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Vault: The Hospital (1971)


It is all rubbish isn't it. I mean... transplants, anti-bodies, we can produce birth ectogenetically, we can clone people like carrots, and half the kids in this ghetto haven't been inoculated for polio. We have established an enormous medical entity and we're sicker than ever. We cure nothing! We heal, nothing! The whole goddamn wretched world, strangulating in front of our eyes.

Contrasting the burning desire for a doctor to do good while working against a thoroughly broken system, The Hospital is a deeply affecting look at modern health-care. The film calls out the evils of for-profit care, wide-scale indifference and ineptitude, profiteering doctors and a health-care establishment that is at odds with what is best for its community. The titular hospital represents all that is right and all that is wrong with the American health care system: there is a stunning contrast between what is possible and what actually happens, a contrast between the incredibly advanced care that is possible and what a hospital actually provides.

There is a deus ex machina loose in the hospital. Doctors are accidentally dying under each other's knives. Meanwhile, the administration wants to knock down some nearby inhabited buildings it owns to make room for a drug rehabilitation clinic, and the tenants are protesting at the hospital. These two crises feed into each other to produce a stunning and heroic act.

The hero of the film is a Dr. Bock, played by George C. Scott (Patton, Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb). Bock is faced with the inefficacy of his surroundings and feels that he can't do good in such an environment. Because of this, he has lost his will to live and work.

As usual, the writing from Paddy Chayefsky (Altered States, Network) is great. He captures the failings of a modern hospital in an over-the-top comedic farce that remains a guttural and heart-rending experience.

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