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This movie chronicles the trials of the mentally ill and their care-givers in an over-crowded ward of a hospital. Dr. MacLeod (Robert Stack) is a new, optimistic doctor who attempts to start an out-patient program for the women in the ward. His method of treating mentally ill patients without violence or punishment is met with resistance by the head nurse, Lucretia Terry (Joan Crawford). During Dr. MacLeod's treatment, the phobias and illnesses of the various women in the test group are explored. Written by
Stacia Kissick <email@example.com>
Joan Crawford, then on the Pepsi-Cola board of directors, demanded that product placement shots be included in all her films of this era. Look for it here prominently advertised on the sides of dispensing carts at a mental hospital picnic. See more »
As Lorna runs into the hospital, there's nothing outside the door. But the shot from inside shows a small wall just outside the door which she would have had to jump over or go around to enter. See more »
Robert Stack, Joan Crawford, Susan Oliver, Herbert Marshall, Constance Ford, Van Williams and Diane McBain are "The Caretakers," a 1963 film also starring Polly Bergen, Janis Paige, Barbara Barrie, Ellen Corby and Sharon Hugueny who are the cared for. Robert Vaughn plays Bergen's husband. The setting is a mental institution where Polly Bergen is brought after she goes insane at a theater showing West Side Story. She wasn't the first. The focus is on her case as the director of nurses (Crawford) and the doctor in charge of an experimental program (Stack) duke it out - naturally Crawford favors things like discipline and confinement (she would) and Stack wants to treat the patients as people and give them therapy. I don't know where the drugs were, unless they didn't have them in 1963. I'm pretty sure they had Librium, though Polly didn't seem to be on it.
This film has TV written all over it, including in its choice of the actors, most of whom did major work on television. It's not strong enough for a feature film, though it looks for all intents and purposes like a B movie which it perhaps was. Robert Stack is pretty one-note. Crawford in 1963 still looked good in a leotard but the rest of her is plenty scary. I'm not sure the portrayal of the conflict was correct in its dynamics - nurses have a certain amount of power but riding roughshod over a doctor's orders...I suppose with Crawford heading up the staff, it's more than possible but not realistic.
Janis Paige gives a lively performance as a man-hater, and there is the ubiquitous non-speaker (Barrie), the nice one (Corby), the delusional one (Hugueny), and the one who will probably recover (Bergen). Herbert Marshall plays the head of the institute - by 1963, he was 73 and had enjoyed 50 years on stage and in films. After a distinguished career, "The Caretakers" is thankfully not his last credit. Constance Ford played a nurse from hell who is not a credit to her profession. There were two hunks with the last name of Williams back in the day - Van and Grant - this one's Van. Nice eye candy but he didn't have much to do.
All in all, pretty badly directed and executed.
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