Monday, October 17, 2005
London, 1761. Nell Bowen, a wealthy, modern-thinking gal for her times, is a jester under the employ of fat government official Lord Mortimer. Perhaps a bit too outspoken for her times, Nell loudly condemns the conditions of Bedlam, a large, creepy, insane asylum of appalling conditions, and demands reforms. After insulting Lord Mortimer, Boris Karloff (the evil, unfeeling Master Apothecary) has Nell declared insane because she is a “willful woman.” A board of “doctors” evaluates Nell and she is thrust into the bowels of Bedlam and forced to live under the very conditions she originally decried.
The portrayal of a 1761 insane asylum is fascinating. Apparently this was based on some fact. The treatment of the “patients” is unsettling. The scene where Nell is being evaluated is chilling. Although she answers all of the board’s questions with perfectly rationale responses, all of her responses appear irrational because of their preconceived notion that she is “insane”. Karloff is great and his ultimate fate is poetic. This is not a horror film but rather a history lesson of sorts. In fact, I seem to remember that this film was shown in graduate school in one of the courses I never took. Nevertheless, it’s still engrossing and worth a peek.