Category Archives: Movies with a Hospital setting

Fantastic Voyage (1966)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Inside the human body.

When a Soviet scientist (Jean Del Val), who has sought asylum in the US and has crucial top secret information to give to the government, is shot in an attempted assassination, which leaves him comatose, it is up to a team of five American agents (Arthur Kennedy, William Redfield, Raquel Welch, Donald Pleasance, Stephen Boyd) to go inside his body through miniaturization and remove the blood clot on his brain with the help of a laser. The miniaturizing process is a new invention that only lasts sixty minutes before the person, or object that has been made smaller will begin to regrow. The participants must work fast, but there is an added problem as one of them is also secretly a spy who is intent on undermining the mission.

The film is hailed as a classic by many and this is mainly due to its special effects, which even in this day and age aren’t bad. The question of what gets represented here is what it would really look like if a person were put into an actual body is hard to tell, but the effects are exciting even though the characters were simply matted in front of a green screen to create the psychedelic looking background.  Yet I was still impressed as it gives off a sort-of surreal vision that made me feel like I had been transported to some foreign world along with the cast.

The script though unlike the effects is about as amateurish as you can get and if the action hadn’t been so meticulously designed this might’ve been considered a movie more suited to a camp film festival. For one thing it moves too fast particularly at the beginning. There needed to be more of a backstory about how this miniaturization process had been invented, how long it had been put to use, whether it was safe to use and who was the first to try it and had that person had any after effects none of which gets explained and is simply glossed over.

The characters are also overly obedient and willing to take on any assignment with little if any objection no matter what the potential danger. The Stephen Boyd character gets driven to the science lab and then when told that he’ll be shrunk to the size of a fingertip he puts up very little argument even though anyone else would be frightened about the prospect. Having one of the other characters call home to loved ones, or refuse to go on it would’ve helped make them seem less one-dimensional and robotic.

The crew’s conversations are boring and done in too much of a rhythmic way. Anytime an unforeseen problem arises one of them almost immediately comes up with a solution to it. We learn nothing about these people as the journey progresses nor care all that much about them. In fact the only interesting verbal exchanges that do occur are between Edmund O’Brien’s character and Arthur O’Connell’s who are inside the lab and monitoring the proceedings.

I do not have enough background in the science arena to know how authentic any of this is, but Isaac Asimov who was hired to write the novelization to the movie, stated that the script was full of ‘plot holes’. The one thing that did stand out to me was the part where the crew members are inside the patient’s inner ear and all the doctors inside the lab are forced to stand perfectly still and not make any noise as the sound vibrations could prove dangerous. However, it’s virtually impossible for there to be no noise at all. Even if someone tries to be perfectly quiet other noises that are less conspicuous would become more prominent like breathing, heartbeats, or other background sounds. In either event there would still be sound waves going through the patient’s ear long before one of the nurses accidently drops a medical utensil on the floor like they do here.

For popcorn entertainment it’s not too bad. In fact my favorite part was watching the process of how the crew gets miniaturized, which is actually pretty cool, but this is one of those films were you clearly can’t think about it too hard or it will ruin your enjoyment.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: August 24, 1966

Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Richard Fleischer

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

The Carey Treatment (1972)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: A Pathologist solves mystery.

Based on an early Michael Crichton novel, the story centers around Dr. Peter Carey (James Coburn), who starts a new job as a pathologist at a local Boston hospital and soon finds himself embroiled in a mystery when his good friend Dr. David Tao (James Hong) gets accused of performing an illegal abortion on the daughter of the hospital’s chief surgeon (Dan O’Herlihy), which later kills her. Carey is not convinced that his friend performed the procedure and sets out to prove his innocence when the police are of no help.

This film was noted for its behind-the-scenes turmoil including accusations from director Blake Edwards that he was belittled by the film’s producer William Belasco in front of the crew and told that he would never work in Hollywood again and afterwards having the film edited without his permission. Edwards later sued and his experiences working on this project became the basis for his 1980’s film S.O.B., which savagely satirized the movie making business and the people who ran it.

