Edgy and at times disturbing movie produced, directed and written by Samuel Fuller. Peter Breck stars as a reporter obsessed with winning a Pulitzer Prize. He goes undercover into a mental institution to solve a murder.
A man named Sloan was killed in a mental asylum. Reporter Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) trains for a year to fool doctors in an asylum so he can be admitted as a patient who has incestuous thoughts about his sister. His editor Swanson and Dr.Fong (Philip Ahn) have coached him on how to act. Playing the part of his sister is his girlfriend Kathy (Constance Towers). She’s a stripper.
Johnny is ready. Kathy is having second thoughts and tries to convince Johnny not to do it. She’s ready to back out. Johnny thinks the story will win him the Pulitzer Prize. She finally relents and makes a police report.
Johnny is examined by a psychiatrist and freaks out in his office. He fooled him and is admitted and turned over to Dr.Cristo. One inmate in the ward Johnny is assigned to is Pagliacci who fancies himself an opera singer. He killed his wife. Johnny wants to interview the three witness to the Sloan murder.
First is Stuart (James Best). He’s a Korean War vet who defected to the Communists. He thinks he’s back in the Civil War. He plays guitar and sings “Dixie.” He snapped when he was brought back in a prisoner exchange. Johnny almost gets a name but Stuart reverts to his Civil War persona.
A corridor where patients are allowed to walk is nicknamed the street. That’s where he meets the next witness Trent (Hari Rhodes). He’s a black man who snapped when he integrated a Southern University. The pressure got to him and now he thinks he’s a white bigot. He reverts to Civil War days and thinks he’s the founder of the Klan. Then he comes back to present day and still thinks he’s a white bigot. Johnny and Trent end up in strait jackets. Trent comes out of it but won’t say the name and snaps back.
Kathy comes to visit Johnny and thinks he’s slipping and starting to become insane. Johnny won’t call it off.
Now he meets the third witness. He’s Boden (Gene Evans), a nuclear physicist who worked on the A-Bomb. The pressure got to him and now he has the mind of a six year old. That doesn’t stop Johnny from trying to breakthrough.
The movie can be difficult to watch but if you’re looking for something way out of the ordinary. check it out.
Peter Breck is best known to TV fans as Nick Barkley on “The Big Valley” (1965-69).
Soap fans know Constance Towers from “General Hospital” where she played Helena Cassadine (2000-13). Check out her performance as Kelly in Fuller’s 1964 movie “The Naked Kiss.”
Philip Ahn had a long movie and TV career. His best known TV role was as Master Kan in “Kung Fu” (1972-75).