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The Ninth Configuration Poster

The Ninth Configuration (1980)

Comedy | Horror  | Thriller
IMDB Rayting:   7.1/10
Country: USA
Language: English

A new commanding officer arrives at a remote castle serving as an insane asylum for mentally ill and A.W.O.L. U.S. soldiers where he attempts to rehabilitate them by allowing them to live ... See full summary »

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slokes 9 November 2003

It's rare to find five films that offer as much combined intelligence, passion, visceral excitement, and uncontrolled belly laughs as this. "The Ninth Configuration" is the sort of film people either love or hate. Like many great works of art, it doesn't settle into any middle ground. It's my all-time favorite movie, not perfect but a real screen miracle all the same. This is the sort of movie they don't make any more, because they never really made anything like this. Just this one time. For that, and much else, it is unique.

Scott Wilson plays the despairing Capt. Cutshaw, who believes the universe is a random void based on suffering and cruelty. He is challenged in his atheism by Stacy Keach, a Marine colonel sent to command the institution where Cutshaw and other Army servicemen, many Vietnam War heroes, have been committed to after assorted acts of deviancy. Cutshaw's own madness culminated in his refusal to be launched into space during a final countdown, vividly pictured near the beginning in one of many arresting visuals when the horizon around the launching pad suddenly fills up with the sight of a ferocious, threatening moon, several times bigger than life.

Cutshaw and Keach's Col. Kane duke it out in a serious of probing yet riotous metaphysical dialogues. "I don't belong to the God-Is-Alive-But-Living-In-Argentina club," Cutshaw announces. "But I believe in the Devil alright. And you know why? Because the prick keeps doing commercials!" Kane's counterargument, much weaker at the outset but gaining intensity as Cutshaw's desire to be converted becomes more clear, is that if evil is as powerful and omnipresent as Cutshaw thinks, correctly, than why doesn't he also believe in the real, counterbalancing power of human goodness as something that has its origins beyond humanity?

Meanwhile, the other inmates follow their own neuroses, adapting Shakespeare for dogs and trying to train atoms to allow humans to walk through walls. There's also Neville Brand's Major Groper, a put-upon asylum keeper who finds himself victimized by such pranks as having his name attached to a love letter sent out in a mass mailing addressed to "Occupant." "I got phone call after phone call," he complains, adding bitterly that the female respondents he did contact were "ugly as sin."

People criticize the movie for being filled with such amiable nuttiness, but it relieves the heaviness of the central story and sets the right tone of anarchy and chaos to be sorted out as the picture develops. The third character in this film, after Cutshaw and Kane, is Ed Flanders' Dr. Fell, the medical officer who treats his hangovers with whisky and Alka-Seltzer and observes the lunacy around him with a bemused calm. But he has no small stake in the larger story being worked out between Kane and Cutshaw. In fact, he's more the central figure than anyone, and watching his reactions at key moments is one of the many treats of repeat viewings.

The acting is superb, particularly by the three principals. As we learn in the penetrating director's commentary that accompanies the DVD, the three leads were originally supposed to be Nicol Williamson as Kane, Michael Moriarty as Cutshaw, and Jason Robards as Fell. They would have been good, but not anywhere near as good as the three performances we have. Further proof of God's existence, for anyone who feels the "Ninth Configuration" argument advanced by

DaJ 8 March 1999

I rented this film one night when I was tired of seeing the same things in the "New Releases" section, so I (shudder!) headed for the catalog titles, and picked this one out because--God, am I shallow--the cover looked interesting. Turning over to the back, I skimmed the summary, saw that it starred Mike Hammer and the guy who mooned us in the last season of "St. Elsewhere", so I thought that it may be just bad enough to be amusing. So I plunked down my three bucks and went home wondering if I wouldn't have just been better off watching reruns of "Married with Children" all night.

But I watched this movie. Then I rewound it and watched it again. Over the next three days, I watched and rewatched every frame of this masterpiece more times than I should publicly admit. I was moved beyond words, beyond being an audience. I became a disciple--even a proselyte--for this film. Stacy Keach completely astounded me, someone who knew him only as Mike Hammer. People, this man can ACT. I saw every demon his Colonel Kane carried with him. The rest of the cast, with a special metion for Scott Wilson's amazing performance as a tortured astronaut and for Ed Flanders, who kept his character's true motivation well hidden until it could stand to be covered no more, was perfect.

But this movie is, above all, about the writing and the direction. William Peter Blatty cared about his project, and the lucky few (sadly, VERY few) of us who shared in it were fortunate enough to see cinematic perfection virtually attained. Watch this film, let it develop, don't question where its motives are until it decides to let you in on them. Give it your full attention, and you will be rewarded with a treat we so tragically, rarely get to have. No special effects, no huge budget. Just artistry. Pure, refined artistry.

