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The Hospital (1971) (directed by Arthur Hiller, written by Paddy Chayefsky) is set in a huge, prestigious teaching hospital in Manhattan.
Herbert Bock, the chief of Internal Medicine (portrayed by George C. Scott), has reached the end of his rope. His stormy marriage has finally broken down for good, he’s estranged from his kids, and his beloved hospital seems to be falling apart. Callous incompetence surrounds him. He feels helpless and bereft of hope. Bock’s sole comfort is nightly binge drinking. He concludes his only option is suicide.
As Bock prepares to end his life by massively overdosing on potassium, he witnesses a bizarre scene. A recently admitted patient – a medical missionary from Boston working among the Apaches of northern Mexico – is the subject of a shamanistic ritual conducted right in the ward by an Apache medicine man. The medicine man was flown to New York for that very purpose. Bock takes this grotesque episode as yet another sign that his beloved hospital is going to the dogs.
Meanwhile, Bock is introduced to the missionary’s daughter (Ms. Drummond, played by Diana Rigg). That same evening she comes to his office on some pretext, but with the clear intention of seducing him. She has, she tells him, “a thing for brooding middle-aged men”. The action here begins just after she makes her move, which Bock rejects.
What makes this lengthy scene remarkable is how it was shot in one continuous take. There were no cuts and no interpolations. Scott and Rigg performed as if they were live on the stage. And Scott’s towering performance – in what has become widely known as the “impotence monologue” – is now one of the most admired in cinema history.