As a film that deals with themes of insanity, jealousy, romance and class division, whilst simultaneously skipping between madcap comedy and tragic love story, it is little wonder that 'Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment' (Karel Reisz, 1966) achieves rather mixed results. It details the descent into madness of the already psychologically unstable Morgan (David Warner), as he is forced to deal with the break-up of his marriage to Leonie (Vanessa Redgrave) and her plans to marry her lover Charles Napier (Robert Stephens). His inability to deal with the reality of his situation forces him into a world of fantasy, whereupon he sees things and people as wild animals in the jungle, viewing himself always as a gorilla. This particular obsession with gorillas increase along with his plight, with the lines of reality and fantasy becoming blurred as he inexplicably mimics the creatures in public to the bemusement of those around him, culminating in an extraordinary finale, which we will come to shortly.
The key issue I had when watching 'Morgan' was its difficulty in creating a definitive identity for itself. With nowhere near enough funny moments to call itself a comedy, nor enough weight behind the spiralling mental condition of its protagonist to be considered a `serious' film, 'Morgan' falls short of reaching either with any real conviction. However, this is not to say that the film fails entirely. There are certainly enough positives on offer to remain pleasantly entertaining throughout, yet it never quite fulfils its potential to be something special.
'Morgan's' most obvious asset is that of David Warner and his performance of Morgan. His on-screen charm combined with the understated menace of his portrayal of the young, unhinged artist is genuinely brilliant, providing the vast majority of the film's comic moments. The delivery of such fantastic lines as: "You know, I believe my mental condition is extremely illegal." are perfectly pitched between off-the-wall humour and a sense of growing madness.
Director Karel Reisz's visual sensibilities also lend themselves well to the piece, creating, at times, an aesthetic of superb originality. The use of cutting-in images of animals in the wild as a means to illustrate Morgan's ever-increasing detachment from reality, works beautifully. This technique is largely what makes the film's remarkable climax quite so unique, as we see clips of the original King Kong (Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933), in particular the scene in which King Kong saves Ann and fights the dinosaur, interspersed with Morgan watching the wedding reception of Leonie and his love rival Charles, as he imagines himself rescuing her from the monster. The resulting tone is one of wonderfully inventive comedy; a tone which one is left wishing had been more present throughout.
Overall, 'Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment' is a perfectly adequate and mildly entertaining piece of British, 1960s filmmaking. While its cult status is assured due to its lack of concern with commercial viability, it is the absence of a suitably disciplined narrative and direction that are ultimately at the heart of the films exclusion from the canon of great British movies from the same era.