film reel image

film reel image

Friday, May 5, 2023

Coma 1978 * * * 1/2 Stars


"She never woke up". Chilling words from one clinician to another. Now time for organ recipients to eventually rejoice. If only they knew the deadly shenanigans going on.

Starring Michael Douglas, Rip Torn, and Genevieve Bujold, 1978's Coma represents the finish of the cold, antihero 70s film movement. It came out at the tail end where blockbusters were just getting started, disaster epics took a back seat, and cinematic downers left without the door hitting them on the way out. Hey, that doesn't mean I didn't embrace Coma, what with evil genius Michael Crichton (the late Michael Crichton) at the helm. He directs the pic like a political thriller except that we're not talking politics and Watergate here, just medical speak.

Feeling like the movie equivalent of rubbing alcohol and soaps as Smell-O-Vision, Coma is creepy and ominously effective, evoking a certain paranoia and conspiracy you can't look away from. The flick is about patients at a Boston hospital who mysteriously die post surgery and then their body parts are sold on the black market. Ugh. Something has to be done and that is why a disciplined doctor must get in harm's way to find the culprit to all this. Hey look there's a young Tom Selleck, babe Lois Chiles, and Ed Harris (with hair) in some of their earliest film roles.

Where the musical score by Jerry Goldsmith is everything (that's not a bad thing), anti-smoking laws didn't exist, and Crichton's medicine practice screenplay was ER before ER (you'll see), Coma is the epitome of "Me Decade" filmmaking. It's in the zoom shots, the wide shots, the grit, and the columned imagery inducing a yore-d, stoner fever dream. Despite the somewhat incomplete happy ending, you'll still leave Coma with a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. Too soon? Deep "unconsciousness".

Written by Jesse Burleson

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