The Carey Treatment 1972 movie

The Carey Treatment – How to cure injustice in the 70s

Today, I want to talk about The Carey Treatment, a movie that, since 1972, has lied in the oblivion of forgotten cinema, yet for me, it is another underrated classic by the great American director Blake Edwards.

First of all, the main character is one of my favorite actors, James Coburn, usually accustomed to playing tough guys you don’t mess with, who in this case is instead Peter Carey, a doctor who has just started working at Boston’s most prestigious hospital.

Carey is a brilliant man with great insight, although he often gets into trouble in his relations with others because of his open and uninhibited manner of speaking.

This is fine for his work since he is a pathologist working behind the scenes, preparing tests, and providing diagnoses in support of other doctors.

Yet he still gets into trouble to help colleague David Tao, an old friend whom the police accuse of murder when the young Karen Randall bleeds to death from an abortion gone wrong.

Unfortunately, the girl was none other than the daughter of the powerful head physician and one of the hospital’s founding fathers, J.D. Randall, who obviously use his influence to punish Tao as harshly as possible.

Dr. Tao, indeed, was clandestinely operating abortions on girls who needed them, more out of moral vocation than profit since he charged them only about twenty dollars to cover the cost of pre-operative examinations.

However, when Carey witnesses the victim’s autopsy, he becomes convinced that not only did Tao never have anything to do with her, but the girl was not even pregnant.

At that point, alone against all odds, he must investigate the truth, risking not only his job but also his life when he ends up in the crosshairs of the real murderer.

A movie that lacks nothing… except an audience

This hospital thriller, little known and scarcely appreciated even by the few who remember it, turns out to be an excellent film by a brilliant director who, as always, mixes suspense, romance, and drama with understated but effective mastery.

Fearlessly, he tackles the never-ending issue of abortion, avoiding openly taking sides for or against it but posing interesting questions for both sides.

It is not coincidental, for example, that the protagonist, though a doctor, turns into the classic detective with a hasty manner and quirky character, like good old Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood.

This ambiguous moral compass drives the entire plot, punctuating a series of twists and turns that never seek hype, almost as if they slowly reveal the grim reality of real life.

It is pointless to criticize Blake Edwards’s direction, his narrative pace never bores and always stays on the right track, even when he takes us through the mundane days of the protagonist, played by James Coburn.

The protagonist lives in a world of financial and social affluence and has a love affair with beautiful colleague Jennifer O’Neill, a married woman neglected by her husband, who would rather spend time skiing in Aspen than make love to her.

Although not scandalous topics today, back in 1972, we can consider “The Carey Treatment” a movie that offered moments that were not so easy for audiences of the time to accept.

Not to be outdone, the film deals with a certain kind of “latent racism” toward the doctor accused of murder, played by James Hong, an actor of Chinese descent who has always enlivened cinema from Roman PolaƄski‘s “Chinatown” to “Big Trouble in Little China” (where he played the magnificent villain David Lo Pan) to the 2022 fantasy “Everything Everywhere All at Once“.

What if the audience and critics were wrong?

For at least half of the film, James Coburn is almost always together with the beautiful Jennifer O’Neill, a colleague with whom romantic chemistry develops immediately, without the need for lengthy seduction, but both openly flirt shamelessly.

Many complained about the woman’s cumbersome presence, which almost appeared superfluous, while her sweet and sentimental personality stood in perfect opposition to the harsh protagonist in a relationship that would cause the man to reconsider his convictions.

The rest of the cast is equally solid, such as the excellent James Hong as the plot victim or the hilarious Pat Hingle as Capt. Pearson, a policeman almost proud of his brutality but who, in the end, turns out to be human and even horrified when Dr. Carey tortures a woman (denying her medication) to get information.

Almost as if they were in a separate story, it is fascinating to analyze the girl’s family who dies in the hospital, played by the young and beautiful Melissa Torme-March.

In this family, Dan O’Herlihy is the unchallenged patriarch, ruling over his wife and children just as he rules over his fellow doctors in the hospital, but we must admit that he manages to do so elegantly and intelligently without looking like a mad, despotic dictator.

Equally good is Elizabeth Allen as the wife; although we are only present in one scene, it is more than enough to delineate the young new wife mindset who does not care about the daughter but only cares about continuing her life of comfort doing nothing.

Finally, even more ambiguous is the brother, Robie Porter, a character who suggests an incestuous relationship of love and hate toward his sister, admiring her free spirit as if it were guilt to shame for.

I conclude by saying that “The Carey Treatment” is the perfect movie to talk about a particular type of cinema that is vastly underrated, considering even the decline of Blake Edwards in 1972, when many no longer consider him a “master” as he was in the days of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or “The Pink Panther.” But what if everyone was wrong?

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