Synanon is a fictionized semi-documentary of a rehabilitation home for drug addicts on the beachfront of Santa Monica, Calif, where almost miraculous cures are said to be achieved. As backdrop for a dramatic story it is grim, hard-hitting and sometimes shocking.
Producer-director Richard Quine moved his cameras to the actual locale to ensure authenticity in this story of Synanon House, established by Charles E. Dederich, an ex-alcoholic, in 1958.
Edmond O’Brien enacts the character of Dederich (who acted as technical advisor), plagued by debts and civil opposition as he goes about his seemingly thankless task of trying to bring lives back from the brink.
O’Brien’s performance is smooth and convincing and lends strength to the character he portrays. Cord registers decisively in an unsympathetic role, and Stella Stevens is persuasive as a hooker, with a great love for her five-year-old son.