This was originally written for a now or soon to be defunct project Tyson was running over at HEAD IN A VICE. You’ll notice the style is a little different than my normal “voice” ~ when I write elsewhere I clean up a little bit : ) I did a few others but this is the only one I really felt like saving – that belonged here.
I don’t think there are any other words that can be used for this movie other than “Classic” or “One of the best movies ever made” or “Masterpiece” and, honestly, I can’t believe that this is only number 13 on the Top 250. Looking at the other twelve, only four of them came out before this and the other eight are relatively IMDB-ish modern (except for The Empire Strikes Back which we can credit sci-fi folks for early adopting the internet) so I wonder if this has just been overlooked by our modern society or the folks who are familiar with this to some larger degree don’t frequent IMDB and do rating votes. As in: my mom knows how to use the ‘Nets and do what she needs to do and loves movies but I am sure she has never gone and rated one. I rarely click a rating on the site, mainly because I never think of it, but I just added to the 8.8 / 10 by 337,017 (now 337,018) with mine: 10/10 (although refreshing the page indicates my vote hasn’t been registered yet).
When I watched this the first time (a long time ago) I really, really liked it and didn’t see that end coming and it stayed with me as a really good, unforgettable movie and I can’t believe I haven’t watched it again until the other day, for this project. Now that I’m all grown up and do this thing here, I have learned to appreciate what’s going on in a movie, and how it looks, and how it sounds, and what the background folks are doing, and dialogue and etc. and, watching this again I was blow away by how all of that is done here, especially for 1975. I mean, ALL of the actors are amazing in this, from those that get serious screen time to just the looks on the nurse who isn’t Nurse Ratched (Mimi Sarkisian as Nurse Pilbow). It really says something to me when the “extras” are doing some acting and not just standing there with their thumbs in their rears.
Take Christopher Lloyd. He’s absolutely fantastic as the psychotic Taber. Or Danny DeVito as Martini – he’s always fiddling with something. Or any of the other patients, they are always all doing something in the background, like the dancing guy or Chief Bromden who always seems to be sweeping. But no one steals the show (of the ensemble – Nicholson is of course the show STEALER) more than Brad Dourif, one of the most underrated actors ever, in my opinion. I’ve never read this book but I can’t imagine anyone other than Dourif as the suicidal, stuttering BIlly Bibbit. I’m talking AMAZING.
But we can’t forget Louse Fletcher as Nurse Ratched (my whole life I though it was Rachet, but now I know better). The name of her character was a household phrase for a number of years as in “She’s a real Nurse Ratched” or “I’m a Nurse Ratched so you better do what I say or I’ll bust your ass.” (at least it was a long time ago). The first time I saw this and “got” the term, I watched this thinking “man, she is a real bitch”, but the second time around I looked at it a little bit from her perspective. Sure we’re all rooting for Nicholson’s R. P. McMurphy but, she’s just doing her job. We all know McMurphy’s faking it but she treats him just as she does any of the other crazy people, we just think she’s cruel because she’s not playing nice with our anti-hero.
But let’s move on from the award winning performances – the story goes like this: Jack Nicholson is Randall Patrick McMurphy, a locked up inmate who we learn has been acting all crazy to get out of hard labor at the prison work farm. He’s sent to the local sanitarium to get studied and immediately starts riling up the “other” crazies and gets the attention of Ratched. Before too long, he’s causing trouble in his playfully roguish way which includes poker night and making his own first inning of the world series (which you won’t forget) and stealing off with his crazy buddies and going fishing. After that adventure, he’s up for evaluation and the doctors want to send him back to the farm but Ratched wants to keep him around to help him and things start to go from happy “I’m not in prison, suck it!” fun, to, well, the opposite (and that electroshock therapy scene is kind of tough).
If anyone reading Head in a Vice’ blog hasn’t seen this, not only would I be surprised and say “WHA??!” but I would very much recommend this. I don’t want to give away how this ends up, but the last twenty minutes are absolutely tragic and I know I will break the Guy Code when I confess that the end actually made me…… Eye-Moisty. This is a total classic from start to finish and if you haven’t seen this – don’t delay. This is how great movies are made.