Here’s another installment featuring Joe Dante’s reviews from his stint as a critic for Film Bulletin circa 1969-1974. Our thanks to Video Watchdog and Tim Lucas for his editorial embellishments!
Thinly plotted, weakly-motivated hospital whodunit should perform fairishly in general situations where Coburn name and snappy pace will get it by. Lacks motivation to satisfy more discriminating viewers. Rating: PG.
THE CAREY TREATMENT is the final outcome of the reported production dispute between director Blake Edwards and MGM, wherein Edwards filed suit charging president James T. Aubrey, Jr. with breach of contract for, among other things, shortening the location shooting schedule and setting too early a release date. Nevertheless, Edwards remains credited as director. As it stands, the film is a poorly motivated hospital mystery potboiler, a casually senseless affair whose aimless plotting will get by in mass markets on the basis of the teaming of James Coburn and Jennifer O’Neill, a brisk pace and attractive location photography. Whether its weaknesses are due to “the Aubrey Treatment” is open to question. Prospects in better class markets are so-so at best, since little suspense or intelligent drama is developed. Directing with his usual smoothness, Edwards builds some likeable characters of the sort that could stay with a viewer, but the events that befall them in THE CAREY TREATMENT often border on the preposterous.
Coburn is a hip West Coast pathologist newly arrived at a Boston hospital where fellow doctor James Hong has been arrested in the abortion-death of the daughter of snobby hospital head Dan O’Herlihy. Coburn conducts his own investigation, while his carryings-on with dietician Miss O’Neal eat up the rest of his time. He doesn’t get much doctoring into his schedule. James P. Bonnet’s episodic screenplay, based on “A Case of Need” by Jeffrey Hudson (Michael Crichton), seems structured solely to provide bravura cameos for the supporting cast. Indeed, the film’s few strong points include some nifty performances in brief roles by Pat Hingle as a complacent detective, Elizabeth Allen as O’Herlihy’s sodden wife, Alex Dreier as a gourmet abortionist, Skye Aubrey as an implicated nurse, and Jennifer Edwards as the dead girl’s weirdo roommate. Miss O’Neill gives a warmly appealing performance, but her character has absolutely nothing to do with the story, and she keeps referring to a little son who is never seen as she dallies day and night with Coburn.
Other loopholes and absurdities abound. An assailant thrown down a stairwell by Coburn suffers only a bloody nose, while the indestructible hero himself continues to function efficiently even after phoning from a booth which is smashed to smithereens by a speeding car. Coburn’s “treatment” consists of roughing up and browbeating various suspicious types into identifying the abortionist. The latter portions, meanwhile, are devoted to the homicidal exploits of mad masseur Michael Blodgett, whose enmity Coburn has encouraged, as he hacks his way through a hospital ward.
1972. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Panavision, Metrocolor. 100 minutes. James Coburn, Jennifer O’Neill, Dan O’Herlihy, Pat Hingle. Produced by William Belasco. Directed by Blake Edwards.