The Hospital – Bad Doc, No Biscuit! week

 

The Hospital (1971) – Rated PG

George C. Scott stars in this black comedy as Herbert Bock, a suicidal doctor who struggles to find meaning in his life while a murderer stalks the halls of his hospital. Herbert’s life is on a downward spiral, but just as he contemplates killing himself, patients at the hospital begin dying — apparently from erroneous treatments they’re being mysteriously ministered. Diana Rigg co-stars in this Academy Award winner for Best Screenplay.

“These things happen”

“We stayed together through a process of attrition.”

I could fill this whole review with quotes pulled from this movie. Paddy Chayefsky’s snappy indictment of the hospital business (circa 1970) is the real star here. Yes there is a fair amount of psychobabble, a Hollywood relationship where two people meet and instantly fall in love and more than a few dated references but the damning of  the medical establishment remains pertinent now – more than four decades later and the dialogue is continuously quotable.

George C. Scott is a good orator and gives a powerful performance here as hospital administrator Dr. Bock. He was nominated for Best Actor but (justly) lost to Gene Hackman’s signature performance in The French Connection. Scott plays angry quite well, even while delivering the wonderful soliloquys that Chayefsky wrote for him. The Hospital has a large cast but Scott is the only one with significant screen time but it works due to his delightful performance.

Diana Rigg is radiant as a young oddball/radical/love interest. A young Frances Sternhagen has a brief but amusing role as Mrs. Cushing. Richard Dysart is enjoyable as the arrogant incompetent Dr. Welbeck. Other cast members were not particularly memorable.

Side note: One thing I really like about 70’s films is that it was okay for people to be ugly. People were just people, not supermodels. If this film were remade today, the cast would look like something on the CW network.

People Watch: Look for Stockard Channing, Christopher Guest, and SOAP’s Katherine Helmond in blink-and-you’ll miss them parts. Also Paddy Chayefsky is the opening narrator.

Dr. Strangelove – Weapons of Mass Destruction week

This is WMD – Weapons of Mass Destruction week. Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is currently available on instant Netflix.WARNING: Watch this soon as on March 1st this movie will no longer be available on instant Netflix.

Dr. Strangelove

WATCH: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) – Rated PG.

“When a fanatical U.S. general (Sterling Hayden) launches an air strike against the Soviets, they raise the stakes by threatening to unleash a “doomsday device,” setting the stage for Armageddon in this classic black comedy that brilliantly skewers the nuclear age. The films star-studded cast includes George C. Scott, Slim Pickens, James Earl Jones and Peter Sellers (who steals the show and copped an Oscar nod playing three roles).”

“Peace is our profession” – Strategic Air Command motto seen pretty much everywhere in the film.

“Gentlemen, you cant fight in here! This is the War Room.”

“Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face.”

Stanley Kubrick did an absolutely phenomenal job of directing Dr. Strangelove. He received the first three of his many Oscar nominations for this movie. He was nominated for Best Film (producer), Best Director, and Best Writing (adapted screenplay).

Reportedly author Peter George was not happy with the adaptation of his book, Red Alert, by Kubrick and Terry Southern. The book presents a serious scenario similar in tone and theme to Fail-Safe (a movie I will discuss later this week).

Kubrick adapted this into an absolutely brilliant satire of the nuclear arms race and cold war politics. With the exception of the titular character, every one else plays the film straight (in spite of the ridiculous names given to much of the cast).

There are a ton of fun touches in the film. There is a nice scene with Major Kong (Slim Pickens) in an airplane poring over what appears to be a map. The camera pulls out and it is revealed to be an issue of Playboy. Tracy Reed (Miss Scott in the film) is Miss Foreign Affairs in the issue.

General Turgidson has a folder marked “World Targets in Megadeaths”. A firefight at the base takes place near a “Keep Off the Grass” sign.

Peter Sellers was nominated for a Best Actor in Dr. Strangelove. He plays Dr. Strangelove, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, and President Muffley. He was supposed to play Major Kong as well but broke his ankle and was replaced in that role by Slim Pickens. He was paid a million dollars – over half the budget of the film – for his performances.

All of his roles in this film are great. He has a fun and comedic time with Dr. Strangelove, a former Nazi scientist now working with the U.S. His President Muffley is a model of reason amid the chaos of the War Room. However I most enjoyed his stiff upper lip presentation of Captain Mandrake.

A slightly over the top performance from George C. Scott as General Turgidson is a sight to behold. This is only second to his performance as Patton. Make sure to pay attention to his gum fixation. The fall he takes later in the film was a real accident that Kubrick decided to leave in.

Slim Pickens is a hoot as Major Kong and his final scene is an iconic shot from this film. Veteran actor Sterling Hayden (Captain McCluskey in The Godfather) came out of semi-retirement for this film. He had previously worked for Kubrick in The Killing (1956). James Earl Jones appears here in his first film but does not have much to do.

The music choices are inspired. Whenever Major Kong and the bomb crew are on, “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye” is playing in the background. This was later adapted and is perhaps more popularly known as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”.  The end montage has “We ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn played over it.

This is an absolutely incredible and iconic film and if you have not seen it then you definitely should. Do not be put off by the Black and White photography or the silly character names, this is a movie deserving of the title “classic”.

WATCH this classic movie soon before it expires on March 1st.

People Watch: Look for Keenan Wynn as Colonel Guano.