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Coma – 1978
Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton (screenplay)
Robin Cook (novel)

Michael Douglas
Rip Torn
Geneviève Bujold

Review by Wayne Malin

Excellent medical thriller,

Patients check into the (fictitous) Boston Memorial Hospital for routine operations and, inexplicably, go into irreversible comas. Dr. Susan Wheeler (Genevieve Bujold) wants to know why much to the disappointment of her doctor boyfriend (Michael Douglas). When she tries to find answers, she finds herself marked for death.

Michael Crichton directed from Robin Cook’s great novel. There are huge gaps in logic, but the film is so exciting and entertaining those can be forgiven. It’s fairly well-directed and well-done overall. There are many great sequences–Bujold being stalked by a killer in the hospital late at night; a visit to the creepy Jefferson Institute; some lovely views of Cape Cod MA; Bujold, and then Douglas, tracking a suspicious oxygen line and the “accidental” death of a janitor. Also there’s Jerry Goldsmith’s loud, pounding score moving the picture along and, best of all, this was shot on location in Boston.

The acting is so-so. Douglas and Bujold are OK as the leads. Richard Widmark is having the time of his life playing a hospital administrator. Rip Torn and Elizabeth Ashley also turn in good performances. Also look for Tom Selleck, Ed Harris (with hair!) and Joanna Kerns in bit parts.

A very good movie. However you do have to deal with some very dated dialogue of Bujold trying to make it in a “man’s” world. Also be aware that this is pretty extreme for a PG rated movie–there are fairly clear shots of Bujold’s body during a shower scene and plenty of nude, dead bodies in a freezer sequence and some really gruesome scenes throughout the hospital.

This film has disappeared for some reason. It caused a lot of excitement around here when it was filmed in 1977 and was a big hit in 1978. Then it just disappeared. That’s surprising considering how the careers of Cook, Crichton and Douglas have taken off. It deserves rediscovery.

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70s Films

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