Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Morgan: A Suitable Case For Treatment

(UK, 1966)

The 1960s was an exciting time for British film. Directors there were experimenting, taking chances their American counterparts wouldn’t be tackling for some time. A year before the summer of love in San Francisco, at the beginning of the Beatle phenomenon, people still thinking in terms of mods and rockers. Carnaby Street, Mary Quant, Twiggy. This movie tells the story of a man maybe a bit ahead of his time. In a few years his behavior would not seem so odd … or at least he’d have a lot of company. Morgan is a wild man, an artist, a working-class communist/socialist (brought up that way by his dear mum, played wonderfully by Irene Handl), childlike, obsessed with animal imagery, particularly the great apes. Leonie is his upper-class wife, who is divorcing him. It’s easy to see why. He is terribly needy, and prone to destructive antics. It’s also easy to see why she loved him, and still loves him. She has a wild streak, but it’s not enough to put up with Morgan 24/7/365. Morgan needs a special sort of woman, as crazed as he is, and Leonie isn’t that woman. It’s inevitable that she would settle back into her comfortable existence, and no one is ever going to be comfortable around Morgan. The form of this B&W film is experimental, with freeze frames, camera under-cranking, and frequent cuts to scenes from Africa, old Tarzan movies, and King Kong. Mostly it works, though it no longer looks as revolutionary as it was when I first saw it, brand new. It was the first starring role for both Vanessa Redgrave and David Warner, and they both shine. Redgrave was nominated for an Oscar—one of her co-nominees was her sister, Lynn!—but lost to Elizabeth Taylor. Warner had been in only one film previously, masterfully playing the craven coward Mr. Blifil in Tom Jones.