The Hospital (1971)    0 Stars

“I may be crazy, but I think I’ve operated on the wrong patient.”

The Hospital (1971)
The Hospital (1971)


Director: Arthur Hiller

Cast: George C. Scott, Diana Rigg, Barnard Hughes

Synopsis: An over-burdened doctor struggles to find meaning in his life while a murderer stalks the halls of his hospital.






WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS!

For the first hour or so, Paddy Chayefsky’s The Hospital plays like a serious (and searing) indictment of the US medical system, but after the lead character rapes the woman who has just prevented him from committing suicide, it takes a complete left-turn, divorcing itself entirely from the realism it had created to follow a course that verges on madcap zaniness of the most inappropriate kind. I suppose that means I don’t get it, but there you go – be true to yourself, and all that…

George C. Scott (Dr. Strangelove) is flawless as Dr. Bock, the epitome of a harried, weary middle-aged executive. Bock’s life is on the verge of imploding – he’s left his wife and is estranged from his grown up children. He’s also impotent, drinking heavily and giving serious thought to committing suicide. We follow Bock on a tour of duty around a large hospital which is itself in a state of terminal decline; riddled with ineptitude and mismanagement, its chaotic atmosphere proves the perfect killing ground for an elusive serial killer.

Hardly seems like material for a comedy, does it? But we’re talking Paddy Chayefsky here, a writer who is so brilliant with words but, for my money, badly flawed when it comes to characterisation and plot. Too often, his characters serve only as ciphers. Bad enough, but when that characterisation, as crude as it is, lacks any consistency then it makes all the good stuff sort of redundant. The comedy is as black as pitch, and pretty depressing when you think about it.

(Reviewed 2nd March)

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