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In 1944, Capt. Josiah J. Newman is the doctor in charge of Ward 7, the neuropsychiatric ward, at an Army Air Corps hospital in Arizona. The hospital is under-resourced and Newman scrounges what he needs with the help of his inventive staff, especially Cpl. Jake Leibowitz. The military in general is only just coming to accept psychiatric disorders as legitimate and Newman generally has 6 weeks to cure them or send them on to another facility. There are many patients in the ward and his latest include Colonel Norville Bliss who has dissociated from his past; Capt. Paul Winston who is nearly catatonic after spending 13 months hiding in a cellar behind enemy lines; and 20 year-old Cpl. Jim Tompkins who is severely traumatized after his aircraft was shot down. Others come and go, including Italian prisoners of war, but Newman and team all realize that their success means the men will return to their units and combat. Written by
An interesting, entertaining look into the effects of war on the psyche.
Though highly entertaining at many points (largely due to the antics of Cpl. Jackson 'Jake' Leibowitz and his band of merry Italian POWs who sing semitic native American songs--don't ask, don't try to figure it out, just see the movie--and even some of the very well executed art of subtle humor carried out by Capt. Newman, MD) this movie manages to have a quite serious theme at its core . . . the intense psychological effects on a soldier's mind which can be brought upon by the reality of war. It's refreshing to see a movie from this period that touches on these more delicate, in-depth themes of war rather than portraying the glories of war as so many other films contemporary to this one do. Not to say that all other films from this era or before don't touch on these themes. One other great example would be 1949's Twelve O'Clock High, also starring Gregory Peck. The dialog is consistently fresh, and I found the pace to move along quite nicely. This movie features a superb cast who performs wonderfully throughout the film. If you like serious, thought-provoking, emotional themes, yet also enjoy lots of good laughs, then I would recommend seeing this film.
*On a side note, given the fact that this movie--from my perspective--seems to be somewhat ahead of its time in subject matter, directing style in some of the scenes, and even some concepts not too common during the 60s, it's interesting to point out that the movie still portrays the classical female role in life. There is one line that is spoken by Lt. Francie Corum that shows this perfectly. The line doesn't seem to be necessary and doesn't really fit with what the characters are discussing. I won't tell you the line, but try to find it for some fun.
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