Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966 — Karel Reisz) see FILMS

A cult classic from the ‘sixties’ directed by Czech born filmmaker Karel Reisz. Morgan Delt, a gorilla-fixated artist with distinctly anarchist tendencies, is trying to regain the affections of his divorced wife Leonie (played by Vanessa Redgrave in her film debut) by variously kidnapping her, attempting to blow up her future mother-in-law and attacking her fiance. Not quite ‘One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest’, but Morgan’s depiction of madness, dark humour about the gradual destruction of a free spirit by an uncaring bourgeois society — and the actors’ vintage performances, particularly Irene Handl — made it one of the funniest and most provocative of British 60s comedies. The script reflects some of Marxist playwright David Mercer‘s concerns of the time — especially class politics, Trotskyism and R D Laing‘s perception of the mad as truly sane — while Karel Reisz’s direction balances Morgan’s failing real-world life with a fantasy life of gorillas. Released in April 1966 – the month Time magazine’s famous ‘Swinging London‘ issue was published – Morgan is both of its time and points forward to the darker popular culture that would ensue later that year and into 1968, the year of international youth revolution. Indeed, some argue its popularity among the young may well have contributed culturally to this radicalisation, certainly within Britain. The film’s depiction of madness is deliberately ambivalent. The inner logic of Morgan’s statements and his sure self-knowledge, as well as his rejection of the consumer society’s superficial trappings, mark him as the only sane character. His madness, therefore, is like the state celebrated by RD Laing: insanity not as a state worthy of condign treatment but as a rebellion, the only possible act of sanity in a mad, mad world. The symbol of the imprisoning restraint is echoed by Laing’s famous statement, in his book, Sanity, Madness and the Family: “Society places every child in a straitjacket”. Mercer was heavily influenced by Laing’s theories, and employed the psychologist as a consultant on his 1967 drama Two Minds, which related a young woman’s schizophrenia to her oppressive family background. Mercer was not alone in espousing Laing’s theories, which, as the anarchist writer Jeff Nuttall charted in his 1968 book Bomb Culture, fed directly into the radical aesthetics of the mid-60s underground. In some ways, they were the perfect antidote to the collapse of the old communist left. They would gain an even greater popularity after 1968. See full FILM