5.2/10
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29 user 5 critic

The Caretakers (1963)

Approved | | Drama | 21 August 1963 (USA)
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 ... See full summary »

Director:

Hall Bartlett

Writers:

Henry F. Greenberg (screenplay), Hall Bartlett (screen story) | 2 more credits »
Reviews
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Robert Stack ... Dr. Donovan MacLeod
Polly Bergen ... Lorna Melford
Diane McBain ... Alison Horne
Joan Crawford ... Lucretia Terry
Janis Paige ... Marion
Van Williams ... Dr. Larry Denning
Constance Ford ... Nurse Bracken
Sharon Hugueny ... Connie
Herbert Marshall ... Dr. Jubal Harrington
Barbara Barrie ... Edna
Ellen Corby ... Irene
Ana María Lynch ... Ana (as Ana St. Clair)
Robert Vaughn ... Jim Melford
Susan Oliver ... Nurse Cathy Clark
Virginia Munshin Virginia Munshin ... Ruth
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Storyline

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 <srm12@ksu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Now the screen tells what makes a woman - and what breaks her!

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

21 August 1963 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Almas en tinieblas See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hall Bartlett Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

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 »

Connections

Featured in Hollywood: The Great Stars (1963) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Dx: Compellingly bad, as only an overwrought, self-important movie can be
30 August 2002 | by bmacvSee all my reviews

Sixteen years after The Snake Pit and 13 years before One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, The Caretakers joins their company as `enlightened' explorations of the mentally ill and the institutions that hold them. But The Caretakers stays closer in spirit to Caged, with the female inmates transferred from the Big House to a mental ward called (of all things!) Borderline. (There's actually one holdover from the cast of Caged – Ellen Corby, as a batty old schoolmarm – and one sequence involving a parakeet which almost exactly reprises one involving a cat in the earlier movie.) But while Caged was overwrought but compellingly good, The Caretakers is overwrought and compellingly bad.

The jangly piano music over the titles, with their suggestions of Di Chirico and Picasso's `Guernica,' clue us to the racheted-up, `serious' tone of the movie. But soon we're watching Polly Bergen go flat-out berserk in front of the screen of a crowded theater. An ambulance ushers her into the gloomy shadows (the movie is well photographed) of the mental hospital, where she comes under the care of Robert Stack, who is pioneering progressive and humane methods of treatment (which nonetheless require jolts of electricity to the temples).

But Bergen is but one of the woeful women among whom we divide our time. This is the kind of dramaturgy where, when Barbara Barrie is introduced as never having uttered a word in seven years, we wait 90 minutes with bated breath for her to speak. She's lucky to get a word in edgewise, as recovering prostitute Janis Paige bazoos her way through every scene she's in and steals all the thunder from Bergen's go-for-broke histrionics.

The staff faces its own problems, however. Head of the hospital is Herbert Marshall, looking like he was just trundled in from Madame Tussaud's, but he's just a figurehead who has long since ceded authority to underlings, particularly Joan Crawford. Since she's been saddled with the name Lucretia, with nasty echoes of the Borgias, we know she's not exactly a helping professional. She stands in adamant opposition to everything Stack works for, and relies on head nurse and hard case Constance Ford as her secret agent. Unfortunately, Crawford's role is smaller than we can be sure she hoped it would be (and often her position seems to make sense).

That's about it. We never get to see a promised, climactic board meeting which will decide the fates of Crawford and Stack. That may have been a try for ironic ambiguity, but it looks like the movie just ran out of steam, or money. For some of the patients, rays of hope do pop out of the institutional-grey skies, for Hollywood never acknowledged a problem that couldn't be wrapped up by the last reel. This mixture of high earnestness and wretched overacting is simply stupefying.


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