The plot isn’t bad and attempts are made to give the viewer an authentic feel of the medical profession. One of the better moments is when the doctors perform an autopsy on the victim although I wished they would’ve shown more of the actual corpse on the examining table instead of cutting away from it in an attempt to be ‘tasteful’ as I felt the procedure and what the men discussed during it to be genuinely educational.

Having a hip doctor suddenly turn into an amateur sleuth is the film’s biggest drawback. Coburn plays the part well, but a guy who’s never investigated a case before wouldn’t be so seasoned with the way he handles suspects and tackles clues. He comes off too much like a professional detective who’s spent years in the business and not just a regular person who stumbles into the situation without knowing what he’s doing. The slick way that he solves the case and gets the necessary information is impressive, but not believable. Most people would’ve simply hired a private detective to investigate it and not spent hours away from their job trying to do it themselves, or if they take on the task they would most assuredly have make some mistakes, which this guy never does.

The mystery has enough intriguing elements to remain engaging, but the ultimate reveal is dull and makes one feel like they sat through a big buildup to nothing.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: March 29, 1972

Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Blake Edwards

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Video, Youtube

The Promise (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Girl gets new face.

Michael Hillyard (Stephen Collins) is from a rich background and set to take over his family’s thriving business. He wants to marry Nancy (Kathleen Quinlan) who has a troubled past, but Michael’s mother (Beatrice Straight) does not approve and tries to prevent it. Michael and Nancy decide to proceed with their wedding plans anyways, but then get into a car accident that completely disfigures Nancy’s face. While Michael lies comatose his mother makes a deal with Nancy; she’ll pay for a plastic surgeon (Laurence Luckinbill) to repair her appearance as long as she agrees never to make contact with Michael again. Years later as Nancy becomes a successful photographer Michael by chance meets up with her and wants to use her photographs as part of his business. Nancy’s face is now different and her name has been changed so Michael does not know it is really her. Will the two be able to rekindle their relationship and will Nancy ever confide in him her secret?

The biggest loophole is with the plastic surgery. Face reconstruction even in this technology advanced age is still a very complex thing and most people that receive ‘new faces’ after an accident still look a bit ‘off’ and you can tell it’s not their natural one. Rich woman who pay plastic surgeons millions to look younger many times end up appearing disfigured instead and that’s after using some of the best surgeons they could find, so how then in the year 1979 could some doctor not only make a woman’s newly constructed face look completely natural, but actually even better than the original one?

Nancy’s face doesn’t really change either. No make-up effects are used on Kathleen Quinlan’s appearance to manipulate her looks outside of giving her a different hairstyle. She also speaks with the SAME voice, so Michael should still be able to recognize her when she spoke, so then why doesn’t he?

Michael’s character has issues too. When he comes out of his comatose state his mother informs him that Nancy was killed, but wouldn’t you think that after he recovered he would want to visit Nancy’s gravesite and when he couldn’t find it he would become suspicious that she really wasn’t dead?

Also, later on in the film Nancy decides to go to a spot in a park where the couple had years earlier hidden a necklace underneath a rock as a sort of symbolic gesture that the two would remain loyal to one another until death. When Nancy arrives she finds the necklace gone and then Michael walks out from the trees holding it like he was waiting for her to arrive, but the two hadn’t been speaking to each other, so how would he know that she was going to return there? Was he simply going to stand there for days, weeks, months holding that necklace and waiting for a chance encounter that at some point she might decide to come by?

The script also lacks conflict. The mother’s vindictiveness needed to be amped up. Michael and Nancy should’ve also formed other relationships and thus created more difficulties when they tried getting back together. Instead everything conforms to a chick-flick formula with an uninspired script that telegraphs it all from the get-go.

Even romantic diehards may have a hard time with this one, which includes an achingly awful opening song that for some weird reason was nominated for an Academy Award even though it may be enough to make some turn the film off even before it has begun. From a trivia angle I found it interesting that Carey Loftin, who played the mysterious truck driver who terrorized Dennis Weaver in Duel, plays the truck driver here as well who crashes into their car in a visually impressive fashion that is the movie’s only convincing moment.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: March 8, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Gilbert Cates

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS

A Fan’s Notes (1972)

fan-notes

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: He writes about himself.

