A compelling oddity, The Mind of Mr. Soames is a British drama with a sci-fi flourish starring Terence Stamp as John Soames, a 30-year-old man who fell into a coma while an infant. When clever American surgeon Dr. Michael Bergen (Robert Vaughn) contrives a way to stimulate Soames’ brain and free him from his lifetime of slumber, Soames enters the world as a 30-year-old baby with no idea how to eat, speak, or walk. Conflict soon arises between Bergen, a compassionate father of two who advocates a nurturing approach to Soames’ development, and Dr. Maitland (Nigel Davenport), a hard-liner who believes Soames should be rushed through disciplined education in order to become a functioning member of society. Since Maitland has legal custody over Soames, Bergen is forced to sit on the sidelines as Maitland’s iron-fisted approach turns Soames into the equivalent of a troubled child.
Thus, when Bergen builds rapport by busting the man-boy out of his hospital room for a joyous play date outside, Maitland becomes infuriated that another doctor is producing better results. Fast-moving and focused, The Mind of Mr. Soames works as a slow-burning thriller, steadily building toward the inevitable moment when Soames escapes and tries to make his way in the world. The movie also works as a drama of ideals, exploring questions about what happens when civic responsibility and human compassion clash—Bergen and Maitland are both “right,” since each wants what he perceives as the best outcome for the patient, though the film unequivocally portrays Maitland as a villain whose actions are guided by repression.
The film’s key performances are quite effective, with Vaughn suppressing his Man from U.N.C.L.E. flair to present an authoritative sort of clipped intellectualism, and Davenport playing uptight Englishness to the hilt. Stamp makes the most of a wild role, somehow retaining his dignity while making goo-goo-gaga sounds, parading around in onesies, and receiving baby food through spoon-feeding. The final stretch of the movie, in which Soames wanders the countryside frightened and hungry, is touching and terrifying at the same time, since the filmmakers create tension around the question of whether Soames will fall victim to the outside world or succumb to animal instincts and lash out in violence. All in all, The Mind of Mr. Soames is solid stuff. (Available through Columbia Screen Classics via WarnerArchive.com)
The Mind of Mr. Soames: GROOVY