[BD Review] ‘Coma’ (1978)

Writer Michael Crichton was one of the go-to guys in Hollywood for nearly two decades, scribing gems like Jurassic Park, Twister, and the renowned television series ER, and became a household name up to and after his death. While he openly preferred writing as opposed to directing, he did sit in the directors chair for a handful of thrillers – two of them considered outstanding. Westworld, which hammered him onto the map, and Coma – which for all intensive purposes set the tone and created a skeleton for the Hollywood thriller for the next 10 years.

Genevieve Bujold, who’s incredibly hot ass in Earthquake made her a superstar (please fall over something again, please!), takes the lead in Coma – a thrilling adaptation of a Robin Cook novel that spent months on the NY Times best sellers list and gripped the nation. A story about power and trust gone awry, when a doctor uncovers a conspiracy where a rigged operating room is set up to purposefully slip patients into comas on the operating table. For the purpose of selling off their body parts on the black market.

Michael Douglas also stars as Bujold’s character’s boyfriend, who consistently assures her, “Everything is going to be all right,” without ever listening and looking at the building facts. It’s mildly frustrating and works at adding to the grip effect. Even with his mastery on the screen, Bujold pulls a commanding lead and Captains this film and its strong supporting cast. She is a good 1970′s actress, and very charming even with the bad haircut they had her wear. Maybe it was what doctors were doing back then? Whew.

Its Crichton’s story that is the overall star here. Its dark, to think that in your most vulnerable state – in a place where you trust your life in doctors hands – that you could be put under and shifted aside with the sign of a document and moved to another ward where you are kept until deemed “dead”, only to have your organs removed and sold to high priced bidders. Wealthy, and don’t want to wait on the kidney list for your son’s life saving organ? This hospital is where you’d go to get it. Its a tale that subtly gets under your skin, mostly because of how scientifically sound it is. Plus, its all laid out in layman’s terms so you don’t have to be a med school graduate to understand it. To tell anything else of the plot would chip away at the foundation of the whole experience.

A good healthy unexpected twist in the end brings Coma to an excellent crescendo. Style and clothes seem bland and awkward, from the hit man’s plaid jacket to Genevieve’s unflattering hairstyle, it screams 1970′s (strong story and non model actors and actresses). Yet Bujold still exudes a manner of MILF sexiness and the structure of the screenplay will keep you attentive and alert. Its just dated, perhaps a bit bland for some in the horror community who don’t get off on psychological digs. Its more of a drama than a horror film. Here the horror element is the notion that if third world countries abduct organs from victims – why not a conspiring money hungry hospital here in the United States? The methods to Coma‘s madness are quite scientifically sound and economically realistic, so the overall result does manage to get under your skin. And we all hate hospitals enough as it is, don’t we?

 

Official Score

  • Joe-Banger

    @John Marrone Thanks for this great review! The next chance I get to see this film I will jump hard on it! I saw part of it a long time ago but I was too young to undrestand it. When did micheal Crichton die? He was on on my list of of great inspirational writers to meet. Well Stephan King is first on my list anyway.

    • John Marrone

      Thx Joe. Its a good 70′s flick. I didn’t get it either when I was young. And I didn’t know Crichton had passed away either until I looked him up researching this film. He died in 2008.

  • John Marrone

    Westworld is a trip

  • Joe-Banger

    Oh yeah John, I forgot to mention I saw West World a few times growing up. Amazing film! Thanks for reminding me of that movie.

    • John Marrone

      I haven’t seen it in a long time. Was such a cool concept and that bald dude Yul Brenner or whoever looked sick. Seems like that would be a killer film to remake since they’re doin everything else…

  • darknebulus

    2.5 really? I would have given it 4 at least. After all the film was made back in 1978 and was never really a horror fim more along the science fiction lines. I shall watch it again and see if it warranted the score.