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on 3 March 2015
A well acted film with good stars telling stark story of mental breakdown
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on 8 January 2011
At first I thought, I am not sure I can watch this regularly, but as the film went on and then it ended, I have decided it is a good film and worth keeping to watch again. The acting was really good and the film was entertaining.
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VINE VOICEon 16 September 2004
Although Olivia de Havilland is probably best known as Melanie from Gone with the Wind and as the love interest of Errol Flynn in many of his films, she was a quite capable actress as this film shows. Virginia Cunningham (de Havilland) suddenly realises that she is a psychiatric ward of a hospital with no recollection of how or why she got there. We join her as she has her ups and downs in her recovery, trying to figure out why she's there. The film is a good one but is not perfect. It really lives out the performance of its leading lady and a good script - and there are some hidden gems in the dialogue which you can't help laugh at. The DVD shows an impressive copy for a 1948 film, but the sound although ok didn't impress me that much. Still is worth your money if you like classic films, Olivia de Havilland or simply want to enjoy a good film.
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on 5 February 2009
I never thought I would be able to get hold of this DVD, fantastic! Early psychiatric film really interesting to those interested in the history of mental illness.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 September 2013
When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up.

The Snake Pit is directed by Anatole Litvak and adapted to screenplay by Frank Partos, Millen Brand and Arthur Laurents from the novel written by Mary Jane Ward. It stars Olivia de Havilland, Mark Stevens, Leo Genn, Celeste Holm, Glenn Langan, Helen Craig, Leif Erickson and Beulah Bondi. Music is by Alfred Newman and cinematography by Leo Tover.

Olivia de Havilland plays Virginia Stuart Cunningham, and film chronicles Virgina's time and treatment in the Juniper Hill Mental Institution.

"It was strange, here I was among all those people, and at the same time I felt as if I were looking at them from some place far away, the whole place seemed to me like a deep hole and the people down in it like strange animals, like... like snakes, and I've been thrown into it... yes... as though... as though I were in a snake pit..."

It's still today one of the most potent and important screen explorations of mental illness and its treatment. Backed by an astonishing performance by de Havilland, Litvak and an initially sceptical Darryl F. Zanuck (20th Century Fox supremo), led the way in bringing to the masses the subject and to treat it with stark realism. Quite often it's harrowing as entertainment, with Virgina's fractured mind laid bare under duress of treatments now seen as antiquated.

It's true enough to say that some of the story features simplistic motives and means, these come as a product of the time the picture was made. But with Litvak (Sorry, Wrong Number) and his principal crew members researching the subject thoroughly, the end result is an incredible blend of dramatic heartfelt suspense and rays of humanistic hope. As Virginia weaves her way through this maze of psychological discord, with flashbacks constantly adding layers to the character's make up, Litvak presents a fascinating portrait of asylum life and the people who resided there, both as patients and staff.

Some scenes are brilliantly crafted, either as visual expansions of the story or as shards of light in a dark world. One sequence sees Litvak track "dancing" silhouettes on a wall, and to then do a pull away shot upwards to reveal Virginia in the snake pit, the impact is stark in its magnificence. Another sequence takes place at a dance for the patients, where a rendition of Antonín Dvorák's "Goin' Home" turns into something quite beautiful, a unison of profound optimism that strikes the heart like the calm after a storm.

Leo Tover's (The Day The Earth Stood Still) crisp black and white photography is perfectly in sync with the material, and Newman's (Wuthering Heights) magnificent score bounces around the institution like a spectral observer. With de Havilland doing her tour de force, it could be easy to forget the great work of Genn and Stevens, the former is a bastion of assured calmness as Dr. Mark Kik, the latter as Virgina's husband Robert underplays it to perfection and he gives us a character to root for wholesale.

