The school achieved notoriety with the site being used as the location for the 1985 film Clockwise starring John Cleese. Pupils from the school as well as Charlemont Junior School I believe served as extras with members of staff also prominently visible. The first 20 minutes of the film set in the fictional school of “Thomas Tompion”, (the English clock maker), features most of the blocks as the backdrop to the time obsessed comprehensive headmaster who prepares to travel to give a speech to the headmasters conference with disastrous results. The screenplay by Michael Frayn describes the settings and backdrop that Menzies would provide
The opening shot reveals Headteacher Brian Stimpson (Cleese), standing in the A block staff room- (used as his office in the film) attentively surveying all that is going on with a pair of binoculars. Sweeping left the action pans out towards C Block and then between the gyms showing typical break time scenes.
Further scenes show football being played between the gym and J block
The opening dialogue sees Mr Stimpson catch some boys looking at pornographic pictures and he identifies the culprits by name telling them to see him at 9.20. This appears to be a daily routine of getting a telling off from him in his office.
Stimpson then practices his speech, interrupted by actors posing as teachers where he demonstrates his ordered approach to command knowledge of everything happening in the school by bringing up timetables on an old BBC computer. These were top tech in 1985!
He then catches out a slow coach walking away near G block steps before spotting the odd “Mr Jolly” smoking in the doorway of the gyms.
The Assembly scene
The action switches to the interior of A block with multiple shots of pupils gathering and sitting down in rows. Girls appear to be on the right and boys on the left sat facing the organ. Numerous real staff can be identified on stage as well as the actors having teaching parts seen in the earlier scene.
At precisely 9.00 a.m , shown on an electronic sign , Stimpson descends the staircase and enters the body of the hall. The real school admin office is shown in the background.
Silence ensues as he tells the pupils to sit down. He then delivers a long sermon about where he is going that day and what it means for a comprehensive school head teacher to be delivering a speech to the “posh school” headmasters.
In the background scenery a conspicuous camel can be seen on the stage, which appears that Joseph was likely being lined up as the school production.
As Stimpson asks pupils to stand to sing the hymn “he who would valiant be“, he looks to his left and sees that Mr Jolly is missing from the piano. Jolly then stumbles in late tripping over a chair entering the hall via a side entrance near J block to finally play the opening bars of the song.
Mr Jolly ascends the stair case where he is greeted by a long line of pupils lined up to see Mr Stimpson at 9.20. After asking several of them why they are there, he finds Mrs Stimpson at the front of the queue, before Stimpson appears at the stroke of 9.20 inviting him in.
A staccato conversation ensues where Jolly appears to be attempting to tell him of the inappropriate relationship he is having with a sixth former, but Stimpson has his own interest in the headmasters conference. The scene ends with the classic streaker scene running from one G block door to the other, all under the radar of the eagle eyed Mr Stimpson.
Stimpson and his wife exit C block via the bridge into Marsh Lane. They get into his car and drive off down Marsh Lane to the corner of Westminster Road and Jubilee street.
That was Menzies’ five minutes of fame. The film would often be shown in the school, and people recognised would be pointed out in nostalgic asides. I’m sure it still happens when it is shown on television now.
In the end credits the school is mentioned with the producers wishing to thank “Ian Pedder, Brian Hawthorn, the staff and pupils of Menzies High School , West Bromwich.” I believe that both teachers were offered a chance to play extras as monks in the monastery scene, but it never happened.