Exley (Jerry Orbach) is a loner residing in and out of mental institutions. He imagines having conversations with beautiful women, but is rarely able to approach them in real-life. He also obsesses over New York Giants running back Frank Gifford and wishes one day to achieve that same type of success, but fears that he’ll be a spectator in life just like he is in sports. He decides to begin writing about his nomadic existence in hopes that it will be a cathartic effort only to find that too harbors its own share of frustrations.

The film is based on the Frederick Exley novel of the same name, but despite the filmmaker’s best efforts it’s not able to achieve the book’s cult potential and in fact Exley himself stated that the movie “bore no relation to anything that I had written”. The idea of trying to somehow visualize a story that was never meant for the big screen is the film’s biggest issue and one that it cannot overcome no matter how hard it tries. The pacing is poor and tries awkwardly to make profound statements while at other points being zany and absurd, which is off-putting.

Orbach does well in the lead and helps hold it together. This also marks the official film debut of Julia Anne Robinson who appeared in only one other movie King of the Marvin Gardens before she tragically died in a house fire at the young age of 24. Like in that movie her acting is poor, but here it works in the positive because it makes her character seem transparent and accentuates the dream-like theme. The segment where she dresses up like a nun and then later as a street hooker, as part of Exley’s sexual fantasy, is fun as is his visit with her quirky parents (Conrad Bain, Rosemary Murphy).

Burgess Meredith appears only briefly, but practically steals it with his outrageousness. Watching him lie down on the floor in an effort to look up a blind woman’s skirt is a real hoot as is his ability to walk on his hands across the edge of a sofa.

Had the film stuck solely with the goofy comedy it might’ve worked and there are indeed a few memorable bits. The part where Exley punches an obnoxious woman (Elsa Raven) in slow motion is arresting and the segment where he imagines himself inside a scene of a his favorite soap opera where he directs the cast to strip off their clothes and have sex right in front of the camera is pretty funny too, but the best moment is the telephone conversation he has with a couple where he pretends to be a lawyer pleading with them to take-in the husband’s mentally unstable brother.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: July 21, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: Eric Till

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: YouTube

Alone in the Dark (1982)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Psychopaths escape from hospital.

Dan Potter (Dwight Schulz) is a new doctor hired at a local mental hospital to oversee some of their more violent psychopaths. Unfortunately before he has any time to implement his new therapy techniques there is power failure, which allows three of the most dangerous ones (Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Erland van Lidth) to escape. They immediately track down the doctor at his residence and lurk outside while the frightened family stays trapped in their home and forced to somehow fight them off.

The story is dull and has a plot where you know exactly where it’s going right from the start. There are no unexpected twists and the gore is almost non-existent. The scares are sparse and not effective with several scenes that come off as unintentionally funny.

There is also never any explanation to what causes the power failure and the idea that it would last for two consecutive nights without some sort of major weather event being the factor is highly unlikely. The fact that the patients are housed inside an institution with electrical monitors and the people who ran the place had no backup plan implemented or considered if the power would ever go out is dumb and most likely an emergency generator would’ve been installed years earlier for just such a scenario, which would then make this whole stupid plot nonexistent from the get-go.

Landau gives a good performance, which makes this dumb thing slightly worth catching although overall the psycho characters are too cardboard and generic to be frightening. Hiring B-actors on the downside of their careers and who were most likely willing to accept any mindless dreck that was handed to them simply so they could keep the cash flowing in, was not a good idea as they approach the material in too much of a hammy way.

I actually came away liking Schulz’s performance best and was impressed how his character here was so much different from his most famous one in ‘The A-Team’ TV-show. It was also fun seeing Van Lidth, who is best remembered as Grossberger from Stir Crazy, with a full head of hair.

