Ninth Configuration [1980]

Director: William Peter Blatty
Stars: Stacy Keach, Robert Loggia, Scott Wilson, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller
Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 113 minutes

The lunatics are running the asylum... but are they really lunatics? Is Colonel Kane (Stacy Keach) really a noted psychiatrist, assigned to supervise patients in an experimental government clinic, or is he really "Killer" Kane, a decorated U.S. Marine who committed atrocities in Vietnam before going insane? And why did Captain Cutshaw (Scott Wilson) go berserk just seconds before a scheduled rocket launch? These are just some of the puzzles that will eventually be solved in The Ninth Configuration, a giddy and often brilliant drama created by William Peter Blatty, who wrote The Exorcist before directing this adaptation of his own novel, Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane. A satirical study of war's traumatic aftermath, the film uses battle psychosis as the springboard for a delirious and scathingly intelligent human tragedy, laced with some of the wittiest dialogue you're ever likely to hear. The movie boasts a veritable menagerie of crazy characters, all brought vividly to life by a stellar supporting cast. One patient is preparing a production of Shakespeare with an all-dog cast. Another is convinced he's Superman, and the resident doctor can't seem to find his trousers. But there's a method to this madness, and it takes a barroom brawl--one of the most memorable in movie history--to provide the harsh slap of reality to Blatty's elaborate group therapy scheme. When the true purpose of The Ninth Configuration is revealed, the film (and particularly the fine performances of Keach and Wilson) reveals a depth of compassionate sanity that may take you completely by surprise. --Jeff Shannon

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