Shock Treatment (1964)

Article #985 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-24-2003
Posting Date: 4-22-2004
Directed by Denis Sanders
Featuring Stuart Whitman, Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowall

An actor is hired to pretend to be mentally disturbed so that he will be committed to an asylum where he is supposed to find out where one homicidal patient has hidden a million dollars.

If I had to make a list of actors who would make ideal mental cases, I’m sure my top ten list would include Roddy McDowall, whose characters have always left me with the feeling that even if they weren’t out-and-out insane, their relationship with reality was fragile to say the least. Here he plays a homicidal maniac, and he’s the best thing about this movie. The rest of the mental patients don’t fare quite as well; though I’m no expert on mental illness, I don’t find the rest of them particularly convincing. Nor do I find the performance of Stuart Whitman’s character as a mental patient convincing, but since he’s supposed to be faking it, that’s not really a criticism; I just don’t understand why everyone else is fooled. Actually, I take that back; one person is not fooled, and once we reach the point of the story where this is revealed, the story settles into a fairly predictable groove. It’s an interesting try, and may have been actually somewhat inspired by Samuel Fuller’s SHOCK CORRIDOR from the year before, but I ultimately found it rather disappointing, especially with an ending which must have looked good on paper (especially for those into poetic justice) but which in actual execution goes so horribly wrong that I found myself actively embarrassed for Lauren Bacall. Worth catching for Roddy.


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