-joke is that by the time a student reaches top form, they're barely wearing a uniform at all, and that the older the girl, the more figure-flattering her uniform becomes. Since St. Trinian's is already a wild exaggeration of schoolgirl stereotypes, the Trinian sixth-formers take this trope up to eleven, with uniforms verging on Stripperiffic.
  • The Dreaded: The people living around the school are terrified of the students. Best shown in The Belles of St. Trinian's, when the local reaction to the start of the new term is to barricade everything, with the local constable locking himself in a cell and calling his superintendent to announce "They're back", prompting said superintendent to go for the bottle.
  • Go Among Mad People: A staple of the movies is showing how normal people react to being thrown into the school. Usually, they wind up either becoming paranoid or joining in the craziness. In the 2007 film an official at the Ministry of Education is shown to still suffer twitches and tics because of his brief exposure to the school, while in the original Belles of St. Trinian's, two police inspectors who went missing while investigating the school are found to have gone native and acquired jobs there, and are now as corrupt as the rest of the staff.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Flash Harry
  • Inspired by…: St. Trinnean's School in Edinburgh, established by Miss C. Fraser Lee in 1922. St. Trinnean's was believed to operate on an extremely relaxed theory of educational freedom.note  After meeting his friend's daughters who couldn't wait to go back to St. Trinnean's, Ronald Searle tried to imagine a boarding school so exciting that girls would be eager to return to it, and could only guess that it must be one where the pupils were allowed to anything they pleased, up to and including criminal mayhem. In the process, he created a British institution.
  • Karma Houdini: The girls are guilty of everything from forgery to kidnapping, but never seem to get into any real trouble.
  • Little Miss Badass: The lower year girls.
  • Lovable Rogue: Flash Harry.
  • One-Gender School: St. Trinian's is an all girls school, and the majority of the staff are female.
    • The Bursar and the art teacher are male in the 2007 reboot.
  • Stocking Filler: The senior girls have a penchant for stockings and garter belts.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Comes up from time to time:
    • St. Trinian's may be an independent school, thus having less government supervision than a state-funded one, but the girls' antics are bad enough that the Ministry of Education is constantly trying to shut them down, coming really close to succeed in both The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's and The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery.
    • Being an independent school, St. Trinian's doesn't get state funds and instead depends on enrollment and uniform fees and donations from alumni... And with the students' antics including arson on uninsured buildings and other forms of damage they are often in financial troubles, risking to shut down from bankruptcy in the original film and the reboot and being out of a location at the start of The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery before the headmistress scams one out of the Minister for Education.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: In both the original film and the reboot. In The Belles of St. Trinian's, Millicent and Clarence Fritton were both played by Alastair Sim. In the reboot film, Camilla and Carnaby Fritton were both played by Rupert Everett.
  • Unflinching Walk: The unexpected explosion of the shack that formally initiates the surprise visit to St Trinian, while it causes a gaggle of journalist to crouch and jump in fear, doesn't seem to faze Thwaites whatsoever.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: Field hockey has never been so violent.
  • Villain Protagonist: The girls (it is St. Trinian's after all) are usually portrayed as organised criminals at best. On the other hand whoever their current enemy is is usually worse: bookmakers and the 6th form in the first film, kidnappers in the third, and a bunch of train robbers in the fourth. On the other hand the 6th Form in the The Belles and the entire school in Blue Murder at St. Trinian's are explicitly only acting to further their own plans. Flash usually falls into this niche as well.
  • Villain Song: If you do view the students as Villain Protagonists, the St. Trinian's Chant would be this. It fits pretty well in any case, with the girls revelling in the mayhem they cause. The school song from the original series also fits:
    Maidens of St Trinians, gird your armour on
    Grab the nearest weapon, never mind which one
    The battle's to the strongest, might is always right
    Trample on the weakest, glory in their plight!

    St. Trinian's, St. Trinian's, our battle cry!
    St. Trinian's, St. Trinian's, will never die!

    Stride towards your fortune, boldly on your way
    Never once forgetting there's one born every day
    Let our motto be broadcast, "Get your blow in first"
    She who draws her sword last always comes off worst!

The original series of St. Trinian's films (1954 - 1966) include the following tropes:

