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Movie Review


MPAA Rating: PG for violence, brief nudity, and language

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teen to Adult
Drama Thriller
1 hr. 53 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
January 6, 1978
Cover Graphic from Coma
Featuring: Geneviève Bujold, Michael Douglas, Elizabeth Ashley, Rip Torn, Richard Widmark
Director: Michael Crichton
Producer: Martin Erlichman
Distributor: _____

Based on the first of many “Medical Techno-Horror” novels by Robin Cook, “Coma” also includes a screenplay by Michael Crichton. The horror element is not supernaturalist; it involves the ethics problems with healthcare in our post-Christian society.

Dr. Susan Wheeler (Genevieve Bujold), a surgeon at Boston Memorial, gets stressed out when one of her best friends emerges from a routine surgical procedure in a brain-dead coma. Becoming suspicious, she tries to find an explanation for that case, and eventually for a number of similar cases. She finds much more than she bargained for. The audience is kept guessing about exactly what’s going on and about who is behind it. The content of the novel has been simplified in the screenplay, but the general concept is intact. Besides the star characters, Tom Selleck and Ed Harris can be spotted in bit parts.

Warnings: There’s a moderate amount of profanity. A few brief scenes of actual nudity, plus many scenes of comatose patients and dead bodies, some nude, some partly dissected (of course, several are special-effects fakes). A ridiculous scene of implied sex between two hospital lab employees, right on the lab floor. Several killings (including a “therapeutic” abortion performed on a married woman whose husband must not find out; both the mother and the fetus die). Other violence, tension, creepy music and jump scenes. At least those who believe in the “old ethics” in which the life of an individual (other than an unborn child) has value are portrayed as the “good guys.” Still, this is not for the squeamish or easily-offended.

Even twenty years after this film was made, in our era of HMOs paying doctors to provide less care, I don’t believe that the actual state of medicine in the U.S. is nearly as bad as shown here. Both the book and the movie are primarily sensationalistic moneymakers with just a thread of reality to justify them. But I do believe that since we as a nation continue to allow abortion on demand (including letting the clinics make extra profit from selling fetuses for research or for “spare parts”) and have renounced moral absolutes and the worth of the individual, there’s no logical reason why our present policies won’t someday lead us where similar policies once took Nazi Germany.

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