This movie is based on Dennis Reardon’s play The Happiness Cage, which had the distinction of being the inaugural production of the Joseph Papp Public Theater. I think I would have rather seen this story as a play, despite Christopher Walken (in his first starring role! It’s amazing what 42 years does to a person). Walken plays a soldier who has major anger issues (possibly schizophrenic as well) when he gets tapped for an experimental surgery (led by the great Joss Ackland) that is supposed to help control the pain/pleasure centers of the brain to create “the better soldier”.
The movie is choppy with edits and scene changes that are confusing. The science of the movie is unfortunately quite dated (the idea of implanting wires into the brain cortex as a pseudo-lobotomy) but the core idea of changing the mental capacity/personality/very soul of a human being is still pretty chilling. The movie is an interesting time capsule when examined as a product of the Vietnam War era, at least. And Ronny Cox (best known as the guitar player from Deliverance) is always a treat. Almost. His character in this movie is two-dimensional, creepy, and ultimately pathetic. At any rate, it’s decent late ’60s-early ’70s sci-fi fare. I think Richard Matheson would have made a better screenplay, as I’m sure Dennis Reardon wrote a better stage play. We all have our strengths.
What the K.C. is knitting while watching this: a pair of socks!