JimSpy 22 October 1998

Well, well, well. At last a rating I can fully agree with. Yes, the Shawshank Redemption was very good. But this is a hidden classic. If you're one of those people (like me) who loves to be taken completely by surprise by a movie, this is the one for you. The IMDB rating says it all: VERY few people know about this one, but those who do are nearly unanimous: this is outstanding storytelling. First time viewers, be warned: be patient. Let it happen. You won't know where it's going at first. Your patience will be rewarded, I assure you - it all comes together, culminating in a bar-room brawl that is an absolute textbook piece of tension-building. And then, you'll want to rewind it and watch it all over again, to pick out all the clues that slipped by you the first time through. Quentin Tarantino, eat your heart out: THIS is how it's supposed to be done.

RomanJamesHoffman 4 July 2012

William Peter Blatty will be better known to most as the writer of 'The Exorcist', and here he makes his sterling directorial debut with what is (once the abomination of 'The Exorcist 2' is exorcised) the spiritual sequel to that consummate horror. Having said that, lest the reader get the impression that you're in for more supernatural shenanigans (and pea soup) it should be said that this movie is a million miles away from the horror genre. What's more, 'The Ninth Configuration' is virtually unclassifiable as far as traditional genre categories go and will leave you reeling from the barrage of bizarre images, comedic one-liners, theological debates, and a bar room brawl to end them all!

William Peter Blatty wrote 'The Exorcist' as the first part of a trilogy of novels, the other installments being 'Twinkle twinkle killer Kane' and 'Legion'. 'Twinkle twinkle killer Kane' was adapted to the screen by Blatty as 'The Ninth Configuration' and where 'The Exorcist' explored the argument for the existence of God through the palpable presence of evil, 'The Ninth Configuration' continues the argument through exploring the presence of good in a universe purported by science to be empty, blindly deterministic, and amoral.

At the start of the film we are introduced to a motley band of members of the military who, in the course of the Vietnam War, have all suffered various kinds of mental breakdown and for their treatment have been sent to a reconstructed European castle in some remote American mountains (the film was actually shot in Hungary). Chief among these is the astronaut Capt. Billy Cutshaw (Scott Wilson) whose illness is seen as somehow key in that it is clearly not feigned due to cowardice as he was never scheduled for combat. This introduction sets the tone for the first part of the film and the portrayal of mental illness is somewhat zany and comedic and continues as we are introduced to the other main character, the psychiatrist Colonel Kane (Stacy Keach). Col. Kane, with the support of fellow psychiatrist Col. Fell (Ed Flanders), then institutes an unorthodox treatment which indulges the fantasies of the inmates in an attempt to invoke a catharsis…which is when all (comedic) hell breaks loose and it is against this anarchic backdrop that Cutshaw argues with Kane for the absurdity of believing in God in a world in which undue suffering proliferates.

The light-hearted whacky tone gives way in the second half as Kane and Cutshaw's arguments become more penetrating (although not completely, as Cutshaw's choice of wardrobe to a Christian Mass will testify!) and the climax of the film is a double-whammy of a plot reveal that casts the performance of Ed Flanders as Col. Fell in a pathos infused light (which can only be fully appreciated with repeat viewings), as well as a bar room fight that will have you stuck to your screen as the tension builds and builds to an explosive finale.

Unfortunately, owing to the fact that a theological tragi-comedy is not the stuff the popcorn and soda crowd really go for, 'The Ninth Configuration' has fallen into the "cult" film category, which is a shame as another film with as fine a plot carried off by as fine a cast (not to mention a wealth of quotable one-liners) you are unlikely to see. However, while the film clearly deserves wider recognition (especially given it's conceptual relationship to 'The Exorcist'), those that seek it out, or fort

conor_kiley 18 April 2005

A brilliant and unconventional film. As I'm sure many others have said it is very difficult to describe or sum up accurately. It has so many seemingly incongruous elements yet amazingly in the end it ties them all together and packs an emotional punch very few films manage.

Basically it's about how a new lead psychiatrist arrives at an asylum maintained by the military. It is loaded with stunning scenes, images, symbolism, scares and emotionally devastating moments and it leaves me both uplifted and sad yet so intellectually stimulated I want to discuss it because there is a LOT to talk about once it's over.

It also has some brutal violence and the nastiest bar fight ever filmed.