The film has only two scenes that are worth catching and even then it really isn’t much. However, I did like the part where the three crazies enter a sporting goods store during the blackout that is being raided by all the ‘sane’ people who act way more fringe than the actual lunatics. The scene where Palance attends a punk rock concert where the band The Sick Fucks is playing is pretty good too even though the atmosphere inside doesn’t effectively reflect a real mosh pit scene.

The overall scenario though dealing with these very clichéd psyhcos ominously lurking outside a home occupied by an equally clichéd All-American family that respond to everything with perpetual looks of fear is not interesting or intense. It also comes off as being too stagey and theatrical and might’ve worked better had it taken more of a modern day hand-held camera/ cinema vertite approach.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: November 12, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: Jack Sholder

Studio: New Line Cinema

Available: DVD

Petulia (1968)

petulia 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: A very brief affair.

While attending a medical fundraiser Petulia (Julie Christie) who is a married rich socialite, decides to come-on to Archie (George C. Scott), a doctor who performed a life-saving surgery on a young Hispanic boy (Vincent Arias) that she brought to him a few months earlier. Archie is still hurting from his recent divorce to his wife Polo (Shirley Knight) and not sure he wants to jump into another relationship so quickly especially with a woman that behaves in such an eccentric way. However, her kooky personality and good-looks get the better of him and the two spend the night together. In the days that follow Archie learns of her abusive relationship with her husband David (Richard Chamberlain), but when he makes an attempt to help her get out of it she resists, which causes him a great deal of frustration as he is unable to get a good grasp on why she behaves the way that she does.

The film is based on the novel ‘Me and My Arch Kook Petulia’, which was written by John Haase who worked as a dentist and wrote his stories between his appointments. What makes this plot stand out from the rest of the romances is that it focuses on the chance meeting between two people who share an immediate attraction, but are unable due to various extraneous circumstances to ever get it into a relationship stage. They become like two-ships-passing-in-the-night and go on with their lives and even other relationships while quietly longing for ‘the-one-that-got-away’. Most movies portray romances where everything falls into line and works out while blithely ignoring the ones that get shown in this film even though these are much more common.

Director Richard Lester, who is better known for his slapstick comedies, shows an astute eye for detail and his fragmented narrative works seamlessly. I enjoyed the quick edits and color detail as well as the subliminal symbolism including showing the David and Petulia characters wearing all-white to display their sterile marriage as well as capturing David’s father (Joseph Cotton) sitting in front of a giant window that looked like a cobweb to help illustrate how he had entangled Petulia into his own personal web. The film, which was shot on-location in San Francisco, features great shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and the world famous cable cars as well as an interesting scene at the Jack Tar Motel, which has now been demolished but was famous for its ability to check customers into their rooms without the use of a live clerk, but instead through close circuit TV and a room key that would light up when the person passed by their assigned room.

The two leads give strong performances particularly Scott who for a change doesn’t play a character with a forceful personality, but instead someone who inadvertently gets bowled over by a woman who has an even stronger one than he. Even Chamberlain does well. Normally I find him to be quite bland, but here he is surprisingly effective.

This movie also marks the film debuts of many performers who are seen in brief, but quirky bits including: Richard Dysart as a virtual hotel clerk, Howard Hesseman as a hippie, Rene Auberjonois as a seat cushion salesman and Austin Pendleton as a hospital orderly. Members of the Grateful Dead get some funny moments while inside a grocery store and Janis Joplin can be seen onstage singing during the opening party sequence.

Romance fans will like this, but so will those living in the Bay area during the ‘60s as the city gets captured well. However, fans of that decade will also like it as it expertly exudes the vibe from the period and making it seem very real to the viewer even if they weren’t alive during the time it was made. Also, John Barry’s haunting theme nicely reflects the character’s mood and evasive film style.

petulia 1

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: June 10, 1968

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Lester

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Doctors’ Wives (1971)

doctors wives

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: His wife sleeps around.

