(Lisa is currently in the process of cleaning out her DVR! She has got over 170 movies on the DVR to watch and she’s trying to get it done before the start of the new year! Can she get it done? Probably not, but she’s going to try! 1972’s The Carey Treatment was recorded off of TCM on July 23rd.)
Dr. Peter Carey (James Coburn) is the epitome of 1970s cool. He’s got hair long enough to cover the top half of ears. He’s got a fast car. He’s got a rebellious attitude and a girlfriend (Jennifer O’Neill) who rarely questions his decisions. Though you don’t see it in the movie, Dr. Carey probably smokes weed when he’s back at his fashionably decorated apartment. How do I know this? Well, he’s played by James Coburn. Even if some of them are nearly 50 years old, you can still get a contact high from watching any movie featuring James Coburn.
Anyway, what the Hell is The Carey Treatment about? Dr. Carey has just recently moved to Boston, where he’s taken a job at a stodgy old hospital. The hospital’s chief doctor, J.D. Randall (Dan O’Herlihy, of Halloween III: Season of The Witch fame), might want Dr. Carey to tone down his free-livin’, free-lovin’ California ways but no one tells Peter Carey what to do. In fact, the entire city of Boston might be too stodgy and conventional for Dr. Carey. You see, Dr. Carey not only heals people. He also beats up people who try to stand in his way. Peter Carey is a doctor who cares but he’s also a doctor who can kick ass.
And he’s going to have to kick a lot of ass because Dr. Randall’s daughter has just turned up dead. The police say that she died as the result of a botched abortion and they’ve arrested Carey’s best friend, Dr. David Tao (James Hong). (The Carey Treatment, it should be noted, was filmed before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion.) The Boston establishment is determined to use Dr. Tao as a scapegoat but Dr. Carey is convinced that his friend is innocent. In fact, he doesn’t think that the death was the result of an abortion at all. Carey sets out to solve the case … HIS WAY!
If it seems like I’m going a little bit overboard with my emphasis on the Dr. Peter Carey character, that’s because this entire movie feels more like a pilot for a weekly Dr. Carey television series as opposed to an actual feature film. It’s easy to image that each week, James Coburn would drive from hospital to hospital, solving medical mysteries and debating social issues with stuffy members of the Boston establishment. Henry Mancini would provide the theme music and Don Murray would guest star as Dr. Carey’s brother, a priest who encourages the young men in his parish to burn their draft cards.
It might have eventually become an interesting TV show but it falls pretty flat as a movie. James Coburn is in nearly every scene, which would usually be a good thing. But in The Carey Treatment, he gives an incredibly indifferent performance. He seems to be bored by the whole thing and, as a result, Dr. Peter Carey is less a cool rebel and more of a narcissistic jerk. The mystery itself is handled rather haphazardly. On the positive side, Michael Blodgett gives a wonderfully creepy performance as a duplicitous masseur but otherwise, The Carey Treatment is nothing special.
If you want to see a great James Coburn film, track down The President’s Analyst.