Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hell in a handbasket

In the late 1960's and early 1970's there was a genre of films I am dubbing 'hell in a handbasket' films.  These are films that take place in a large city where it looks like everything is coming apart at the seams.  Usually this city is New York city, but it can be London, Los Angeles, or others.  Usually in these films there's a put upon middle age white guy who's at the end of his rope and who wants to get out of the hellish city with his woman, she's usually not his wife and she is usually much younger than he is, but he eventually sees the value in trying to pull everything back together, or he's the only thing who can save the whole place from falling apart so he resigns himself to fate and he sacrifices himself for humanity by staying in the hellscape city so that others may flee or that others may simply live.  These films are still made from time to time but they reached their zenith in the late '60's early '70's when it seemed like the world was coming apart due to the anti war protests, the women's rights movement, the genesis of the LGBTQ rights movement, and the flowering of all the ethnic pride movements. 

I watched one of the hallmark films of this genre the other night on Netflix:

George C. Scott plays the head doctor at a major hospital in NYC that's beset with all manner of protesters, over run with people seeking medical care, layers of bureaucracy that is hamstringing all the virtuous medical staff, and on top of everything else, he's dealing with his impotence and a serial killer that's roaming the halls of his hospital.  So how does he deal with all this shit?  He turns to drink, as did most of the heroes of this genre of film, but he's also seriously contemplating suicide.

Into his life comes a super sexy young and firm Diana Rigg.  She plays the daughter of a man who is allegedly in a coma due to the inept machinations of some interns.  Scott and she hook up, well 'hook up' is too nice a term for what they do because he actually rapes her in his office and he even admits that he raped her after they spend the night together after the initial rape.  But Rigg's character is cool with getting raped by a man twice her age because she gets all hot and bothered by middle age dudes with limp dicks because she's got daddy issues.  And after they spend the night together after some Daniel Tosh approved raping, she confesses she's in love with Scott even though she's only known him for about 12 hours, part of which she was raped during.  Turns out Scott knows a good thing when he sees it because he's in love with her too.  Hell, who wouldn't be, Ms. Rigg was outstandingly hot back in 1970 when they shot this movie.

After all the sexing goes down they, Scott and Rigg, solve all the murders and decide to scamper off to Mexico where they can rape one another with impunity and do some fancy doctoring on the native Mexicans who for whatever reason have no doctors of their own which is why they need a ton of rapey doctors from the USA to come live in their country.  But on the way out Scott has a change of heart and he knows that unless he stays, the whole hospital will go to hell in a handbasket, so he heroically sends Rigg off to Mexico so he can use his middle age white guy powers for the good of all the little people. 

This film isn't bad, it's actually pretty good once you get past the rapes, the bad 1970's hair, the intrusive soundtrack, the hand held camera shaking 'you are there' style of film making, and the stereotypical characters who love to repeat themselves, and the over acting by George C. Scott.

There's a ton of people in this movie and many of them went on to bigger and better things.  In uncredited cameos are Dennis Dugan, Stockard Channing, and I swear I think I saw Dick Van Patton as an intern.  Nancy Marchand is in this film and she must have been about 30 and boy was she a knock out.  Francis Sternhagen is in this film and I had no idea she was a red head originally.  There's too many more to mention because this movie literally has a cast of thousands. 

Like I said, it's not bad but it's not that great either.  It's like they set out to make a sprawling Robert Altman like urban film but they forgot to hire Robert Altman to direct it and so they just ended up with a noisy sweaty movie that wants to be something more than it is but it doesn't quite get there.  All in all though, if you're a fan of '70's cinema or the 'hell in a handbasket' quasi dystopian films, then by all means check it out.

1 comment:

beatgrl said...

<3 this review. Thanks Dr. Monkey.