Only I could be excited about viewing a movie on mental illness . . . and that's only because Joan Crawford was one of the stars. Unlike Possessed (1947), in which Crawford plays the afflicted, here she plays the head nurse of a mental hospital. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The Caretakers is an interesting film. I didn't love it and I didn't hate it. It was most definitely not a feel good movie and given that it was released in 1963, it was probably considered ahead of its time.
|Lorna and her hair giving the scenery and us a break|
|Marion confronts Dr. MacLeod while Lorna and her hair watch|
|Will this electroshock mess up my hair?|
Dr. MacLeod is met with resistance from head nurse Lucretia Terry, who believes that the mentally ill should be in straitjackets and padded rooms. She has a devoted assistant, Nurse Bracken, who fully subscribes to Lucretia's methods. The head of the hospital, Dr. Harrington, is fairly weak and fairly useless.
Lorna meets other mental patients through the group therapy Dr. MacLeod prescribes - - a former schoolteacher, a former prostitute, a pyromaniac and a sweet young girl, among a few. We also get some of Lorna's backstory, which involves an accident that kills her son and either creates or exacerbates her mental issues. Unfortunately, however, the film neglects to tell us that Lorna is cured or going to be okay. I guess we're supposed to assume she does, the same way that we never see a mentioned board meeting about the futures of Lucretia and Dr. MacLeod.
Ah, bygones. The Caretakers is not a movie meant to take seriously or learn by. It's camp (although I don't believe anyone involved with it in 1962-1963 meant for it to be.)
Let's start with the good.
|Joan with Herbert Marshall, stylish even at a mental hospital|
|Work it, Joan|
Janis Paige, as the slutty Marion, steals the show. She hijacks every scene she is in and without the over the top histrionics of Polly Bergen's Lorna. Yeah, she's your stereotypical man-hating whore but she makes the most of it and looks amazing while doing it. I've never seen the inside of a mental hospital, and hope never to, but Marion sure could give out some
|On set. Joan learned jujitsu for the role|
The bad . . . first, Barbara Barrie's non-speaking pyromaniac. Barrie's performance is fine but we all just know that despite her character not speaking for seven years, she will somehow muster up the words before the end credits.
A big deal is made of Ana St. Clair being borrowed for the movie and I have to wonder why. Why was she borrowed and why the big deal because her character basically fades into the background for much of the film and really has no purpose in everything else that's going on. Never mind that her lighting is completely different from everyone else. Did Ms. St. Clair show up on the wrong set?
Probably the worst scene to watch, other than the one where Lorna is very nearly gang raped (I told you this is not a feel good movie), is the one where Lorna is given electroshock therapy. I guess it was progressive and maybe someone at the hospital forgot to place their standard pill order but . . . yikes. No, thanks.
|Lorna wants to tease her hair even higher|
|Marion: Hell no!|
The Caretakers had the potential to be a much better film than it was . . . it also could have been much worse.
|Debut and swan song|
The Caretakers is available on DVD and TCM places it on their rotation.