The Hospital (1971) – Paddy Chayefsky’s relevant satire of the medical industry

Somebody is knocking off people inside a large New York hospital. The victims are not patients, but the hospital staff and the rest of the staff has no clue as to what’s really happening or who is responsible for this, including Dr. Herbert Bock (George C. Scott) who happens to be the Chief of Staff at this hospital. Bock is furious and severely berates his staff for their incompetence. He is currently experiencing a seemingly unsolvable mental crisis. Just moments after unleashing this tirade, he visits a psychiatrist working in the same hospital and talks to him about his distressed mental state. He tells him about his wife that has left him, his two messed up children and his disillusionment with his profession. Meanwhile, two other patients are dead too. The killer has an ingenious way of committing his deeds. Well, technically, if you think about it, it’s not murder. He is just turning the hospital into a killer.

Hospital, the [1971].avi_snapshot_01.30.24_[2013.08.02_13.10.46]

He knocks them unconscious, switches their name tags with the patients and leaves them on hospital beds along with the other patients in the hope that the hospital staff will naturally mistake them for patients. These “patients” are administered the medical procedures as per the patient information on their charts and they either die of a shock or some side-effect that occurs in the middle of this procedure. Bock comes across a young, free-spirited woman named Barbara Drummond (Diana Rigg) whose father has been admitted in this very hospital. Bock sees her as another psychiatrist and confides in her everything that he had told the other psychiatrist earlier, and more. He talks about getting fed up of being part of the “typical affluent American family”, his wife, his misguided children and his impotence, both sexually and career-wise. This interaction with Barbara offers him a much-needed relief from his depression and ignites a spark in him. This leads to an attempted rape-turned-one night stand and they both instantly fall in love.

Hospital, the [1971].avi_snapshot_00.31.53_[2013.08.02_13.08.46]

The hospital is busy trying to deal with not only the unexplained deaths and malpractice cases but also a demonstration by the occupants of an adjacent building who were thrown because the hospital has plans to turn it into a drug rehabilitation center. The film works both as a relevant satire of the medical industry and a very good character drama. The director is a Canadian named Arthur Hiller, who has worked with screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky on more than one occasion. They have collaborated previously on The Americanization of Emily (1964) and apart from that he has directed another film, which I haven’t seen but heard is a must-see, called The Man in the Glass Booth starring the wonderful Maximillian Schell. The film won Chayefsky an Oscar for Best Screenplay. His scripts are always so well-written and The Hospital is no exception. As Dock, George C.Scott is simply fabulous (when was he not?). It was only an year before that he won the Oscar for his intimidating performance in Patton (which he refused to accept).

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