July 1972: Film Review

The Hospital

Doctors lead a double life. I don't mean that they're all a lot of Jekylls and Hydes, but that there's a side they show to their patients - the bedside manner, cool, calm and instilling confidence - and a side they confine to their private lives, when they're just as human as the rest of us, subject to the same pressures and displaying the same emotions.

Take, for example, Dr Herbert Bock, (George C. Scott), chief of medicine at one of New York's largest hospitals. To his patients and students he's a brilliant man; to those who know him intimately he's also an unhappy one. His marriage is a shambles. He is separated from his wife; he has kicked his revolution-minded son out of the home; and his promiscuous daughter has been arrested for pushing drugs. No wonder he has turned to drink.

And the terrible things that are happening in the hospital, let alone his private life, are enough to drive stronger men to despair. Patients are dying in a mysterious manner, and the deaths and mishaps indicate a horrifying level of carelessness on the part of the nursing staff. And one by one, staff involved in the death of an elderly patient are themselves found dead under the most bizarre circumstances.

Caught up in the midst of all the turmoil, Dr Bock finds an unexpected and pleasant diversion in the person of a hippie-type nature girl called Barbara (Diana Rigg). Her father is a patient in the hospital and, prompted by dreams, she insists on removing him and taking him back to an Indian territory in New Mexico where until recently they were living a carefree, irresponsible existence.

Realising Bock is suicidal, she tries to persuade him to leave his job and go with her and her father to the mountains. The idea appeals to him but would he be doing the right thing to run away and leave the hospital in its present state of chaos and confusion?

The Hospital, a United Artists release, is an intriguing combination of drama, comedy, murder mystery and love story. Speaking of love story, its director is Arthur Hiller whose previous film was Love Story, one of last year's biggest successes. In this new film he creates a disturbing picture of a vast organisation run by doctors and nurses who are prone to making serious blunders.

This film is all the more convincing for having been made in its entirety in an actual hospital - a huge place in New York that's practically a city in itself. As the doctor grappling unsuccessfully with personal and professional problems, George C. Scott gives another of his deeply penetrating performances - one that won him an Oscar nomination.

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