Mind of Mr. Soames, The (1970)

“We are witnessing an operation that may bring to life a man who — for all normal intents and purposes — has been dead for thirty years.”

Synopsis:
30-year-old John Soames (Terence Stamp) is awakened from a lifelong coma by Doctors Bergen (Robert Vaughn) and Maitland (Nigel Davenport), who quickly teach him to move and speak. While Dr. Bergen believes John should experience the outside world, Dr. Maitland refuses, and soon the childlike John runs away, putting his life in grave danger.

Genres:

Review:
This cult sleeper is based on an undeniably intriguing premise — what if a lifelong coma victim were miraculously awoken and given a chance at life? — but, unfortunately, falls flat on every count. To begin with, it’s more of a fantasy than strict sci-fi, given that the developmental stages Soames whizzes through upon his “awakening” would be neurologically impossible (mind and body work together to grow and develop; trying to impose learning onto a physically “mature” brain simply couldn’t work). The primary prurient interest of the film lies in watching a grown man act like an infant (much like David Manzy would do to more humorous effect in the twisted black comedy The Baby three years later), then a toddler, then a young child, then a petulant adolescent, with Soames finally “breaking free” from the restraints of his overbearing guardian and attempting — in typical ’60s/’70s fashion — to “find himself”. The redeeming qualities of Mr. Soames remain the performances by Stamp and Vaughn, and a couple of unexpectedly amusing moments (see below).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Terence Stamp as John Soames
    MOMS Stamp
  • Robert Vaughn as Dr. Bergen
    MOMS Vaughn
  • Soames running around the streets in a furry pink onesie
    MOMS Onesie
  • Soames scaring a young girl half to death on a train: “There are many trees at the institute… I do not like the institute.”
    MOMS Train

Must See?
No; despite its intriguing premise, this one isn’t worth seeking out. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Mind of Mr. Soames, The (1970)”

  1. First viewing. Not a must – and in agreement with the assessment. Except that I don’t think either Stamp or Vaughn make this worth checking out. They are both capable actors – and Stamp has, indeed, made intriguing career choices – but they are both undone by the material and direction.

    As we all know, Stamp is playing the kind of role (under the umbrella of ‘mental deficiency’) that makes actors (and the Academy) salivate. [I remember when, as a budding ff, I heard about this film upon release – it seemed to be praised by critics and I was saddened when it didn’t play beyond New York City, so I missed it. Guess I now know why.] But, the first half consists of Stamp’s ‘re-entry’ into the world; a repetitive process for him – and for the audience. 3/4-through, he is hit by a car, and the couple who hits him eventually figure out that they can pass themselves off as good samaritans who ‘found’ him. Had that been the take-off point of the film, it might actually have been better.

    The single most interesting performance is given by Donal Donnelly in the thankless role of staff assistant. He’s not given a lot to do here, but one can see why John Huston chose him to be one of the leads in his stunning final film, ‘The Dead’.

    This film’s conclusion is particularly unsatisfying.

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