Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Carey Treatment (1972)

The Carey Treatment (1972)

Dr. Peter Carey is too cool for school. This pathologist from northern California just landed a new job at a Boston hospital. He saunters into this new life dressed in hip clothes, with a swanky Beacon Hill apartment to live in and a gorgeous dietician to showcase on his arm. But he also means business and despite his chill look he’s got no tolerance for hypocrisy. His fellow doctors don’t know what’s coming to them.

The Carey Treatment (1972) is an MGM film directed by Blake Edwards and based on the novel A Case of Need by Michael Crichton. It stars James Coburn as Dr. Carey and a motley cast including Pat Hingle, Michael Blodgett, James Hong, Regis Toomey, John Hillerman, Mel Torme’s daughter Melissa Torme-March and the director’s daughter Jennifer Edwards. Opposite Coburn is actress Jennifer O'Neill who plays dietician Gloria Hightower and Carey’s love interest.

Dr. Carey’s first day at the fictional Boston Memorial Hospital gets off to a rocky start. The staff and other doctors don’t know what to make of him and he’s already causing trouble. He falls for Gloria, who is married to someone else but separated, and they quickly start a romance together. When Karen Randall (Melissa Torme-March), daughter of chief surgeon Dr. Randall (Dan O’Herlihy), dies in the hospital’s emergency room from a botched abortion Dr. Carey’s new best bud Dr. David Tao (James Hong) gets thrown in jail. Dr. Tao has been illegally performing abortions at the hospital to prevent desperate young women from risking their lives getting the abortions elsewhere. He didn’t perform Karen’s abortion and Dr. Carey sets out to solve the mystery of who really killed Karen.

James Hong and James Coburn in The Carey Treatment (1972)
James Hong and James Coburn in The Carey Treatment (1972)

"A doctor plays god in a lot of crappy ways. I thought this was a good way." James Hong as Dr. Tao

A mystery with a medical twist, James Coburn is both doctor and detective. I love stories of rogue detectives and this one fits the bill perfectly. If you don’t take the story too seriously, it’s a lot of fun. I love watching James Coburn in pretty much anything and he really shines in this movie. Unfortunately the female characters in the story are weak and they're overshadowed by much stronger male counterparts. Torme-March’s Karen is the object of mystery and outrage, O’Neill’s Gloria only functions to give the movie a love story and to add to Coburn’s sex appeal and the rest of the women just serve as obstacles who get in the way of solving the mystery. This is a lost opportunity to have a more balanced story. The film serves as a bit of a time capsule of the still pervasive sexism in the industry at the time. Even the press materials focused on Coburn’s macho character and O’Neill’s diet and exercise regimen.


The history of this film is a bit complicated. It was a difficult time for Blake Edwards who was losing creative control over his work with MGM. After he directed The Carey Treatment, MGM heavily edited it down to 1 hour and 41 minutes and Edwards asked to have his name removed from the credits. Unfortunately for him they kept the credits and an infuriated Edward fled Hollywood with wife Julie Andrews to Europe. Even the three script writers didn’t want to be connected with the film and were grouped together under the one pseudonym James P. Bonner. I would love to get my hands on the original script to see what they cut out! The Carey Treatment was an adaptation of Michael Crichton’s first novel published under the name Jeffrey Hudson. He wrote the book while attending Harvard Medical School and didn’t want to use his real name because characters were based on doctors he knew. The movie was originally called A Case of Need then changed to Emergency Ward and A Case of Murder before they finally settled on The Carey Treatment. Had the film been of better quality and more successful it could have easily been a series of Dr. Carey mysteries.


James Coburn, Jennifer O'Neill and the Boston skyline.

Boston natives, especially those who loves to see how the city looked back in the old days, will love catching glimpses of different neighborhoods. Dr. Carey lives in Beacon Hill, there are plenty of shots of the Orange line (one branch of our subway system), the USS Constitution, Comm Ave, the Charles River and the famous Boston skyline. If you look closely, you'll spot the John Hancock Tower still under construction. There is a fantastic shot of the Weston tolls on the Mass Pike. These toll booths are changing over and the original ones will disappear by the end of this month. This makes me nostalgic for the old days and it was nice to revisit this with the film. Coburn has a wild scene where he drives erratically down Atlantic Road in Gloucester which is known for it's seaside mansions. It was fun to see Atlantic Road, a drive my husband and I do quite frequently.




Despite its flaws The Carey Treatment (1972) is a fun movie. It oozes with 1970s cool and has some great dramatic sequences. There is a particularly creepy scene when Coburn confronts Michael Blodgett that still makes me squirm.

Warner Archive


The Carey Treatment (1972) is a new favorite of mine and I can’t wait to watch it again. I'm already planning a filming location search for this one.

This film is available from the Warner Archive on DVD-MOD.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I bought this movie straight from the WAC shop.

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