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The Ninth Configuration

The Ninth Configuration

Ninth Configuration, USA, 1980
AKA: Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane
Director: William Peter Blatty
Writer: William Peter Blatty
Cast: Stacy Keach, Scott Wilson, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders, Neville Brand, George DiCenzo, Moses Gunn, Robert Loggia, Joe Spinell, Alejandro Rey, Tom Atkins, Steve Sandor, Richard Lynch, Gordon Mark, William Lucking, Stephen Powers, David Healy, William Paul, Tom Shaw, Gordon K. Kee, Bruce Boa, Linda Blatty, Hobby Gilman, Marilyn Raymon, Bobby Bass, Billy Blatty, William Peter Blatty, Tim Rossovich

“Towards the end of the war in Vietnam an unusually high percentage of american servicemen suddenly manifested symptoms of psychosis. Most of them was in combat and had no prior history of mental disturbance. These facts plus the epidemic scope of the problem and the controversial nature of the vietnam war led american authorities to wonder wether many if not most of the men, were faking. To probe the mystery, the government established a network of secret study centres and clinics. The last of these No. 18 was highly experimental in nature set up in an old abandoned castle in Pacific NorthWest in United States.”

Psychiatrist Colonel Kane of the United States Marine Corps arrive at the castle to take command. The place is chaotic with one inmate weirder than another. One of them is trying to stage classic plays by Shakespear but with dogs as actors. Problem is he only has one dog. Another one thinks he’s superman and wears his superman outfit most of the time. Upon arrival Kane is greeted by a doctor who turn out to be an inmate who has stolen the real doctors clothes.

Among the inmates is Billy Cutshaw. He was an astronaut but ruined a spacemission when he suddenly went mad and refused to enter the spaceship. When asked why later in the movie he admits he was scared and panicked. He never say why he got scared, but prior to the mission he was a guest at a party at actress Chris McNeil’s house when Chris’ 12 years old daughter Regan suddenly tells him “You’re gonna die up there” before urinating on the carpet. This of course happened in The Exorcist which preceded this film, but Regans statement was what scared Cutshaw to abort the spacemission.

At one point Cutshaw sais he suspect Kane of being crazy, since psychiatrists often go crazy and have the highest suicide rate of any profession. Kane has recuring nightmares about the war, and himself holding the decapitated head of a young boy in his hands. When asked about the nightmares he claims they belonged to his brother “Killer Kane” who was a violent murderer personally responsible for killing hundreds of people in the war. He is dead now but by telling his brother about the dreams he passed them on to him.

After a discussion about wether Hamlet is mad or in fact saves himself from going mad by pretending to be, Kane tries a new aproach by letting the inmates indulge in their madness instead of trying to repress it. This seem to have a slightly positive effect.

Cutshaw and Kane have several discussions about faith, religion and wether there is a meaning to life or not. At one point he makes Kane promise to if posible give him a sign should he die first. One day Cutshaw escapes and goes to a bar. He gets recognised by a biker gang who harass and assault him. Kane goes after him but he to ends up being assaulted by the bikers. He tries to reason with them but to no good and eventually he snaps.

On the surface The Ninth Configuration might look like crazy people doing crazy stuff while other crazy people tries to cure them, but when You get into the story it’s really a thriller. A lot of the conversations between Kane and the inmates are deep and cover universal questions. Even if it has very little to do with The Exorcist it is obvious it’s sort of a sequel. You can se similar thoughts being the foundation once You scrape of all the icing. Apart from flashbacks to the war and Cutshaw and Kanes run in with the biker gang there isn’t very much violence, but The Ninth Configuration is more of a psychological thriller than a horror movie.

My verdict: 9 out of 10.

The Night Visitor

The Night Visitor

Hemisphere Pictures, Glazier, USA, Sweden, Panama, 1971
AKA: Lunatic, Salem Come to Supper
Director: Laslo Benedek
Writer: Guy Elmes, Samuel Roeca
Cast: Max von Sydow, Trevor Howard, Liv Ullmann, Per Oscarsson, Rupert Davies, Andrew Keir, Jim Kennedy, Arthur Hewlett, Hanne Bork, Gretchen Franklin, Bjørn Watt-Boolsen, Lotte Freddie, Erik Kühnau

Salem is in an asylum for the criminally insane, convicted of the axemurder of a farmhand. He claims he is innocent, that he was framed by his sister and her husband, and that he was misrepresented by his lawyer. At the trial his lawer changed the plea from not guilty to guilty by reason of insanity at the last minute, and thus getting Salem off jail but still locked away.

Two years after the trial things start to get weird at the farm where his two sisters, Emmie and Ester, and his brother in law, Dr. Anton Jenks, still live. There is some tension between the sisters as Anton and Ester wants to sell the family farm, while Emmie refuses. Ester and Anton owns one third and also controls Salems part, but Emmie still owns one third so they can’t really do anything unless they can make her change her mind, or if she would die and leave her part to Ester.

Dr. Jenks get called away to a house nearby where the daughter has been found dead in her bed. He can see she has ben strangled and when he opens his bag there are hypodermic needles and sedatives missing but for some reason they have been exchanged for several of his own ties. He suspect his wife for this and confront her when he gets back home. Their parrot drives him mad by repeating “Hit him Anton” over and over but when he throws the cage to the floor the parrot gets loose.

Anton claims he saw Salem standing in a closet when chasing the parrot. He believes Salem somehow has found a way to sneak out from the asylum at night and then sneak back in again. Maybe to get revenge and hurt the people responsible for putting him there in the first place. Ester doesn’t know what to believe and starts to doubt she can trust her husbands sanity.

Salem is a skilled chess player, and at the asylum he plays with one of the wardens. In The Seventh Seal Max von Sydow portraits a knight who plays chess with Death. The Seventh Seal was of course directed by Ingmar Bergman who is the father of Liv Ullmans daughter Linn. In Troell’s The Emigrants and The New Land von Sydow and Ullman plays husband and wife. To americans von Sydow is probably most known as Father Merrin from The Exorcist. He never played chess with the Devil though.

The Night Visitor is a straight forward told story, even if there is some sort of twist a la Edgar Allan Poe at the end. There is also a lot of Max von Sydow running in the snow in his underwear.

My verdict: 6 out of 10.