The Hospital (1971) Blu-ray Review: George C. Scott Loses His Patients

There's a killer on the loose and someone has to foot the bill in this obscured, Oscar-winning satire now available from Twilight Time.
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What happens when you combine the talents of actors George C. Scott (Patton, Hardcore), and Diana Rigg (The Avengers, Theatre of Blood) with director Arthur Hiller (The In-Laws) and writer Paddy Chayefsky (Network)? Well, from a historical perspective, 1971's The Hospital resulted in an Oscar win in 1972 for Best Original Screenplay. Alas ‒ as is frequently the case with most Academy Award winners ‒ the film quickly faded from the general public's memory, despite the still-relevant social commentary hidden immediately below the surface of Chayefsky's extremely cynical and darkly comical story.

Set in bustling Manhattan, The Hospital takes place in the frantic, fast-paced world of a training hospital ‒ where the work environment can get quite hostile at times. Hiller's Hospital, however, is perhaps the most hostile of all, as Chief of Medicine Dr. Bock (Scott) soon discovers. The recent departure of his wife and children, along with the fact that the teaching hospital is on the verge of self-destruction, has left the once-prominent doctor feeling depressed, despondent, and way overdue for a vacation. Drinking himself into a suicidal stupor, his outlook on life begins to change once one of the hospital's staff dies from an apparent freak accident.

Several subsequent deaths ‒ each equally as strange and limited to hospital staff only ‒ begins to raise the frightening possibility there is a serial killer on the loose. Unfortunately, nobody really seems to notice, as administrators are too busy dealing with a complicated annexation issue and other staffers ‒ such as a greedy surgeon played by Richard Dysart (there's an oddly familiar moment in this film involving defibrillator paddles for you fans of The Thing) ‒ are more concerned with their own wealth than the lives of their patients. Meanwhile, Bock himself begins to start an odd love affair with Barbara Drummond (Rigg), the younger, free-spirited daughter of a recent admission.

Pending Ethics Committee investigations aside, Bock's newfound relationship is just what the doctor ordered. Likewise, Chayefsky's screenplay (to say nothing of his entire production, as the late writer was granted complete control over this project) is a spot-on diagnosis of the medical industry's treatment towards humankind. Ultimately, The Hospital is a funny, thoughtful flick which ‒ apart from technically being something of a proto-slasher ‒ deserves a viewing or two. Granted, Chayefsky's Network proved to be his more popular picture of the pair, but The Hospital serves as an excellent fill-in in case you're as mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore.

Also featuring the likes of Robert Walden, Barnard Hughes, Stephen Elliott, Don Harron, Nancy Marchand, Roberts Blossom, Katherine Helmond, and uncredited bit parts by then-unknowns Stockard Channing and Dennis Dugan, The Hospital gurneys onto Blu-ray for the first time thanks to the folks at Twilight Time. Presented in an MPEG-4 AVC 1080p encode, the MGM library print used for this United Artists release brings us a crisp and clear transfer in the intended 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The default DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono soundtrack comes through without a hitch, and English (SDH) subtitles are on-hand should you need immediate access to such care.

Special features for this Limited Edition release from Twilight Time include Morris Surdin's soundtrack as an isolated score in DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo, and the movie's original theatrical trailer. In sewing The Hospital up, you'll find great liner notes once again provided to us by the one and only Julie Kirgo. Like most Twilight Time releases, The Hospital is limited to only 3,000 copies, so be sure to get your name on the list before you lose your coverage to this title permanently.

Recommended.

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