After her lover and employer commits suicide, nurse Susan Manning (Jennifer O’Neill) needs a new job so she applies at an experimental mental hospital that is known as the Institute. The director of the Institute, Dr. Magnus Quilly (William Windom), explains to her that he cures his patients by allowing them to live out their fantasies in a controlled environment. He asks Susan is she’s prepared to “commit” herself to being a nurse. Susan says that she is and signs the papers that Dr. Quilly hands to her.
Too late, Susan discovers that Dr. Quilly didn’t hand her an employment contract. Instead, Susan has just signed her own commitment papers and is now a patient at the Institute! Dr. Quilly tells her that, as he does with all of his patients, he will allow her to live out her fantasy of being a nurse. After discovering than an electrified fence makes it impossible to escape, Susan starts working as a nurse but she soon discovers that she is not the first person to be tricked into working at the Institute and that almost all of her predecessors died under mysterious circumstances.
Committed is one of many films about what happens when the lunatics literally take over the asylum. (This is a plot that was first used by Edgar Allan Poe in The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether.) The film is hurt by its low-budget but veteran B-movie director William A. Levey does a good job playing up the claustrophobia of being trapped in one location and Committed features eccentric performances from actors like Robert Forster, Ron Pallilo, and Sidney Lassick. Committed asks, “Who is actually sane in an insane world?” and answers, “Everyone’s crazy!”
The best thing about Committed is that it stars Jennifer O’Neill, a beautiful model-turned-actress who found brief stardom when she appeared as the war bride in Summer of ’42. Though O’Neill’s career never lived up to the promise of her first film, she was a better-than-average actress and she’s pretty good in Committed. Both she and the film keep it deliberately ambiguous about whether or not Susan is really a nurse or if her whole backstory is just something that she’s fantasized.
Committed is a well-made B-movie from the golden age of straight-to-video thrillers and late night HBO premieres. Despite a low-budget, this movie shows the good work that a cast and a director can do when they’re fully committed.