All Fall Down: “The Hospital”

With a screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky, The Hospital (1972) is a black comedy which is almost fundamentally tragic.  There is much human folly and maddening complexity at the New York hospital where Dr. Herb Bock (George C. Scott) is chief of the medical staff.  With a failed marriage and “useless” offspring, the once luminous Bock has lost the desire to work and is a constant down-and-outer.  Although he falls in love with Diana Rigg‘s Barbara, a hippie type, and she with him, clinical madness has emerged in the hospital and is claiming innocent lives, forcing Bock to somehow deal with it.

The film exposes breakdown that takes too much of a human toll.  It especially does so when there is the madness of a madman, notwithstanding there perdures in this world another kind of “madness” to boot.  We hear about it in an emergency-room litany—the madness of physical blows, wounds and ailments.  Again, the human toll.

The Hospital has a rather weak ending but, not quite an unhappy one, it is in keeping with fundamental tragedy.  Many a fine actor is here, even if Richard Dysart overdoes it.  Miss Rigg is lovably pretty, but that’s the most I can say about her, whereas Scott is a great Dr. Bock—as tormented as he ought to be.  What an honest actor in an essentially honest picture!

Directed by Arthur Hiller.

 

 

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