Archival 35mm Print
Peter Beck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans, James Best,
A Pulitzer Prize–seeking journalist named Johnny Barrett has himself committed to a mental institution to investigate the unsolved murder of one of the patients. Three inmates witnessed the crime: a brainwashed GI, a broken-spirited Black activist, and a former nuclear physicist. They’re too far gone to be of help, and, what’s more, they’re taking Johnny with them: his paranoid nightmares are matched only by his waking reality (e.g., the three-hundred-pound “Pagliacci,” who performs arias while seated on Johnny’s chest). “Fuller created a fascinatingly lurid, cheap paperback of a movie. . . . [His] attempts at exposing the social and moral failings of American society are gross, heavyhanded, and predictable. But the movie is zany and farfetched enough to overcome its faults. . . . The mental hospital [is] cartoonish, but the brutality of the place is rendered as vividly as it was in Val Lewton’s Bedlam (1946) and is just as frightening. The French, of course, take these satires as evidence—literal exposés of American life—and they’re no more than half wrong, maybe less” (Barry Gifford).