Saturday, February 03, 2018

The Carey Treatment (1972)

A film for which I retain a fondness, The Carey Treatment is based upon an early, pseudonymous, Michael Crichton novel: A Case of Need.  It actually follows the novel - written while Crichton was still working as a doctor at the hospital in which it is set - reasonably closely. One of the main changes is the protagonist's name - in the book he's Dr John Berry, rather than the film's Dr Peter Carey.  He is also, as far as I can recall, nowhere near as two-fisted as James Coburn is in the movie.  Indeed, that's the main problem with the film: accepting that action hero Coburn, most frequently seen in Westerns up to that point, is a doctor.  But if you can get over that hurdle and suspend disbelief sufficiently to accept Coburn as a pathologist, then The Carey Treatment is an entertaining thriller.  Director Blake Edwards' slick direction makes the most of the relatively unusual hospital setting and Coburn is backed up by a solid supporting cast.

Back in 1972 the film's subject matter of illicit abortions being carried out by a doctor colleague of Coburn's, would have seemed daring, abortion still being illegal in the US at the time.  Inevitably, when a girl dies after such a procedure, the doctor is charged with murder, despite his protestations that she wasn't his patient. Coburn, naturally, launches his own investigation, bringing him into conflict with both the cops and the hospital's senior management, (the victim was the daughter of the hospital's Chief Doctor).   Coburn, not surprisingly, conducts his investigation in the manner of a hard boiled private eye rather than as a doctor. Along the way, allsorts of things are uncovered, including drug thefts from the hospital dispensary. 

The film was apparently heavily edited post-production, without Edwards' participation.  Something for which he tried to sue the producers.  Despite his displeasure with the finished product, The Carey Treatment is an enjoyable B-movie with A-movie production values and cast.  It's very much of its time and is just so early seventies, with its liberal, anti-establishment credentials on full display.  Indeed, it is somewhat disconcerting to see middle aged Coburn depicting a right on, 'stick-it-to-the-man' iconoclast.  But hey, that's one of the film's many pleasures.



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