Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Nightmare Is Knowing You're Sane

A sane person locked away in an insane asylum is a tried-and-true thriller plot that even popped up as a two-part episode of THE ROCKFORD FILES. When the subject is a woman, it gives you a chance to basically make a women-in-prison movie, but without the prison. That's basically how Hikmet Avedis' 1979 sleazefest THE FIFTH FLOOR is structured--as a good ol' WIP.

Kelly (Dianne Hull) is a waitress at a discotheque who contracts strychnine poisoning and collapses in convulsions on the dance floor. Her doctor, believing she tried to commit suicide after a fight with her boyfriend Ronnie (John David Carson), assigns her 72 hours on the hospital's fifth floor, where the psychiatric patients are locked away. There she makes friends with a wide variety of wackos and tries to fend off the malevolent advances of perverted orderly Carl (top-billed Bo Hopkins).

It's not a very good movie, but it does offer standard WIP fare, including two creepy shower/bath scenes and full-frontal nudity. The script is by Meyer Dolinsky, who wrote a ton of TV episodes (including STAR TREK's silly "Plato's Stepchildren") and doesn't seem to have spent much time polishing the plotholes out of this one. It seems as though the medical staff, which includes nurse Julie Adams (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) and shrink Mel Ferrer (THE SUN ALSO RISES), would have to be pretty dim to disbelieve Kelly's normal mental state, and even after the police learn that Kelly did not attempt suicide after all, no one moves very quickly to get her released.

Still, you have to love this down-and-out cast, which also includes Patti D'Arbanville, Robert Englund (who does a Dracula impression), Sharon Farrell, Anthony James and Earl Boen. A young Alan Silvestri (BEOWULF) composed the rotten disco score, which sounds like it belongs to an episode of B.A.D. CATS. We can thank Edward L. Montoro's Film Ventures International for this movie.

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