Tuesday, September 23, 2014

591. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

Running Time: 133 minutes
Directed By: Milos Forman
Written By: Bo Goldman, Lawrence Hauben, from novel by Ken Kesey
Main Cast: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson, Sydney Lassick, Brad Dourif
Click here to view the trailer


I'm ashamed to admit that it took me three days to watch this. I started it Friday night and got sucked in immediately. However, as the clock approached midnight and knowing I had to get up the next morning at 5:30, I decided to throw in the towel and hit the hay with an hour and fifteen minutes of movie to go. The next night, I tried to finish it, but with only five hours of sleep in my system, I tapped out at about twenty more minutes in. FINALLY, the next afternoon I knocked off the final forty-five minutes of this movie I'd seen dozens of times before. Actually, had I not seen it many times prior, I probably would've restarted it at some point instead of spreading it over so many sit downs. Anyway....lets get to it...

The film begins with Randall P. McMurphy (Nicholson) arriving at a state mental institution. He was previously serving time at a prison work farm, but wanting to have him evaluated he was sent here. We learn early that he was sent up for statutory rape ("She was fifteen going on thirty five, Doc", ....when you get that little red beaver right up there in front of you, I don't think it's crazy at all...") and that he's probably not really crazy, just trying to avoid the labor of the work farm. After the opening introduction to Mac, we meet the rest of the crew: a stuttering mama's boy Billy Bibbit (Dourif), the man-child Charlie Cheswick (Lasssick) and a giant deaf/mute Indian who Mac just calls Chief (Sampson). Early on, Mac butts heads with the head nurse on the ward he's assigned to, Nurse Ratched (Fletcher) (I always used to think it was Nurse Ratchet, like the tool). The feud between the two builds slow with Mac simply not wanting to take his meds, but heightens when Ratched won't allow him to watch the World Series. Some of the best scenes take place during group meetings, with the guys gathered in a circle along with Ratched, as they share feelings and goof off. Later, Mac learns that most of the men "committed" to the state hospital aren't committed at all, but simply voluntary cases. Along with this information, he learns that his normal prison sentence ending won't apply here; basically they can keep him as long as they feel it necessary to evaluate him. With this information coming to light, Mac starts thinking of escape.


I wasn't supposed to watch OFOTCN yet. It was a movie I was actually saving to be the big grand finale of the whole project. It was one I'd seen many times, one I knew I liked and wanting to end on a high note, it was to featured at the end of everything with the tagline, "1001 Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". However, with it being the last movie I'd seen from THE BOOK AND knew that I really liked, I needed desperately to pull it out THIS season and spice things up. Sure, we've just done the Fassbinder flicks which I really dug, but other than those we've had a real "blah" line of films and after looking over everything I've watched I realized I still needed something to accompany "The French Connection", "The Conversation", "The Night of the Hunter", "A Man Escaped" and "Ali: Fear Eats the Soul" into the TOP 10 of the next TOP 20 and this was just what Nurse Ratched ordered. Now we have the start of a TOP 10 worth flaunting and while I realize that we're only at the halfway point and still have fifty-one films to go before I make that list, I just felt it necessary to pull out the big guns now, rather than later.

Anyway, yeah, I love this movie. Who doesn't, really? I don't knock anyone's tastes but is there anyone who doesn't like this movie? I mean, what's not to like? Remember when you're a teen and you start to really get into films? I remember when I did. I was a big movie fan all my life, but when I was really young (I'm talking 10 - 12 years old) I was way into comedies. I'd go the store and rent things like "Wayne's World" and Eddie Murphy movies. I'd see the classics - The Godfathers and the Scorsese's and the Spielberg's - but I'd never rent them. Then one day, you decide to take the plunge, to see The Godfather maybe and you realize everything you've heard was crap because this movie was crap. No I'm not calling The Godfather crap, my twelve - fourteen year old self is. Anyway, my point is, Cuckoo's Nest is different. It's a classic that is also really easy to love and really hard to dislike. It's the one time I think the whole world can agree that the Academy actually picked the right movie to give their awards to, as I don't know many who can't find SOMETHING to love about Cuckoo's Nest.

So many memorable scenes, probably too many to go over here. The group meetings are always a blast, the scene where the boys finally get to "watch the baseball game" is unforgettable, the scene where Mac teaches Chief how to play basketball is great and most of the scenes in between come together to make up a nearly flawless picture. The one thing I really didn't like about the movie was the scene where Mac escapes with everyone else and they go fishing. I would have preferred the action stay contained within the hospital, but you can't always get what you want and really even that scene is good and I guess put in place to continue to give the film a light and humorous quality, as opposed to a cooped up, claustrophobic one. I realized during this watching that after the big Christmas party where Mac pays off Scatman Crothers and brings a couple ladies into the joint, when they awake the next day, Mac never speaks another word in the film. Am I right? If he does, it's only during the commotion when he's strangling Nurse Ratched, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't talk then either. What a great touch and a testament to Nicholson as an actor. Look at the look on his face when Billy starts punching himself, almost a disgusted look. And the intensity when he attempts to murder the Nurse whom he's feuded with the entire film's duration. What a great feud between them too, which builds and builds and builds until that final culmination where Mac takes her neck between his palms.

Ya know, I've always wondered why Michael Douglas produced this, if there was a story behind it or something. THE BOOK has taught me that apparently this was a pet project of Kirk Douglas' and that by the time it came around to making it, he felt he was too old to play the part. Man, what a different movie this would've been if it had been made in the 60s with Kirk Douglas in place instead of Nicholson. It could've been just as good, but it also could've been worse. It could've been one that I would have never take to, as it seems I just can never settle into Kirk Douglas movies. You realize that we would have never even known of the Jack Nicholson version, that it wouldn't have existed and it's almost scary to think of how close we came to no Cuckoo's Nest starring Jack. It makes you wonder how many other films came close to being made, but fell through. One thing's for sure: It may have been worse and it may have been equal, but one thing's for sure, there's no way it could've been better than this.

RATING: 10/10  Honestly, I really didn't even think about that rating. It was just a '10', like water is wet and fire is hot. It's Cuckoo's Nest dammit and it's a great great movie and if you haven't seen it already, you simply MUST!


September 23, 2014  8:58am


  1. OK.. so it has taken me quite some time to reply to this one as I've been trying to think of what to say...

    Such a glowing and enthusiastic report from you sweeps all before and makes any disagreement difficult.
    I.m not going to go TOO far in the other direction.. but I've never been knocked out by this one as I'm supposed to. I don't think it's really the film.. I could never find myself really getting behind McMurphey and liking - or even supporting him, and therefore his following actions. All I can see is the swaggering sexist and offensive bully who is only there for his own aims.
    I guess I'm supposed to see how this selfish, manipulative and deeply flawed character changes by contact with the others in the establishment. How he becomes a better person before he is destroyed by the system..
    Fair enough. I do think you have 'got' this one better than I have.
    My apologies..

    1. Don't apologize. It's fine...

      The thing is though, is that I just didn't view Mac as selfish. From the moment he is introduced into the ward, he does nothing but bring joy to the other patients. Plus, we're never told whether or not he's actually crazy. Sure, it's HEAVILY implied that he's not sick at all and that he's really just trying to get out of the work farm, but that's never confirmed. So, with that being said, I feel like we can chalk any sort of unsavory behavior up to him possibly being sick....

      But to each their own. No worries!


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