Friday, May 20, 2011


(John Guillermin, 1980)
A troubled production, and it does show: you can see the film doctors trying desperately to straighten out the stylistic curves in this film of a compassionate psychiatric nurse on his own mental slide. I'm not insinuating that the director's cut would have been any sort of masterpiece; he went on to give us "Sheena" and "King Kong Lives". Nonetheless, I found this film's treatment of mental illness to be exceptionally direct and unsentimental, and the critique of psychiatric institutions to be quite substantive, as in the good doctor's distracted and incessant banter about automobiles during a shock treatment session. Kate Nelligan's love interest seems to have lost some substance in the re-edit, but James Coburn is exceptionally likeable as the cat-loving protagonist, applying his usual genial laid back shtick in a revelatory context. My best guess about the disjointed third act is that a lot more hallucinatory POV stuff was jettisoned in favour of an attempted linear narrative that the footage just couldn't support. Or maybe the cutting-room floor holds an even more rigorous institutional critique. Either way, they failed to lobotomize it: this is a smart, humane and touching piece of work.

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