  • Armies Are Useless: The British Army shows up twice, and twice is humiliated:
  • Blackface: In the Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery Frankie Howerd's character gets a face full of soot, which he then uses to impersonate a Pakistani worker (with a dreadful accent) to evade capture.
  • The Caper:
    • The break-in at the Ministry in Blue Murder at St.Trinian's, where the girls break into the ministry, break through a ceiling, crack a safe and carry out their plan to substitute some test answers, to make sure they win a prize of a European tour so they can get to Italy and the VI form can meet their Italian suitors. They get away with it undetected even though they left a huge hole in the ceiling which, though papered over, is discovered in the morning.
    • The train robbers in The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery pull off the perfect heist, hide the millions and look set to get away with it, until it turns out they hid the loot in a house that's since been acquired as St. Trinian's new base of operations. They then plan another caper, hoping to get the money back.
  • Cross-Cast Role: Alastair Sim as the headmistress.
  • Early Instalment Weirdness: In The Belles of St. Trinian's, the girls are not a united group, but are instead acting at cross purposes. The 6th Form's actions also explicitly endanger the survival of the school, while later films have the 4th and 6th Forms form a united group and protecting the school is usually their main priority.
  • Enfant Terrible: A general rule of St. Trinian's is that the smaller the girl, the more vicious she tends to be.
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: Averted in Blue Murder at St. Trinian's: the girls have explicitly managed to steal a machine gun from the army.
  • Handcar Pursuit: One takes place at the climax of The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery.
  • Oh, Crap!: In Train Robbery, the mastermind behind the crime syndicate only appears to his subordinates as the unchanging image of an eye on a TV screen. Unchanging, that is, until they tell him that the school that's taken over the house where they hid the loot is St. Trinian's.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • The undercover policewoman Ruby, compared to the other teachers.
    • Oddly enough, Flash himself brief falls into this role during The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery, upon learning the girls plan to take the train robbery money for themselves, he exclaims they'll never get away with something like that. Subverted in that he goes along with the plan when one of the girls points out how much they have gotten away with before.
  • Pity the Kidnapper: In The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's the Sixth Formers are kidnapped with a ruse by an emir who wants them to marry his sons. Upon realizing the situation, the Sixth Formers barricade themselves in a wing of the emir's palace and beat up any servant who tries to actually enforce the emir's orders, no matter how many of them come at a time.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Captain Romney Carlton-Ricketts in Blue Murder at St Trinian's, played by Terry-Thomas.
  • Running Gag: In ''The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's, the silly pastoral dance to calm down... And the number of dancers increasing every time it shows up.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: At times the girls' antics run into this:
    • The first film starts with Arabella Fritton, the headmistress' niece, having been expelled from St. Trinian's for burning down a building. As tolerant as headmistress Fritton is, she has to draw the limit to burning down school buildings, especially uninsured ones, and the only reason Arabella is readmitted is that the school is desperate for money and her back fees will help with it.
    • Between the burned down school building and many students being overdue with the fees, the school starts the first film in massive debt and risking foreclosure, and the teachers haven't been paid since Easter.
    • When the Sixth Formers lock the Fourth Formers in their dorms and barricade themselves in the corridor, the teachers try and rescue the Fourth Formers... And are repelled, as they're outnumbered and their opponents are behind a barricade.
      • The second attempt, however, is successful: while the Sixth Formers have been reinforced by hooligans, the teachers are now backed by the Old Girls (the past students), that both Sixth Formers and hooligans are terrified of, mining their ability to resist. Their use of shields as cover only helps the storming.
    • A school with students such as St. Trinian's has a high teacher turnover rate: in the first movie the school lacks many teachers and is said to be constantly looking for new ones, at the start of Blue Murder at St. Trinian's the teachers have left after the students locked away Mrs. Fritton, and at the start of The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's there's no staff at all.
    • In the first movie police sergeant Ruby Gates infiltrates the school in disguise, and is found out only because Flash Harry looked in a letter she had sent to her superintendent. In Blue Murder she does it again... And Flash Harry immediately informs the Sixth and Fourth Formers of her real identity.
    • When St. Trinian's wins a UNESCO contest that will allow them to visit various European capitals (or rather cheat their way into it), the Ministry of Education is appalled, and writes to the new headmistress, Dame Maud Hackshaw, to have them retire - not knowing she's already been kidnapped by the students and replaced with a thief in drag. And when Dame Hackshaw escapes and quits the job they waste no time to send people to bring back St. Trinian's, as they need a headmistress for the tour (why the students were forcing the thief with them).
    • Given their reputation, St. Trinian's has serious trouble finding someone who will carry their students on the European tour.
    • By Blue Murder at St. Trinian's, sergeant Ruby Gates and superintendent Kemp-Bird have been engaged for years, with their professional relation and St. Trinian's coming between them and keeping them from tying the knot... And by now their relationship is suffering, with Gates almost leaving Kemp-Bird when someone else starts courting her.
      • Their issues continue in The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's, with Gates catching Kemp-Bird in an ambiguous attitude with a beatiful secretary. Later Kemp-Bird is quite happy when St. Trinian's isn't shut down for burning down their school building and thus has to postpone their wedding, and at the end he flat-out abandons her at the altar when told that St. Trinian's new school building is on fire.
    • At the start of The Pure Hell of St. Trinian's the students burn down the main school building, and at the trial they have an appalling attitude. They're quickly convicted with the Ministry of Education being ready to shut down the school once they're sentenced, and only get away with no real punishment due a combination of a Sixth Former seducing the judge and someone else proposing a rehabilitation program. Even then, they'll be under police supervision and have a year to prove themselves reformed or they'll be jailed.
    • When the Sixth Formers are kidnapped by an emir, the British Army sends in all available troops in the area to rescue them. As said troops are a mobile bath unit, they're captured themselves.
  • Walking in Rhythm: In the original films, Flash Harry had a "theme" which played while he sneaked in.

Alternative Title(s): The Belles Of St Trinians, Blue Murder At St Trinians, The Pure Hell Of St Trinians, The Great St Trinians Train Robbery, The Wildcasts Of St Trinians, The Wildcats Of St Trinians