James Coburn is, once again, effortlessly charismatic in the role of Dr. Peter Carey, a pathologist who moves from California to work in a Boston hospital. He meets a colleague named David Dao (the great character actor James Hong), who ends up accused of murder. You see, 15 year old Karen Randall (Melissa Torme-March), daughter of the hospitals' boss (Dan O'Herlihy, "Halloween III: Season of the Witch"), died after a brutal, botched abortion, and Karen claimed that Dao was responsible before expiring. It doesn't help Dao's cause that he did in fact perform illegal abortions on the side, but he insists that he did NOT perform this one. Peter believes his friend, and neglects some of his regular duties to investigate the matter.
Based on "A Case of Need", an early novel from Michael Crichton who wrote under a pseudonym, "The Carey Treatment" is a gripping, well made medical mystery that keeps its grip thanks to a variety of entertaining scenes. Coburn makes the real difference as the kind of hero who resorts to nasty measures to get information out of interviewees (among them, a trampy teenager played by director Blake Edwards' actress daughter Jennifer). Unfortunately, the lovely Jennifer O'Neill has very little to do other than be the requisite love interest. She's charming, but the character isn't all that interesting.
Edwards, showing once again that he could handle serious material as well as he did comedies, keeps it moving along, and gets enjoyable supporting performances out of a cast that also includes Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon in the 1989 - 1997 "Batman" feature films), Skye Aubrey ('The Phantom of Hollywood'), Elizabeth Allen ("Donovan's Reef"), Alex Dreier ("Lady Cocoa"), Michael Blodgett ("Beyond the Valley of the Dolls"), Regis Toomey ("The Big Sleep"), John Hillerman ('Magnum, P.I.'), and Robert Mandan ('Soap'). The scene with Coburn and Allen is particularly fun. And it's nice to see the always delightful Hong in one of his more substantial earlier roles. He makes his character sympathetic, important since Dao is doing things that many people today still find abhorrent.
As it turns out, Edwards did ultimately disown the film, citing constant studio (in this case MGM) interference. He tried to leave the production early, but studio big shots supposedly threatened to ruin his career, so he stuck it out to the bitter end.
Still, this is a fine little movie, somewhat over looked and under rated 46 years later.
Eight out of 10.
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