The Third Leader: Hell's belles

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The Independent Online

Screams of horror, squeals of joy, cries of real pain, an alarming, high-pitched hubbub: it can't be, but it is: the girls of St Trinian's are on their way back.

St Trinian's: Ronald Searle's fiendish creation, the antidote to any number of Enid Blyton and Angela Brazil brickish blue-eyed head girls called Joan or Peggy, turned into a gloriously raucous series of films in the 1950s, now to be remade with Rupert Everett in the Alastair Sim parts of Miss Millicent Fritton, the headmistress, and her rackety brother, Clarence.

Mr Everett promises us that the old place will be "sexed-up" to make it seem as shocking and "dangerous" today as it did then. Out go gymslips, suspenders, stink bombs, nobbled horses and dear old Joyce Grenfell blushing. In come, apparently, hoodies, drugs and prostitution. Oh, dear, as Miss Fritton was wont to say, usually before taking another slug, or bribe.

Searle drew the original cartoons after - and during - his time as a PoW of the Japanese; they were an escape into humour which contrived to be both innocent and black, not an easy trick. If I were employing Flash Harry, the school's visiting spiv, to place a wager, it would be on Nostalgia to win rather than Relevance each way.

Still, there are some promising scenarios: blackmailing the Education Secretary into recognising the popular Pole Dancing course as an A-level option; a spread betting coup on the league tables; extraordinary rendition for schools inspectors; cage hockey; Miss K Moss as head of chemistry; oh, and the arrival of a Far Eastern dictator's daughter could set off some interesting tests in the cellars.

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