“I don’t think evil grows out of madness; I think madness grows out of evil.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Kermode goes on to describe the film as “a breathtaking cocktail of philosophy, eye-popping visuals, jaw-dropping pretentiousness, rib-tickling humour and heart-stopping action.” With that said, he concedes it’s “a work of matchless madness which [nonetheless] divides audiences as spectacularly as the waves of the Red Sea, a cult classic that continues to provoke either apostolic devotion or baffled dismissal 20 years on.”
Unfortunately, I happen to fall in the latter camp. I’m not a personal fan of movies exploring “who’s really insane” — i.e., King of Hearts (1966), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), etc. — and this outing is no exception. It’s filled with countless lines of dialogue intended to highlight the patients’ wacky yet cultured personas:
Meanwhile, I don’t understand the humor in — or purpose behind — Miller attempting to stage Shakespearean works with dogs (and why does his own dog look like it’s covered in shaggy carpet?):
I’m equally uncertain why the film intentionally includes cinematic references (such as an inexplicable poster of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula on the wall).
The film’s “big reveal” about Keach midway through didn’t come as much of a surprise to me:
… and while I can imagine audiences at the time being appreciative of such a frank look at the life-altering PTSD experienced by so many Vietnam vets, I find it all overly calculated and heavy-handed. Watch for Neville Brand in an underdeveloped role as a military assistant:
… and other recognizable names and faces (Moses Gunn, Robert Loggia, Joe Spinell) in bit parts throughout.
Note: I fact-checked a distressing claim made by one character about the high suicide rates of psychiatrists, and sadly, it turns out to be true.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments: