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The scene is Yeoman's Hospital, set in the English Midlands, soon after the NHS was founded. Sophie Dean, a young and gifted surgeon, is torn between her love for pathologist Dr Neil Mariner, and a prestigous post in London. Mariner's research is on penicillin-resistant infection, and whilst drawing blood from a young boy with septicaemia, he inadvertently infects himself. The boy dies, and Neil becomes seriously ill - his experimental serum might save him, and he asks Sophie to give him the serum if there is no other hope - but if she does,she could be charged with manslaughter if Neil dies. Fortunately he is saved, and Sophie decides her future is with Neil. The film is by turns humorous, moving and dramatic with superb attention to detail. It is the archetype of medical dramas right up to the present day. Written by
Mr. Groom Sr.:
We're doctors not judges. Our job is to save lives not to decide if they're worth saving. That girl may be a number in a hospital to you but she was someone's proudest creation. That's why our job is different. A death on the table, an overdose of morphia, a misdiagnosis, and you extinguish a flame that can never be re-lit.
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Like many movies with a hospital setting, this one has as many subplots as there are patients and staff.
There's the new nurse (Petula Clark), frightened by her first sight of blood, and intimidated by the head nurse. There's a brilliant young surgeon with a reputation as a playboy, who also happens to be the son of the hospital's chief surgeon. There are Drs. Neil Marriner and Sophie Dean, struggling to keep their marriage intact as their medical careers pull them in different directions. There's a sweet young lad admitted for an infected hand who might require an untried and highly risky treatment. There's a burn victim (Bernard Lee of James Bond `M' fame), his head completely wrapped in bandages, who dreads how he might appear once the bandages are removed.
Admittedly these are ingredients of a daytime soap opera. But in the hands of the Rank Organization, they make for a well-crafted collection of absorbing human-interest stories.
There are a few dated plot elements as well as some surprisingly contemporary ones. During a tour of a research laboratory, a member of the hospital board declares `So that's a Geiger counter, I've heard of them.' A senior nurse is passed over for a promotion due to her romantic entanglements with a doctor. By contrast, Dr. Sophie Dean seems like a 21st Century woman. She is well-respected by all for her competence, outperforms several of her male peers, and is a beautiful and loving wife. She and her doctor husband have thoughtful discussions about whether they'll need to sacrifice their marriage or her career aspirations.
I have only one complaint of any significance. Multiple `cliffhanger' subplots were resolved abruptly in the last few minutes. Other than that, this movie compares favorably with better known British films of the time.
I reviewed this movie as part of a project at the Library of Congress. I've named the project FIFTY: 50 Notable Films Forgotten Within 50 Years. As best I can determine, this film, like the other forty-nine I've identified, has not been on video, telecast, or distributed in the U.S. since its original release. In my opinion, it is worthy of being made available again.
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