The Happiness Cage (1972)

mind snatchers

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: They control his mind.

Christopher Walken plays James Reese a veteran of the Vietnam War who has issues with aggression. After numerous arrests he gets shipped off to a hospital in Europe run by Dr. Frederick (Joss Ackland) and overseen by a U.S. General (Ralph Meeker). There they do tests on the patients by implanting special devices into their brains that connects to their pleasure centers and can quell their aggressive behavior by having them feel a pleasurable sensation every time a button is pressed from a remote.

Walken’s performance is outstanding and Ronny Cox as his fellow patient is also quite good especially the part where he has the device implanted into his own brain, which turns him into a sad, pathetic, child-like state. Bette Henritze gives an interesting performance as well as a naïve, middle-aged nurse hired to make the patient’s stay more ‘happy’ by supplying them with books and board games only to be attacked and raped by Cox and then forced to play a game of checkers with him afterwards.

The story, which was based on a play by Dennis Reardon, certainly has its moments. In fact I was surprised how caught up into I got since the production values are close to appalling. The film was shot in Denmark in a building that looks like it was formerly a rundown mansion converted into a makeshift hospital for the sake of the movie. It all looks embarrassingly cheap and the idea of having a big hospital with a full-time staff and even a barbed wire fence and guard dogs, but only three patients is quite hard to believe.

Had the budget been bigger it might’ve been able to reach a broader audience. Bernard Girard’s direction is okay for the limitations that he was given, but the film’s faded, grainy stock and overall amateurish look becomes a turn off from the beginning and something that it cannot overcome. The plot itself is interesting, but the concept has been filmed before and with better results.

Alternate Title: The Mind Snatchers

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: June 28, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Bernard Girard

Studio: Cinerama Releasing Corporation

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

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