One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest * * * * *
Director: Milos Forman.
Screenplay: Lawrence Hauben, Bo Goldman.
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Brad Dourif, Sydney Lassick, Will Sampson, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, William Redfield, Scatman Crothers, Vincent Schiavelli, Michael Berryman, Nathan George, Dean R. Brooks, Anjelica Huston.
So far, only three films in the history of the Oscars have won all top five awards: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress & Screenplay. Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night” in 1934 was the first, Jonathan Demme’s “The Silence Of The Lambs” in 1991 was the third and this 1975 adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel was the second of the three, and the most deserving.
‘Randall Patrick McMurphy’ (Jack Nicholson) is a convict who fakes insanity to escape the confines of prison and instead, spend his remaining years of incarceration in a hospital. McMurphy gets more than he bargain for though, when he comes across the tyrannical Head Nurse (Louise Fletcher). Rebelling against her control over the vulnerable patients, McMurphy turns the hospital ward upside-down with his wildly infectious and challenging personality, which incurs the wrath of the embittered Nurse.
Written during the radical and rebellious 1960′s it perfectly captures the free-spirited nature of the times, embodied in McMurphy and his reactionary behaviour against a repressive and authoritarian society. Over the years Nicholson has always produced high quality performances and this is his definitive, but if left up to writer Kesey, he wouldn’t even have been given the role. Gene Hackman was Kesey’s prefered choice and although Hackman would undoubtably have been something special, this is the role Nicholson was born to play. The only difference between actor and character is that Nicholson’s appearance is nothing like the flame-haired Irishman described in the book, but he’s McMurphy in every other hazardous and feral way. It’s Nicholson’s moment of glory and he basks in it. In fact, the whole cast are sublime. From Will Sampson’s deaf-mute Native American ‘Chief’ to Brad Dourif’s Oscar Nominated stuttering immature ‘Billy Bibbit’ and the wonderful Louise Fletcher’s villianous, castrating ‘Nurse Ratched’. She’s quite possibly one of the finest screen villains and does a fantastic job of making you despise her with a passion.
In every aspect, this is a masterpiece and one of the finest cinematic achievments you’ll ever see. I can’t think of another film that is so completely perfect, with everything about it just screaming of quality. Masterful, emotive, uplifting and completely unmissable.
Included in My Top Ten films.