It has to be viewed in the context of the era it was made, but its influence on future movies and awareness of mental health treatments in the real world should not be understated. A brilliant production that demands to be seen. 9/10
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on 26 August 2013
I see from the reviews so far that there is only one award of five stars. How can one make a thorough assessment of this film without a background knowledge in mental health? I could refer to my own career when, as a student, I worked my vacations in various hospitals as orderly, porter, and theatre technician. A very close friend did likewise, spending six weeks as a cleaner in a mental hospital (now closed) that was well known to me from the outside, its gaunt towers breaking the horizon as seen from the playingfield where we children attempted a normal childhood in the suburbs of Greater London during WW2. What I am really trying to say is that one's experience in any environment will depend upon the perspective from which one makes their observations. I worked in eleven different hospital establishments in the 1950/60s, no two were remotely alike.

In this film (from 1948) which is not for the weak of heart, de Havilland plays the part of a mentally deranged young lady (Virginia Cunningham) who, having reached a crisis point in her life, is consigned to an institution for the mentally sick. Her treatment there is mainly in the hands of Dr. Mark Kik, played with measured calm by Leo Genn. As in "Green for Danger", Genn is portrayed (though lower key here) as an obvious target for female infatuation. Only at the very end of the film does de Havvialnd indicate she had been in love with the man. But now, of course, it doesn't matter for she is on the point of release from the institution and to be reunited with her devoted husband (Robert Cunningham, played by Mark Stevens) waiting for her outside the building.

Inevitably there are frequent flashbacks in the life of Virginia, some harrowing especially from her childhood, where she loses her father and for which she appears to blame herself. Gradually a picture unfolds that seeks to explain her predicament. Simplistic? Not entirely; then this is not the whole story anyway since it is obvious the film seeks to give some insight into the manifest problems inherent in the treatment of the mentally ill. (One obvious question would be how on earth can one hope for a solution when so many disparate souls are locked up together inside a building for long periods?) One has to say the film makes a brave attempt at the impossible with the result that at the end we should not be entirely dissatisfied.

Interesting incidents, in passing, date the film all to the good, incidentally. Thus, the reference to a concert in which Brahms's First Symphony is to be performed, and the rating of the months of May (May 7th, Brahms's birthday) and October as significant to Virginia's decline. Towards the end of the film a large gathering within the institution is treated to a dance with a small ensemble playing on stage. This concludes with an affecting adaptation of the principle theme from the slow movement of Mendelssohn's well known Violin Concerto in E minor set to words sung by a soloist and followed by the audience. Sad, but without sentimentality.

Those who admire de Havilland's performance in this film might care to see her in another tragic role, along with Montgomery Clift, in "The Heiress" (1949). The Heiress [DVD]
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VINE VOICEon 2 September 2004
Although Olivia de Havilland is probably best known as Melanie from Gone with the Wind and as the love interest of Errol Flynn in many of his films, she was a quite capable actress as this film shows. Virginia Cunningham (de Havilland) suddenly realises that she is a psychiatric ward of a hospital with no recollection of how or why she got there. We join her as she has her ups and downs in her recovery, trying to figure out why she's there. The film is a good one but is not perfect. It really lives out the performance of its leading lady and a good script - and there are some hidden gems in the dialogue which you can't help laugh at. The DVD shows an great copy for a 1948 film, but the sound although ok didn't impress me that much. Still is worth your money if you like classic films, Olivia de Havilland or simply want to enjoy a good film.
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on 19 November 2009
De Havilland famously remarked that it was harder to play 'nice' girls and is most often associated with the Melanies and Maid Marians. Snake Pit proves she also could carry off the darker side of humanity with great aplomb. Single handedly, she drags you through the ups and downs of the various emotions of her changing illness - bemused, frightened, generous - without effort and always believably. Despite a few caricatures of the 'insane', and a slightly underwhelming (indifferent?) Leo Genn as her doctor, Snake Pit is one of the great mental illness films.
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on 5 July 2010
interesting little movie and apart from some somewhat dubious depictions of mentally disturbed patients (to modern eyes)for its period a good film.interesting to see olivia acting this sort of part ,tho she does ham it up in the odd scene.the highlite for me is the concert near the end given by the inmates and one sings "going home".breaks your heart.
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on 13 January 2013
excellent film about a woman that is mentally disturbed Olivia DeHavilland plays an excellent part in Snake pit - she was also Oscar Nominated
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