Thursday, March 6, 2014

Morgan! (Morgan - A Suitable Case for Treatment)

Format: DVD from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on laptop.

Every now and then I find a film where it feels like the nomination went to the wrong person. I’m not trying to denigrate the performance of Vanessa Redgrave, but her nomination instead of a nomination for David Warner for Morgan! (also called Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment) seems bizarre. David Warner is the heart and soul of this film and it’s his performance that turns it from a little film about obsession and insanity into something potentially far more interesting.

Morgan Delt (Warner) is a failed artist and a communist radical. He also has a failing marriage with Leonie (Redgrave), who comes from a wealthy family. It’s never stated but somewhat implied that Leonie may well have married Morgan as an act of rebellion against her parents. However, she has had enough of Morgan’s various antics and has decided instead to divorce him and marry Charles Napier (Robert Stephens), an art dealer. Morgan is against this plan and will do anything he can think of to keep Leonie married to him. Because Morgan is also sliding directly into insanity, “anything he can think of” covers a lot of territory.

Morgan has evidently long lived in his own fantasy world, which we get glimpses of from time to time. Most of his fantasies are directly related to wild animals, with primates featuring heavily. He frequently pictures himself and others as various animals. We also get a few film clips as a part of Morgan’s fantasies; these are either directly from Tarzan films or from King Kong.

Among his various schemes to keep Leonie in his life are placing a skeleton in her bed, Planting a small bomb and detonator under her bed that will trigger if she lays on it (potentially with Napier), wiring the house with loudspeakers and playing recordings, and eventually kidnapping Leonie and forcing her to live in a tent with him. Even that doesn’t keep him out of circulation for too long, since Leonie refuses to do much in the way of pressing charges. Ultimately, Morgan dresses up in a gorilla costume (and we get King Kong footage) and crashes her wedding to Napier, a stunt that gets him locked away in a mental institution.

The reason for all of these goings-on, though, are not limited to Morgan himself; a great deal of this comes from Leonie. The truth is that Leonie may no longer love Morgan (and may never have), but she still likes the attention. She’s excited by his obsession with her. It makes her the center of attention. Essentially, she is in the middle of two men warring over her. She’s exactly the type who bases her own self-worth on the fact that multiple men want her.

I said at the top that I don’t understand Vanessa Redgrave’s nomination for this and I hold to that. Her performance isn’t bad; it’s just not that notable or interesting. Everything in the film hinges on David Warner and his willingness to completely commit to the role And commit he does, making him the only thing really worth seeing here.

Oh, okay. Karel Reisz does some interesting things with the camera and uses sped-up film at a few places here for comic effect. This fact and Warner’s performance aren’t enough to pull this out of the WTF file, though. Not a great deal here makes much sense. Morgan’s communism, for instance, seems to be there first to make him an edgy radical and second to give the character something to talk about. Morgan likes to relive Trotsky’s assassination. But aside from the “bad taste” of being a Soviet supporter in 1960s Britain, Morgan might just as well be an obsessive capitalist, an anarchist, or someone wanting to reinstate the powers of the monarchy. It has no function other than being a character quirk.

He’s also more than willing to commit any variety of criminal acts, and his punishment for most of them is simply anger and a shaking of heads. If you missed this above, let me spell it out more plainly: He plants a bomb under his wife’s bed. This is seen as little more than wacky hijinks.

I’m not sure who Morgan! was made for, but it most certainly wasn’t made for me.

Why to watch Morgan!: Because David Warner is awesome and because it’s completely insane.
Why not to watch: Do you really want a lighter side to insanity and obsession?


  1. This is a movie I really thought was cool when I last saw 1976 or so. If I watched it today, I might feel the same as you about it. Speaking of Brits,Have you tried "The Knack and How to Get it," "How I Won the War" or "King of Hearts" yet?

    1. I've seen bits of How I Won the War but haven't made it through the whole thing. I've heard of the others, but I'm unfamiliar with them.

      I think my biggest takeaways from Morgan! are that David Warner is underrated and that violent insanity for entertainment is evidently a thing.