Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, 1971. Simcha Productions. Screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky. Cinematography by Victor J. Kemper. Produced by Howard Gottfried. Music by Morris Surdin. Production Design by Gene Rudolf. Costume Design by Frank L. Thompson. Film Editing by Eric Albertson. Academy Awards 1971. Golden Globe Awards 1971.
George C. Scott dominates this fascinating black comedy that seeks to tear a strip off the medical establishment’s having fallen prey to capitalist corruption. He plays a surgeon at a hospital bursting at the seams with patients, confused nurses, horny doctors and overbearing insurance concerns, the melee of battling egos and indulged incompetencies made somewhat worse by a sudden onslaught of strange and gruesome murders that occur over the period of a few nights. Scott is trying to make sense of the confusion when he is informed that a comatose faith healer has been brought in, accompanied by his gorgeous, hard-as-nails daughter (Diana Rigg) and he immediately begins a sexual, questionably moral affair with her. As the insanity mounts, including doctors accidentally operating on the wrong patient, a doctor being accidentally overdosed after using a spare bed to have sex with a nurse and another nurse killed while doing her rounds, Scott begins to wonder if it isn’t worthwhile to just run away from it all and go to Rigg’s religious commune in Mexico. Everyone’s only in this racket for themselves, it seems, greedy doctors are allowed to continue to practice and patients have no understanding of the workload that medical practitioners have to balance, so why bother trying to fix a system that seems to be overloaded with so much selfishness? Paddy Chayesky’s airtight screenplay doesn’t moralize nearly as much as it satirizes, and in avoiding any smug conclusions comes off much more humorous than the description of the plot would have you think. Scott’s bullish personality has never been more appealing, you actually feel for the guy during his most tempestuous rages, and as unlikely as his having sexual chemistry with Rigg might seem, the two of them light fireworks on screen together.