Thursday, May 25, 2017

Where Does It Hurt? (1972)

          Whereas the Paddy Chayefsky-penned satire The Hospital (1971) presented a conscientious doctor being driven insane by corruption and incompetence within the medical community, Where Does It Hurt?, released a year later, takes a less nuanced approach to similar themes. Starring Peter Sellers as a morally bankrupt hospital administrator, this broad and occasionally vulgar comedy takes one comic notion—crooks inventing ailments for patients as a means of inflating hospital bills—and grinds it into the dirt. Thanks to Sellers’ enjoyably odious characterization and the somewhat twisty machinations of the plot, Where Does It Hurt? isn’t quite as tedious as the one-joke limitations might suggest, but none will ever mistake this picture for sophisticated cinema. Director and cowriter Rod Amateau, who adapted the picture from his own novel, achieves and maintains the desired nasty tone. Moreover, since public distaste for the usurious practices of the medical industry is so entrenched, most viewers will find themselves growing more and more excited for the villain’s comeuppance. That said, among the many weaknesses keeping Where Does It Hurt? from soaring is the lack of an interesting protagonist—the better version of this movie would have pitted Sellers’ character against a formidable opponent, rather than some random everyman whose experiences inspire rebellion.
          Unemployed construction worker Lester Hammond (Rick Lenz) shows up for routine tests at the hospital run by Dr. Albert T. Hopfnagel (Sellers). Upon learning that Lester owns a home, Hopfnagel persuades Lester to undergo even more tests, resulting in a protracted hospital stay and, eventually, unnecessary surgery. Realizing he’s trapped in a madman’s fiefdom, Lester gets word to authorities, who already have Hopfnagel in their crosshairs, and he gains allies among doctors, nurses, and patients who resent the administrator’s corruption. The biggest X factor is sexy hospital worker Alice Gilligan (Jo Ann Pflug), whom Hopfnagel assigns to seduce Lester—even though she’s romantically involved with Hopfnagel. You get the idea. Many of the film’s jokes have aged poorly, such as the racist bits with Pat Morita as a lab technician, but offbeat touches like the secret passageway behind a vending machine remain amusing. Elements of farce and slapstick notwithstanding, the main focus is Sellers, who hits just the right note of oily charm playing a self-serving crook. He’s sharp and sly in every scene, giving one of his most disciplined comedic performances of the ’70s.

Where Does It Hurt?: FUNKY


Guy Callaway said...

Man,'70's Sellers...
From the start of his career, he was beyond talented, but had so many personal demons.
For what it's worth, I HATE 'Being There'.

Booksteve said...

I caught this in a post-Being There re-release and truly despised it.