Even though it’s executed with obvious craftsmanship and intelligence, The Carey Treatment suffers from a lack of novelty and substance, which isn’t helped by the jagged narrative rhythms that were presumably transposed from the Michael Crichton novel upon which the film is based. The best Crichton yarns have such fascinating underlying ideas that storytelling hiccups don’t matter, but The Carey Treatment is far from being one of Crichton’s best. James Coburn stars as Dr. Peter Carey, a swaggering pathologist newly arrived at a Boston hospital. Quickly shacking up with beautiful Dr. Georgia Hightower (Jennifer O’Neill), Carey springs into action when his old friend, Dr. David Tao (James Hong), is arrested for allegedly botching an illegal abortion that resulted in the death of a young woman with important society connections. The story gets confusing when Carey simultaneously investigates whether Tao actually performed the abortion and looks into the sordid lifestyle of Roger Hudson (Michael Blodgett), a pretty-boy masseuse with a bad habit of knocking up young women. Adding other dimensions to the story are Carey’s fraught relationships with a diligent policeman (Pat Hingle), a senior physician (Dan O’Herlihy), and various other characters.
Director Blake Edwards, skewing toward the thriller side of his style but still lacing the picture with the sort of urbane dialogue found in his many comedy films, handles individual scenes effectively but can’t quite get a handle on the overarching storyline. It doesn’t help that the movie constantly puts Carey into antihero mode, because logic suffers when Carey does things like trapping a college girl in his car and then taking her for a terrifying high-speed ride along a cliff in order to extract information. Even though Carey’s ostensibly doing everything in the service of justice, he’s such an arrogant prick that it’s hard to root for him. That said, the performances are generally quite entertaining, with Alex Drier standing out as an eccentric blueblood whom Carey interrogates. And, for what it’s worth, O’Neill is beguilingly pretty. The Carey Treatment is murky and ultimately forgettable, but it’s pleasant enough for a single casual viewing. (Available at WarnerArchive.com)
The Carey Treatment: FUNKY