Cinema: A Case for Treatment

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Morgan! This wildly offbeat black comedy from Britain, adapted by Scenarist David Mercer from his own BBC television play, tells how an unmanageable, eccentric young painter is destroyed by his love for his mother, Karl Marx, King Kong, and a sleek London socialite named Leonie. Leonie is Morgan's wife, but she has just divorced him. His idea of wooing her back is to put a skeleton in her bed or to wire her boudoir with shattering hi-fi sound effects, hoping that her lover and husband-to-be may die of fright. He steals Leonie's car, nearly blows her mother to smithereens, finally has the poor girl kidnaped. After doing penance in jail, he turns up again at her dressy wedding reception in a monkey suit of real fur, beating his chest and uttering wild animal cries. Then-Well, at moments, Morgan! goes so far ape that a viewer may wince a little, but Director Karel Reisz (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning) quells resistance by assigning the mad-capital antics to two gifted young British actors, David Warner (London's hottest new Hamlet) and Vanessa Redgrave (daughter of Sir Michael). Playing their first important film roles, both manage to make a pair of tricky characters seem hilarious and poignant.

Warner, as Morgan, catches every kink and twitch of a natural misfit who can only sense progress when he is swimming against the stream. In his world of fantasy, he is brutal, primitive. To the world at large, he looks rather more like an adolescent giraffe perpetually swallowing the lump in his throat. The real world gains on him when, armed with several lethal weapons, he confronts his rival, "a greasy art dealer," and hoarsely croaks: "She married me to achieve insecurity—you can't take that away from her!" The point is almost proved by Vanessa's tantalizing ambivalence as Leonie, a tawny young Mod who half wants a life of Establishment order but hates to give up the explosive surprises provided by Morgan. "You'll have to fight him," she giddily tells her fiance, "and the winner will drag me off and have me."

Director Reisz sustains the free-flowing tone with cinematic stunt work. He freezes the action, speeds it up, reveals the texture of Morgan's fancies by inserting film clips of Tarzan and of the original King Kong roaring approval at Fay Wray. The film's funniest scenes, though, are the earthy encounters between Morgan and his dear Ma (Irene Handl), a dotty old Red square who refuses to destalinize and can't imagine what her late husband would have thought, seeing their son a class traitor among all those Mayfair types. "He wanted to shoot the royal family," she fusses, "and put everyone who had been to public school in a chain gang. He was an idealist, your Dad was." Most of the sane characters in Morgan! are a little daft as well, the better to plug the movie's thesis that mental health nowadays may be a mixed blessing.