Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Hospital

Go To

"On Monday morning, a patient named Guernsey—male, middle 70s—was admitted to the hospital complaining of chest pains. He had been referred by a nursing home, where the doctor had diagnosed his condition as angina pectoris. It is axiomatic that nursing home doctors are always wrong. The intern who admitted Mr. Guernsey, however, accepted the diagnosis and prescribed morphine: a drug suitable for angina, but not at all suitable for emphysema, which is unfortunately what the old man actually had."
Paddy Chayefsky, voicing the first lines of the opening narration.

The Hospital is a 1971 satirical film, written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Arthur Hiller.

Dr. Herbert Bock (George C. Scott) is the Chief of Medicine at a large Manhattan hospital. The chaos of his personal life (separation from his wife, alienation from his children) is matched by the chaos of his hospital, where overcrowding, bureaucratic red tape, and an incompetent staff have made things a mess. As Bock harbors suicidal thoughts, a young doctor is found dead in a patient's bed, under mysterious circumstances. On top of all this, the hospital is also facing protests from activist groups over a proposed annexation of a nearby apartment building. Just as things seem like they can't get any worse, more hospital staffers suffer mysterious deaths.

Another complication for Dr. Bock comes in the form of Barbara Drummond (Diana Rigg), the daughter of a patient who's in a coma. Barbara wants to move her father back to the village in Mexico where he works as a missionary, where she plans to serves as his nurse. But she soon comes to realize that it might be Dr. Bock who desperately needs her attention.

A big hit with critics and audiences, this film earned Chayefsky his second Academy Award for Best Screenplay (after Marty). Stockard Channing made her film debut in a bit part as an ER nurse.

Tropes in Room 806:

  • Affably Evil: Drummond seems like a decent man, who happens to have some major mental health issues.
  • Anti-Hero: Dr. Bock is portrayed as deeply flawed and cantankerous, but as someone whose heart is in the right place.
  • Asshole Victim: As a bit of a Smug Snake, Dr. Schaefer's death isn't all that heartbreaking. Dr. Welbeck who's specified by Drummond as the next victim is a greedy, sloppy doctor and a bit of a sociopath but he ends up dying of natural causes.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Bock has a scruffy beard that suggests he stopped shaving once his life went to hell.
  • Berserker Tears: Drummond cries when he realizes how horrible the conditions at the hospital are, and how in his mind they justify his killing spree.
  • Black Comedy: The comedic elements of the film are extremely dark. It says something when a series of murders is one of the lighter aspects of a film.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Guernsey, the elderly patient who dies because of misdiagnosis and mishandling at the start of the film is the inspiration for Drummond to go on his killing spree.
  • Covers Always Lie: The poster implies that it's a rollicking comedy, when it's really a dark satire.
  • Creator Cameo: Paddy Chayefsky does the opening narration.
  • Dr. Jerk: Most of the doctors come off this way, even Bock at times (though he has a good excuse for the way he behaves).
  • Empty Shell: The bright, ambitious Dr. Bock has been reduced to contemplating suicide by the stress in his life.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When we first see Dr. Bock he is passed out in a chair, still in his clothes, the TV still on and showing static, and a 2/3 empty bottle of vodka on the table next to him.
  • God in Human Form: According to Drummond, Guernsey was this.
  • Granola Girl: Barbara isn't all that exaggerated as a character, but she definitely fits this trope.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: As explained by Drummond, he technically didn't kill the doctors or the nurse. He just injured them so they'd need to get medical attention, but the service at the hospital is so bad that he knew that they'd eventually die from malpractice.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The title is listed in the credits as The Hospital by Paddy Chayefsky.
  • Internal Reveal: We find out that the deaths of the hospital employees aren't accidental long before Bock is made aware of it.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Bock finally decides to end it all in a very clinical, medical way, but Barbara, realizing that he was serious with his suicide talk, comes back to the office.
  • Ignore the Fanservice: Invoked at first with Barbara seeming to be just another minor character, then whole-heartedly averted.
  • Large Ham:
    • It stars George C. Scott, so naturally he gets his moments of this.
    • Both characters played by Barnard Hughes: Drummond ("I am the Paraclete of Caborca!") and Dr. Mallory ("Jesus H. Christ!").
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Amongst all his other problems, Bock is impotent. When Barbara starts coming on to him, Bock goes on a rant about it.
    Bock: Well I'm impotent and I'm proud of it! Impotence is beautiful, baby!
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: The story is set in motion when Dr. Schaefer and a technician have sex in the bed where a patient had just died.
  • Meaningful Name: Since one of the recurring themes is the way patients get herded through the health care system like livestock, it's quite appropriate that the patient who dies because of all the bungling shares a surname with a cattle breed: Guernsey.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Turns out Drummond wasn't in a coma after all.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Dr. Bock, but when the "normal" character is a suicidal emotional wreck, you know you've come across a vary dark movie.
    • Barbara seems down-to-earth at first, but in her confessional monologue we find out that she's a psychological mess as well.
  • Rambling Old Man Monologue:
    • The famous impotence monologue, ending with "Impotence is beautiful, baby."
    • And the climactic speech where Mr. Drummond explains how and why he killed the doctors and the nurse.
  • Rape Portrayed as Redemption: Zig-zagged a bit, since it's the perpetrator, Dr. Bock, who seems to have been positively affected by forcing himself on Barbara, especially since the encounter distracted him from killing himself and it's implied that it cured his impotence. But things get inverted the next morning: he feels awful for having done it, while she falls in love with him.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: As to be expected in a Paddy Chayefsky script, there's a surplus of articulate Writer on Board monologues written to within an inch of their lives.
  • Serial Killer: There seems to be one loose in the hospital. It's actually a vengeful patient.
  • Shown Their Work: Chayefsky did lots of research for his script, examining malpractice suits and getting actual horror stories from health care professionals.
  • Spiritual Successor: The later Arthur Hiller film Teachers (1984) is very obviously an attempt to import this film's style to an educational setting. Network continued the Black Comedy tone that Chayefsky established here.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Drummond has a valid point about how horrible the health care is at the hospital, but arranging for staff members to die is perhaps a bit of Disproportionate Retribution.
  • Witch Doctor: Barbara brings an Apache shaman in to bless her father, which freaks out the staff and the other patient in the room.