Samuel Fuller’s thin plot has a newspaperman (Peter Breck) contriving, with the aid of a psychiatrist no less, to get himself committed to a mental ward in order to identify a murderer known only to the inmates and whom the police have been unable to detect.
Within all this lurks three points about Americana, each embodied in characters the fourth-estater encounters in the hospital. A Communist-brainwashed and subsequently disgraced Korean war vet (James Best) is the mouthpiece through which Fuller pleads for greater understanding of such unfortunate individuals.
Likewise, a Negro (Hari Rhodes) supposed to have been the first to attend an all-white Southern university serves to make the point that it takes enormous emotional stamina to play the role of the martyr in social progress. And the character of a renowned physicist (Gene Evans) whose mind has deteriorated into that of a six-year-old enables Fuller to get in some digs against bomb shelters and America’s participation in the space race.
But all these points go for naught because the film is dominated by sex and shock superficialities. Among the gruelling passages are a striptease and an attack on the hero in a locked room by half-a-dozen nymphos.
The dialog is unreal and pretentious, and the direction is heavyhanded, often mistaking sordidness for realism. The performers labor valiantly, but in vain. Those most prominent are Breck, who really gets his lumps and earns his pay, and Constance Towers as his stripper girlfriend.
[Original prints included documentary color sequences shot on 16mm by Fuller himself.]