Several wives of prominent surgeons at a prestigious hospital get together for a game of cards, but one of the women, the oversexed Lorrie Dellman (Dyan Cannon), gives them a shocking proposition. Seeing that they are not satisfied with their sex lives, she tells them that she will sleep with each of their husbands and then critique their ‘performances’, so as to enlightened them as to what they might be doing wrong. The women turn down her ‘friendly’ offer, but then panic when Lorrie tells them that she has slept with ’50 percent’ of them already.  They have no time to worry though because the next day Lorrie is shot dead by her brain surgeon husband (John Colicos) after she is found in bed with one of the physicians. Now the women must try to figure out which doctor it was while worrying if their husbands were also involved with Lorrie at some other point.

The film, which is based on a novel by Frank Slaughter, is just too trashy and soap opera-like to take seriously. The productions values are strong and director George Schaefer shows a flair for the visual, which makes it watchable, but the characters are one-dimensional and the dialogue seemingly stripped straight out of a potboiler paperback.

Cannon, who’s billed as being the star, is on-screen for less than five minutes, which has to set some sort of record. Who on earth would ever accept a part to be the film’s ‘star’ if they are going to only be in it for that short of a period, or why bill someone as being such if they ultimately will have that little to do? In some ways I wished the character had remained as she is so outwardly slutty that it becomes campy and her initial proposition would certainly have created a more interesting scenario than what ultimately gets played out. Besides any character whose first words out of their mouth is “God, I’m horny” can’t be all that bad.

The supporting cast, which is made up of many familiar faces, are essentially wasted especially Gene Hackman in what may be the dullest role of his otherwise illustrious career although the way he repeatedly slaps his wife (Rachel Roberts) across the face after she confides in him that she once had a lesbian affair does have a certain outrageous quality.

Colicos is competent as the heavy, but Anthony Costello steals it as a young intern who sleeps with the middle-aged wives of his superiors. In real-life he was gay and ended up dying of AIDS at the young age of 45, but here successfully comes off as a flaming heterosexual who brags of his conquests and acts like going to bed with married women is as common place as taking out the garage. His best bit comes when he beds fellow intern Sybil (Kristina Holland) who is making a sex documentary and narrates a ‘play-by-play’ of her sexual intercourse with him as it happens.

The film’s most memorable moment, and it’s a doozy, is when it shows in incredibly graphic style the operation of taking a bullet out of a man’s heart. A real pumping human heart was used and the footage would rival that of any educational film. Not only do we see them tear off the organ’s outer membrane, but we also watch as the doctor sticks his finger into it and then in one truly ghoulish shot pop the bullet out of it. It’s all real and done in close-up making it far more explicit than any gore movie out there and one of the most stomach churning things ever to be put in a mainstream Hollywood movie.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 3, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated R

Director: George Schaefer

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD-R

Like Father, Like Son (1987)

like father

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Father/son switch roles.

Dr. Jack Hammond (Dudley Moore) is highly absorbed in his position as surgeon at a local clinic while hoping to get a promotion to chief of staff. His teen son Chris (Kirk Cameron) has problems of his own whether it is with school work, girls, or bullies. The two don’t see eye-to-eye on much, but then one day one of them drinks a mysterious potion that allows them to switch bodies and see what the other half goes through, which ends up being an eye-opener for both as well as leading to many expected calamities.

This film could best be described as the male version to Freaky Friday and would’ve been a complete disaster if it hadn’t been for the engaging performances of the two leads. After doing Arthur and getting on top of the Hollywood A-list Moore made a lot of poor film choices, but this was one of his better later-career moves and allows him to display his comic versatility and for the most part he is quite funny. Cameron is surprisingly good as well and it was interesting seeing him play against his squeaky clean, religious image that he has now by playing a character, who buys porno mags, jams to MTV and even at one point gives a guy the finger.

