04/09/2019 07:26

Film: Coma

Year: 1978

Director: Michael Crichton

Writer: Michael Crichton

Starring: Michael Douglas, Rip Torn and Geneviève Bujold



This was a film I was turned on to by a horror film encyclopedia I’ve been working through. This one was intriguing to see that Michael Douglas starred and that Michael Crichton was the writer and director. I did come into this one as blind as I could. To get into this, the synopsis is when a young female doctor notices an unnatural amount of comas occurring in her hospital she uncovers a horrible conspiracy.

We follow a couple of young doctors that are currently residents at a Boston hospital. There is Dr. Susan Wheeler (Geneviève Bujold) and Dr. Mark Bellows (Michael Douglas). They are dating, but they have their differences. Mark is really active in the hospital politics and wants to become chief resident. Susan on the other hand doesn’t really care. The two of them get into a fight as Mark doesn’t give her the respect that she deserves. She leaves to go back to her place.

Mark does try to apologize the next day at work, but she refuses to get lunch with him as she goes to a dance class. It is there we meet her best friend Nancy Greenly (Lois Chiles). She is talking about how she thinks she might be pregnant and going in for an operation. Things don’t go as planned though. She ends up in a coma even though it was supposed to be routine.

Mark notices that it is Nancy and pages Susan. She comes down and looks into what happened to her friend. It is here that she noticed there are a higher number of patients that are ending up in comas. The problem though is that none of the procedures are the same and the patients are all from different walks of life. She is told by her boss, Dr. Harris (Richard Widmark) to drop it. This causes her to buttheads with the head of anesthesiology, Dr. George (Rip Torn). The more that she looks into this, the plot thickens and there might actually be something going on in this hospital.

I didn’t want to reveal too much more information about this story as I did find it to be quite interesting and the mystery is something that is fun to piece together. This really is scary concept. It is fitting that Crichton did this film, because I was a big fan of the TV show ER so I knew that he actually went to medical school. You can see that in this film as it does get real technical in showing how some procedures are done, explaining things and listening to the doctors’ talk.

Going from there as well, this is a terrifying concept. My parents have both had operations where they had to be put under and I know for my mom, who worries about pretty much everything; this is one of her biggest fears. I try to put her to ease, but after seeing this film, I could see something like this happening. I won’t reveal what or why it is; just know that it is nefarious for good reason and morally wrong.

This film also does something else pretty interesting for its time. The film is from the late 70’s and I do know that feminism had its rise. Dr. Wheeler is definitely a modern woman who is strong. She gets into it with Mark who is there to play the game to move up. She is trying to make her way and it is more difficult for her, because she is a woman. I like that she won’t take no for an answer and that she is out to find the truth of what is going on, even though it is getting more and more dangerous.

The pacing of the film is really good as well. It definitely moves through things and builds the mystery pretty early on. If anything, the film goes to the realism side of working in the medical field and I think that could be toned back. It doesn’t focus on it a lot, but when it does, it goes all in. The mystery as I stated from the story is interesting and I think it is well structured. How the film ends I thought was really good as well. I never got bored even though the film runs almost two hours.

Acting is something that was really strong in this film as well. Bujold I think did a great job. She is such a strong woman that is trying to make her way in a profession where we can see that the men run. She doesn’t want to politic and really just wants to do everything on her own merits. I like that she doesn’t bend to their will. I did also find her attractive and her accent was intriguing. Douglas was interesting as well because he is a solid actor. Mark is trying to work his way up and he’s playing the game. He isn’t a horrible guy, but he does demean Susan even if he doesn’t mean to. Torn and Widmark are both solid in their roles and I think the rest of the cast rounded out the film for what was needed as well.

As to the effects in the film, there really aren’t a lot of them and it doesn’t need to them to be honest. I’ve touched a few things on the realism of the medical procedures being done, so we do get that. Things are used properly and we see things that doctors did at the time. There is this crazy scene in the Jefferson Institute in the film. I’m not sure if it is real or could be done, but it was futuristic and wild. The film was shot really well and it does have a feel of a TV movie as well.

Something else I found interesting was the soundtrack of the film. For the most part it didn’t stand out to me. There are some scenes though where it almost sounded like Friday the 13th or along those type of films. It didn’t necessarily fit, but for some reason, I dug it. The score didn’t stand out aside from that, but it also never took me out of the film.

Now with that said, this film was quite intriguing and one that I don’t really hear people talking about. It has an interesting concept and one that could legitimately happen. I thought the film was also progressive in Susan’s character and the portrayal by Bujold definitely helps there. The rest of the cast was solid. I thought the pacing was good. There weren’t really the need for effects, but we do get some realism there and the soundtrack really didn’t stand out for the most part. It never hurts the film which is good. Overall I’d say this is a good film and worth a viewing.


My Rating: 8 out of 10