A FINE MADNESS
(director/writer: Irvin Kershner; screenwriter: from a novel by Elliott Baker; cinematographer: Ted D. McCord; editor: William H. Ziegler; music: John Addison; cast: Sean Connery (Samson Shillitoe), Joanne Woodward (Rhoda Shillitoe), Jean Seberg (Lydia West), Patrick O’Neal (Dr. Oliver West), Colleen Dewhurst (Dr. Vera Kropotkin), Clive Revill (Dr. Menken), Werner Peters (Dr. Vorbeck), John Fiedler (Daniel K. Papp), Sue Anne Langdon (Miss Walnicki); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Jerome Hellman; Warner Brothers; 1966)
“Never finds its own voice.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Irvin Kershner’s (“Never Say Never Again”/”Stakeout on Dope Street”/”The Empire Strikes Back”) madcap comedy about a struggling, hot-blooded Greenwich Village poet, Samson Shillitoe (Sean Connery), alters in mood between French New Wave and Hollywood silliness. But it never finds its own voice. It’s adapted from the novel by Elliott Baker.
Samson is married to second wife Rhoda (Joanne Woodward) but finds himself stuck in a bind because he owes back alimony to shrewish wife number one. The virile poet loses his carpet cleaning job after a seduction attempt on an office stenographer (Sue Anne Langdon). He then reluctantly accepts a $200 offer to read his poetry at a women’s cultural luncheon. Reading while drunk, he insults the lady culture vultures and shocks them by telling them to “Open your corsets and bloom…let the metaphors creep above your knees!” One of the culture vultures is Lydia West (Jean Seberg), the bored wife of noted Park Avenue psychiatrist Dr. Oliver West (Patrick O’Neal). When Rhoda follows Lydia’s suggestion and somehow gets Samson to Dr. West’s sanitarium, he seduces Dr. Vera Kropotkin (Colleen Dewhurst) and then ends up in a ripple bath with Lydia. Dr. West, discovering his wife’s affair, then schemes to give the poet a frontal lobotomy on the guise that he’s a social misfit, but the operation fails to curtail his virility. It ends happily with Samson returning to his apartment with the long-suffering ditzy Rhoda, as she’s depicted as his true love and hope for salvation.
Connery and Woodward excel, but the offbeat story line never kicks in to take seriously the poet’s wage-earning frustrations or to do much with the downbeat part of the film’s bogus lobotomy treatment for someone who obviously doesn’t need such treatment. Also, the slapstick comedy is too heavy-handed to give the film a fine touch. Ted D. McCord provides good location shots of the city, such as a giddy Connery dancing on the Brooklyn Bridge. At best, it’s a worthwhile failure that has an intelligence to its madness but that intelligence evaporates as the film descends into silliness.
REVIEWED ON 9/1/2007 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/