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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 »
When Lorna has a mental breakdown in a movie theater and rushes up to freak out on stage in front of screen, it's obvious that film on screen is a rear projection because neither she nor ushers trying to restrain her have projected images on them nor do they cast shadows on screen. See more »
I don't know why I like this movie so much. I am sure that it has a lot to do with the fact that I love Joan Crawford, especially during the second half of her career. This particular film, in which she plays a severe and unyielding head nurse at a state psychiatric hospital, seems to have crystallized her persona of later years, much as "Mildred Pierce" did the same for the persona of the younger Crawford.
I have little to add to what other reviewers have said about "The Caretakers", except that it is not for everyone. The acting is over the top. The writing is awful. The treatment of the theme is very hypocritical in the sense that the film seems to mean well on the surface, but as it goes on, one feels that someone--the director, producer, et. al.--did their best to cram in as many gratuitous, sensationalistic moments as possible. This, naturally, defeats the film's original purpose, which was apparently to showcase more progressive methods for treating mental illness than were generally used at the time.
So why do I keep coming back to this picture at least once a year? Well, as I've said, it's mainly for Joan Crawford, but it's also for the film's camp value. EVERYONE here contributes to that, whether they knew it at the time or not. Polly Bergen chews her way through every scene with glorious relish, although she does become more subdued later on. Janis Paige--what can I say? She did a great job of portraying a mouthy slut. And so on and so forth.
I have read at least one account which stated that the filming of "The Caretakers" was besieged by script re-writes, which may explain the less-than-stellar results. Nevertheless, there's never a dull moment here, and as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing. Movies are, after all, meant to entertain more than anything else, so if you watch this, watch it for that reason. And for good old Joan.
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