Blake Edwards’ The Carey Treatment is a slick, glossy murder investigation narrative with lots of familiar faces in the cast but lacking in the feeling and depth that Edwards had brought to previous thrillers of his, particularly Experiment in Terror.
The Production: 3/5
How ironic that a vintage film about an abortion-gone-wrong is being released on Blu-ray at the same time when a leaked Supreme Court decision on overturning Roe V. Wade is currently headline news! Blake Edwards’ The Carey Treatment isn’t a political treatise on the arguments for and against abortion; rather, it’s a murder mystery based on an early novel of Michael Crichton’s. The film was infamously taken away from Edwards by its MGM studio producer William Belasco and recut to a shorter and dramatically leaner version which didn’t go over very well with critics or audiences of 1972. Seen today, The Carey Treatment is a slick, glossy murder investigation narrative with lots of familiar faces in the cast but lacking in the feeling and depth that Edwards had brought to previous thrillers of his, particularly Experiment in Terror.
Dr. Peter Carey (James Coburn) is a pathologist newly hired at a Boston hospital. The daughter (Melissa Torme-March) of the hospital’s chief of staff J.D. Randall (Dan O’Herlihy) dies after an illegal abortion goes wrong, and Carey’s close friend and colleague Dr. David Tao (James Hong), who performs abortions on the sly, is accused of performing the abortion. Tao swears his innocence and further examination reveals that the girl was not even pregnant, so Carey decides to take some time off from work and do some digging on his own since the police are convinced they have their man. With Randall and his alcoholic wife Evelyn (Elizabeth Allen) implicating Tao and throwing obstructions in Carey’s way to block his investigation, the path to the truth isn’t going to be an easy one.
With the screenplay attributed to the fictional James P. Bonner (actually Harriet Frank and Irving Ravetch), a romance has been added to the film’s main narrative to bring the movie more in line with previous Edwards dramedies, but Carey’s affair with the married Georgia Hightower (Jennifer O’Neill) couldn’t be less interesting or more intrusive to the murder investigation. As it is, Edwards rather dawdles in those sequences where Carey probes members of the Randall family and friends of the victim attempting to put together an explanation why a clumsy abortion would have been performed on a girl who wasn’t pregnant. School roommate Lydia (Jennifer Edwards) and sometime boy friend Roger (Michael Blodgett) keep their cards very close to their chests though their enigmatic behavior as frustrating as it is does result in the movie’s two best-directed sequences: a wild car ride to loosen Lydia’s lips and a threateningly intense rubdown performed on Carey by masseuse Roger Hudson who attempts to play it cagey but only aids in providing the final piece of the puzzle in Carey’s investigation. Blake Edwards’ pacing throughout, however, is off. Perhaps the intrusions by producer Belasco and MGM studio head James Aubrey destroyed what Edwards was attempting to create (he certainly had no pacing problems with the electric thriller Experiment in Terror in 1962 without studio interference), but the results are the same: an intriguing murder mystery that lacks somewhat in punch and pace.
James Coburn is the epitome of hipster cool as Dr. Peter Carey. Despite being late to his first day of hospital employment and seemingly unconcerned about keeping regular work hours in a new job, he’s likable and easy-going and a more than viable audience surrogate. His dear friend played by James Hong is likewise amiable and charming, plenty affable for an audience to want to see him absolved of blame. The Randall family, of course, are the detestable antagonists of the piece, played strongly if stereotypically by Dan O’Herlihy and Elizabeth Allen. Pat Hingle’s police captain Pearson is also an effective threatening presence though not so unreasonable once Carey’s evidence begins to show him a different picture. Skye Aubrey as a nurse with secrets to share, Jennifer Edwards as the recalcitrant roommate Lydia Barrett, and Michael Blodgett as muscular masseuse Roger Hudson all contribute to the puzzle’s final pieces falling into place. Love interest Jennifer O’Neill, twenty-four at the time of filming, is quite beautiful but completely wasted and on-the-outside-looking-in for this particular movie. And on the periphery of the action are familiar faces like Regis Toomey, John Hillerman, and Robert Mandan who also do accomplished work.
3D Rating: NA
The film’s original Panavision aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is faithfully captured in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. As with typical Metrocolor of the era, flesh tones sometimes run hot but hues on the whole are solidly captured (with the fake orangey blood used quite nostalgic for a viewer of films from this era), and contrast is excellent. There are no age-related anomalies with dirt or scratches. The movie has been divided into 34 chapters.
The film’s mono soundtrack is offered in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Very typical of its filmmaking era, the fidelity is solid in representing the dialogue, the Roy Budd background score, and the numerous sound effects blended into a single track. There are no problems with hiss, crackle, pops, or flutter.
Special Features: 1/5
Theatrical Trailer (2:15, HD)
Blake Edwards’ The Carey Treatment isn’t quite the murder mystery/thriller it might have been had studio heads left it in his hands, but even in its altered state, there are some pleasing elements that make it watchable and a host of familiar faces that movie fans almost always enjoy seeing.
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