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.