Sunday, January 10, 2010

Insert your own political joke about health care

Hollywood has been making medical movies for decades, going back to at least One Man's Journey in 1933. Health care has always been a problem, not just in 2009; a good movie about how it can go wrong is The Hospital, airing tonight at 10:00 PM ET on TCM.

George C. Scott stars as Dr. Bock, the administrator in charge of a New York City hospital where it seems as though everything that can go wrong does go wrong. He's got the locals demanding his head because the hospital wants some of their land for an extension; he's estranged from his wife; there have been botched surgeries; and there are patients and doctors dying at his hospital. Now, people die at hospitals all the time, but these are unnatural deaths, making it seem as though somebody is on the loose in the hospital causing harm.

We'll start with the young doctor's death, since that's about where the movie starts. The resident was a randy young thing, and used empty beds in two-bed hospital rooms for sexual encounters with the nurses. He wound up dead from insulin shock after one of them, in a room next to the man who suffered the botched operation and now needs a kidney transplant as a result. That man's daughter Barbara (played by Diana Rigg) has come demanding to find out what's going wrong, and causing some chaos of her own -- she and her father have been doing missionary medical work with the natives of northwest Mexico, and she's bringing some of those religious ideas to try to help her father. Not only that, but once she meets Dr. Bock, she seduces him, convinced she can cure him of his impotence.

Did I mention that there's still at least one incompetent doctor on the loose? Dr. Bock has discovered that there's a guy who probably should have lost his license for malpractice and insurance fraud years ago who is still performing surgeries on hospital grounds, despite not being a member of the staff, and there are more people dying; the two may be related. Eventually, all of the loose threads get tied together, although I won't say how, as that would ruin the story.

The Hospital was written by Paddy Chayefsky, the same man responsible for Network. As such, it's a very dark comedy, but also a pretty darn good one for the most part. The sexuality, language, and other adult situations make it clearly unsuitable for the kids, but for us grown ups, it's quite enjoyable. The Hospital was released to DVD, although it's apparently out of print now.

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