One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

1975, Movie, R, 129 mins

Review

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
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Ken Kesey's grim satire of institutionalized authority, bracingly filmed by Milos Forman. This romp through a microcosmic lunatic ward with an energetic, wisecracking Nicholson turns unforgettably ugly at the end.

Doing time on a prison farm, Nicholson gets out of work detail and escapes the rigors of prison life by pretending to be crazy. Shipped to a mental asylum, he becomes the prisoner of a much more hateful system, presided over by a quietly sadistic head nurse, Fletcher. To his amazement Nicholson finds his fellow inmates are "no crazier than any other SOB on the street." To bring life to the dead atmosphere, Nicholson introduces card games (with pornographically illustrated cards), organizes basketball games, and even conducts a field trip for his fellow inmates, but at every turn Fletcher is there to administer punishment, attempting to break Nicholson's spirit. After Nicholson smuggles two floozies into the ward for an evening of booze and sex, Fletcher determines to squelch his rebellion--by any means necessary.

Jarring and electrifying drama, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST is consummately acted by a talented ensemble including several future stars. Nicholson is at his peak; Fletcher's characteristic rigidity works well here. Actor Kirk Douglas acquired the rights to Wasserman's play (based on Kesey's novel) and had a great success with it on Broadway in the 1960s; by the time the film was made, he was too old to play the lead and turned the property over to his son Michael, who brought in Forman as director. This picture marked the screen debuts of gigantic Cree Indian painter Will Sampson, Brad Dourif, and Christopher Lloyd, and of Brooks (who was superintendent of the Damasch State Mental Hospital in Salem, Oregon, where the picture was filmed). Danny DeVito had acted on screen, but was almost unknown. Tom McCall, a former Oregon governor, plays a news commentator. leave a comment

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