Mental Hospital (film #915 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

This 50s film, made by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health, tries very hard to make its state mental hospitals look friendly and not intimidating, but it doesn’t wholly succeed. It tells the story of Fred Clanton, a guy who began to believe his wife and brother-in-law were conspiring against him. He is committed to the state hospital in short order by a judge, where he is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and given insulin shock treatments. He gets better eventually, begins to participate in the hospital’s recreational therapy programs, gets a hospital job as a groundskeeper, and eventually gets to go home, where he is no longer suspicious of anyone and is grateful to the hospital for his treatment. Much is made of the hospital’s facilities, which are all huge and institutional. Much is also made of the therapeutic benefits of patients working at various jobs at the hospital, enough so that you start to wonder after awhile whether or not some exploitation might be going on. The positive-sounding narration fails to overcome the visuals, which tend to confirm most stereotypes about mental hospitals. The film does give a fascinating portrait of mental health treatment during the 50s, which was the heyday of treating mental patients in big institutions.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

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