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  Mind of Mr. Soames, The A Lot Of Growing Up To DoBuy this film here.
Year: 1970
Director: Alan Cooke
Stars: Terence Stamp, Robert Vaughn, Nigel Davenport, Christian Roberts, Donal Donnelly, Norman Jones, Dan Jackson, Vickery Turner, Judy Parfitt, Scott Forbes, Joe McPartland, Pamela Moiseiwitsch, Billy Cornelius, Jon Croft, Esmond Webb, Christopher Timothy
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Science Fiction
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mister John Soames (Terence Stamp) has been in a coma since birth, and kept at this British medical institute for the past thirty years, growing to physical maturity but mentally, nothing appears to be going on in his mind. However, the forthright Dr Maitland (Nigel Davenport) has big plans for his patient, and has invited an American surgeon, Dr Bergen (Robert Vaughn) over the Atlantic to perform an operation on Soames that may be able to awaken him from his lifetime slumber. The media are naturally intrigued, and are invited in to record the process, but what will Soames be like if and when he does gain consciousness? How will he be able to cope?

Well, you are more or less ahead of the plot in this variation on the venerable Mary Shelley Frankenstein novel except here the body is already formed and it is the titular mind that must be built and pieced together to create a new life. However, the scientists, especially Maitland, could be regarded as just as misguided as their literary counterpart in light of what happens and how their subject behaves - it's not a spoiler to reveal he does wake up, because you do not hire Stamp for a lead then have him lie around the set with his eyes closed for the duration of the shoot. What this did feature was a pseudo-seriousness that it was actually asking searching questions of society.

Awkward questions, at that, the sort of "has science gone too far?" queries that had been prevalent in science fiction ever since its inception. Undercutting that somewhat was the fact that the premise could not have happened in real life, as even if they did wake up a man who had always been in a coma, there was no way he could have been trained to attain any kind of advancement as we saw here, even if he was somewhat restricted in his mental capacity. It was as much a fable as Charly from a couple of years before this had been; Cliff Robertson had snagged an Oscar for that fanciful, sentimental item, so maybe the production here was hoping for a similar degree of adulation.

No such luck, as it did not set the box office alight and was largely forgotten afterwards, though it did pick up dedicated fans, mostly responding to Stamp's portrayal of a soul who was either pathetic or dangerous, being a grown man with a child's intellect that could be inquisitive or petulant, but had trouble with boundaries. The first half of the film was dedicated to Soames' development, with lots of bits of business with toys and tests until he becomes tired of the whole affair and threatens to return to his coma. A subtle aspect of the scientists' lack of understanding about their patient is that Soames is not being looked after by any women, so he has no mother figure to guide him; for that reason his later interactions with the opposite sex can place us on edge, since we do not know how he will react.

Yes, our "monster" does escape, after clonking one of his guards, so we know he has a capacity for violence, and much of that diversion into thriller territory, even horror territory, can be explained by the producers on this picture being Amicus; while Charly was a sensitive drama with science fiction trappings, this was made by people whose speciality was portmanteau horror flicks, and they obviously could not help themselves. Going against Soames' image of a potential menace was his attire: to have us reminded he essentially held a child's outlook in his noggin, the costume department decked him out in what can best be described as a pink onesie, and not one of those for comfort-obsessed twenty-first century adults, either. That we are supposed to regard Soames as a rampaging baby lent an air of the absurd to the film, though we did get some engagingly bleak views of late sixties-early seventies Britain, resolutely non-swinging, and Stamp somehow did not invite us to laugh as this miserable specimen. Music by Michael Dress.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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