James Coburn plays a pathologist who is investigating the death of the fifteen-year-old daughter of the chief of medicine, who has died of a botched abortion that has been blamed on his colleague (James Hong), who is an illegal abortionist on the side. A lot of people today would be horrified of a movie where the hero is actually trying to help out an abortion doctor. But this was 1972 and people tend to forget that everything wasn't all bright and wonderful back when abortion was still illegal either (I don't personally take a side on the abortion debate, but I have a problem with people on either side who think the issue is in any way morally clear-cut and unambiguous--it's not now and never was). But before anyone goes bemoaning "liberal Hollywood", there's also a real "Dirty Harry" element to this movie, like a scene where Coburn essentially tortures information out of a drug-addicted suspect by denying her treatment. This particular scene should offend liberals everywhere (as well as anyone else who's ever heard of the Hyppocratic Oath).
But the fact that this movie might offend both conservatives AND liberals is exactly what I liked about it. The real world is morally messy and no one person is ever 100 percent morally righteous, and the many, many Hollywood movies that try to make things morally simplistic and their protagonists morally pure actually do a great disservice in many ways. Of course, the moral complications in this particular movie seem to be more the result of a confused production than anyone's clever intentions. Still I always find an interesting failure like this much more enjoyable than a boring success (like whatever old TV show they're making into a major motion picture this week). And in 1970's Hollywood there was a whole string of these kind of interesting failures, which is why I find that whole period so fascinating.
This movie definitely has some problems as other have said. Jennifer O'Neil is completely wasted, and the basic plot is riddled with holes (i.e. noboby but the protagonist notices that the botched operation was very obviously not the work of a trained doctor). Coburn isn't bad though, and this movie does kind of anticipate both "Coma" and the popular TV series "Quincy MD". Not good, but interesting, and certainly worth seeing.
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