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The Thieving Headmistress (2006)

A Headmistress steals from her own school.


Norman Hull


Lucy Bowden, Jane Carter Woodrow (as Jane Woodrow) | 1 more credit »


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Credited cast:
Pauline Quirke ... Colleen McCabe
Denis Lawson ... Father Plunkett
Peter Cellier ... Father O'Malley
Mary Roscoe ... Maureen Stapley
Naomi Allisstone Naomi Allisstone ... Pam
Stephen Critchlow Stephen Critchlow ... Detective Elliott
Richard Hope ... Auditor Andy Pert
David Holt ... Mr. Huckerby
Hannah Walters ... Ms Wallis
Emily Key Emily Key ... Young Colleen
Jessica Elliott Jessica Elliott ... Shop girl
John Walters John Walters ... Priest
Bruce Barnden Bruce Barnden ... Lawyer
David Barnaby David Barnaby ... Judge
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jane Carter Woodrow ... The Prison Guard (as Jane Woodrow)


As a young girl Colleen McCabe asks a priest in confessional "What is sin?" Thirty years later she is found out for practising it. An ex-nun,she leaves the convent because she becomes disillusioned with spiritual matters and goes into teaching, being appointed headmistress of the John Rigby School in London. Along with a small coterie of chosen staff members to act as her spies,she misappropriates half a million pounds from school funds which she spends on luxury goods and a trip on the Orient Express. Meanwhile the school suffers,having to use ancient text books and pupils as cleaners. She is tried,although admitted to hospital for depression on the trial day, and sentenced to five years in jail, later reduced to four. The film alternates dramatized scenes of Colleen's misbehaviour with interviews with those who knew her. Written by don @ minifie-1

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User Reviews

A bland reconstruction of a real situation – but I'm not sure why they bothered
4 August 2006 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Having started her adult life as a nun, Colleen McCabe moved into teaching and found herself quite good at it. Her Catholicism marks her out at her faith school and, when the job of headmaster comes up, she applies for it and gets it. One of her first steps is to take the school away from the local authority and make it more of a private business. Of course with this certain financial controls are weakened or removed and Colleen allows herself the freedom to spend on her colleagues and herself. However what starts as expensive team meeting dinners turns into diamond rings and holidays for herself on the corporate credit card.

Although the end of the story is known, the film does a good job of undermining itself at the start when it reveals that nobody knows why Colleen did what she did. The theory seems to be personal greed but there is little to work with here and as a result the film struggles with the lack of depth. Knowing where it is all heading also takes all the tension and development out of it and makes it surprisingly dull. The narration makes it feel like more of a crimewatch reconstruction rather than a film – a feeling not helped by the lack of depth in the piece. Hull's direction is also lacklustre, framing shots in unimaginative ways and using a clunky and obvious "last supper" moment as his only attempt at invention.

The cast can't do much with their disjointed reconstructions. Quirke plays Quirke and never convinces as a real person. She works as a headmistresses type but she never gets beyond the window dressing – although her performance looks like a career best when compared to the horrid mess that she sings over the end credits. With her struggling to make anything of the character, nobody else stands much of a chance to standout. Support from Cellier, Lawson, Roscoe and others is all solid enough but nobody can produce what one would call a performance. I forget who the narrator was but he does the whole thing like he was the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy – a comic touch that is out of place.

Overall a rather bland dramatisation of a real situation. With no tension, atmosphere or development, it just is a clunky reconstruction. With no insight and the means and ending already known, I'm not sure what the film was trying to achieve but if it aspired to be anything of value then I'm afraid it failed.

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Release Date:

6 June 2006 (UK) See more »


Box Office


GBP245,000 (estimated)
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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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