Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Fifth Floor, Psychiatric Observation Nightmare

Don't kid yourselves. 1975's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" wasn't the film that changed mental health policy in this country. The wooden and over-rated performances garnered undeserved praise from fawning critics. The real culprit in changing policy was 1978's "The Fifth Floor" (Directed by Howard Avedis). For better or for worse, this drive-in exploitation/horror film opened more eyes than the dull Oscar winner. Federal and state legislation, coupled with lawsuits on behalf of the institutionalized, emptied many psyche wards...sadly, not always for the better.  

Sultry disco dancer, Kelly (Dianne Hull), is poisoned on the dance floor. The doctors insist she attempted suicide and institutionalize her in the fifth floor psychiatric ward for observation. No one believes Kelly, who insists she did not attempt suicide, rather she was poisoned. She is given a lot of therapy and mixed into the loony population. Robert Englund plays one of her fellow patient/inmates. Uh oh...Carl (Bo Hopkins) is a psyche-tech who desires to rape Kelly's brains out. Uh oh again, Julie Adams ("Creature from the Black Lagoon") is an unsympathetic nurse who keeps prescribing more treatment for Kelly. Not even Kelly's fiancé believes her innocence/sanity. Now Kelly is at the mercy of the sexual predator Carl and any meds or therapy the nurse deems necessary.

Kelly decides to fight back and attempt escape. Each time she meets with failure and ramped up therapy. As her fellow patients are given electro-shock therapy, we wonder when Kelly will be victim to it...or even worse...lobotomy. The sexual assaults by Carl continue and Melanie (Sharon Farrell), Kelly's bestie in the ward, will hang herself after Carl rapes her. The harder Kelly fights for freedom, the more extreme her punishment is. We'll see water torture, electro shock torture, and yes...even fry the brain torture. This film's popularity was realized at drive-in theaters  throughout the U.S. and spoke to a wider audience than the hoity and arrogant Jack Nicholson film.

What will be Kelly's fate...and can we say her institutionalization was indeed the death of disco? Will Bo Hopkins and Julie Adams experience the wrath of the so-called loonies on the fifth floor? For some controversial horror/exploitation that drive-in audiences flocked to, see "The Fifth Floor." It should be noted that government legislation, which changed mental health policy in the late 70s, early 80s, was written by a class of people who are psychopaths...our elected officials.      

1 comment:

  1. Nice one, besides, Ken Kasey did a better peformance than Jack Nicolson by writing it. It was about drugs and getting high, nothing about mental health space,even I knew that.Jack Nicolson is overrated.