The comic scenarios are amusing, but could’ve been played up much more. When Chris is in Jack’s body he seems to behave much more like a 13 or 14-year-old instead of a high school senior. Jack’s behavior when in Chris’ body has issues too. I thought it was funny when he gets up and gives a long lecture to a biology class because that is a subject that he is an expert in, but then when he gives another one to his history class it was pushing the joke too far because no adult is going to be an expert at every subject. I also found it curious that he is surprised when he gets ostracized after snitching on another student as logically we must assume he did attend high school once himself, albeit a long time ago, so he would still remember what the teen culture was like and therefore be able to predict and expect some of the reactions he gets instead of being completely thrown off by them.

There is never any explanation, or at least none that I can remember, about the missing mother, or wife character. I realize that there are many single parent households in the world, but it still would’ve added some extra comic zing by having a mother/wife in the mix. To make up for this it incorporates instead a horny wife character of the hospital’s administrator (Patrick O’Neal) that is played by Margaret Colin who comes onto Moore and even arrives at his home for a sexual rendezvous that outside of a scene involving a burning sofa is pretty dumb.

The ending is a bit corny and the script only touches the surface to what could’ve been a comic minefield of possibilities, but it’s still okay entertainment if one approaches it with low expectations. You can also spot Bonnie Bedelia in a small, nonspeaking part as a woman who gets a wad of gum stuck in her hair.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 2, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Rod Daniel

Studio: TriStar Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder (1974)

crazy world 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Pretending to be crazy.

Vrooder (Timothy Bottoms) is a Vietnam Veteran who has returned from the war and is unable to cope with the stresses of everyday life, which eventually gets him checked into the psychiatric ward of a local VA Hospital. There he falls in love with Zanni (Barbara Hershey, but billed as Barbara Seagull) who works as a nurse there, but he is unhappy to find that she is already engaged to Dr. Passki (Lawrence Pressman). To escape his frustrations he hides out in an underground bunker that he has created near a local highway. The place comes complete with electricity and telephone service as well as an array of booby traps to tip him off if anyone comes near, but the heads of the local power and telephone companies’ start trying to track him down in an effort to stop his pilfering of their services, which could ultimately lead to an end to his days of freedom.

The film is cute, but a little too cute and was produced, believe it or not, by Hugh Hefner. It likens itself to being an offbeat comedy, but there really isn’t that much that is original about it and it comes off more like a tired anti-establishment flick with the proverbial authority figures portrayed in stale, one-dimensional ways. One could actually consider this as a weak cousin to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Vrooder being McMurphy, Passki being a toned-down male version of Nurse Ratched and the suicidal Alessini (Michael Cristofer) being like Billy Bibbit.

The only slightly diverting thing about this film, that otherwise suffers from having a limited budget and looks like it was shot initially on video and then later transferred onto film, are the scenes involving the heads of the power and telephone companies (Jack Murdock, Lou Frizzell) working together to track down the culprit who’s stealing their service. The climactic scene in which Jack Colvin plays an over-the-top Dirty Harry type cop obsessed with getting Vrooder and sending an entire armed police force into the forest to find him is amusing as is the mugshots shown of past felons who had stolen electrical and phone service, which were all made up of headshots from the film’s behind-the-scenes crew.

Bottoms is rather transparent, but Hershey, with her effervescent smile and naturally carefree persona, is far better as her simple presence naturally exudes the film’s hippie-like theme. This was the second of four films in which she was billed with the last name of Seagull and this was done as a personal tribute to seagull that she had accidentally killed while filming a scene in the movie Last Summer.

Albert Salmi, in a rare appearance without his mustache, is excellent in support as Vrooder’s good-natured, fun-loving friend Splint and I found it hard-to-believe that this same man who could play such a peaceful character so well would years later in real-life murder his wife before turning the gun onto himself. Elderly film director George Marshall also does well as the aging Corky and his performance should’ve merited supporting Oscar consideration.

This obscure movie also marks the film debuts of several performers, which includes not only Murdock’s and Cristofer’s, but Ron Glass’ as well who plays an hospital orderly and Dena Dietrich playing Vrooder’s mother who later became best known as Mother Nature in a series of commercials that ran during the ‘70s.

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My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: October 18, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Arthur Hiller

Studio: 20th Century Fox

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