Stacey Keach plays the role of Kane perfectly, he shows no outward humor but is not humorless himself. He is clearly dedicated to helping the inmates in any way he can using every means at his disposal and wisely the character is not played as being detached and totally unemotional. When Kane (Keach) gets annoyed, enthusiastic or is dealing with a difficult issue he doesn't simply deadpan it he communicates what is happening within the character despite the constraints needed for the role. Brilliant work.

Where his treatments lead the inmates (and where it leads Kane himself) is the core of the film and the whole thing is actually about all of us and how we can reconcile faith, science and the horrors of existence. Faith can mean many different things...

There are multiple edits available but the major aspect that changes is related to one brief scene involving a knife and a bit a dialog. It's worth mentioning because it does change the tone for many viewers depending on the version they see.

The Ninth Configuration is a treasure, a sadly overlooked and misunderstood film.

Captain_Couth 14 August 2005

The Ninth Configuration (1980) was William Peter Blatty's directorial debut. He adapts his own novel for the big screen in this bizarre film about an astronaut (Scott Wilson) who's reached his breaking point and a military doctor (Stacy Keach) who's trying to reach out to him. The cast has a who's who of Hollywood cast-offs (William Peter Blatty has a cameo himself as one of the patients).

This is a strange film that'll cause you to think (if you don't enjoy these type of films then I suggest you look elsewhere). An interesting movie about things that aren't as they seem, soul searching and seeking redemption through honor and self sacrifice. I liked the way these people have to look into themselves and see who or what they really are. I wished that William Peter Blatty made more movies and Hollywood should have gave Stacy Keach more film roles like these. He was quite impressive.

I have to to highly recommend this movie. But if you're expecting some mainstream popcorn nonsense then look elsewhere.

sol-kay 30 March 2004

****SPOILERS ALERT**** Arriving at a secret military instillation in the cold and rainy Pacific North-West that looks like a medieval castle Col. Vincent Kane, Stacy Keach, takes charge of mental therapy for those mentally broken servicemen incarcerated there who's psychosis is due to their military experiences.

Right from the start everyone notices that there's something very strange about Col.Kane. He seems to have no emotions at all and talks in a mechanical like monotone that doesn't seem normal even among those servicemen with severe mental illness that are interned there. Allowing the patients to act out their fantasies seems too much for the staff as well as the inmates themselves. These inmates who in spite of their obnoxious behavior soon begin to realize their own psychological and emotional problems due to Col. Kane's unorthodox methods. Col. Kane by letting the inmates be free he made them see themselves for what they are by lifting all restrictions by the hospital staff that keeps them from seeing this and thus made it easier to cure them. Taking advantage of Col. Kane's meekness is one of the inmates Capt. Billy Cutshaw, Scott Wilson, an astronaut who broke down just before he was to blast off for the moon. We later see Capt. Cutshaw's real cause for his bravado is really his fear. Fear of being alone in space a loneliness that was just too dark and overwhelming for him to understand or face.

Capt. Cutshaw and Col. Kane have some of the most penetrating and thought-provoking talks I've ever seen or heard in a movie. The two have long conversations about love hate guilt good and evil as well as the existence or non-existence of God that are so eye, and mind, opening that for a moment I didn't think that I was watching a movie but seeing an intellectual and philosophical talk show discussion on late night public TV. As the movie continues with those on the screen, as well as the audience, in a state of confusion to just what it's trying to tell us it hit's us unsuspectingly like a lighting bolt out of nowhere. We get to see the real truth about Col. Kane and what are his reasons for him being in the hospital in the first place.

Very intelligent film about mental illness and how it manifests itself in so many different ways in how the mind works to keep the body from falling apart due to things that one just does not want to face. It would take a number of viewings of "The Ninth Configuration" to see this but it's well worth it.

We see both Col.Kane and Capt. Cutshaw go from denying their deepest fears to, in the end, understanding them. It took Col. Kane's willing and unselfish sacrifice for Capt. Cutshaw to see the light that he denied himself about the good that man has deep inside of him that was stronger then any argument, ethical philosophical or logical, that Capt. Cutshaw could make against it. It also took the truth about himself that Col. Kane tried to suppress since he was in Vietnam that in the end saved Capt. Cutshaw's life as well as redeemed himself.

Powerful and mind blowing film with an explosive bar-room brawl towards the end of the movie that went the limit in showing on film the Biblical saying "Turn the Other Cheek"! As well as an ending that showed that there truly is hope and redemption in the world even to those lost souls who don't believe or want it.

Selena-Kyle 2 April 2000

I have seen this movie more times than I can count, and have found that it gains something EACH AND EVERY time I view it. I am still astounded that it hasn't received the recognition it deserves.

I can't recall another film, ever, that has held up so well on repeat viewing or that has affected me as much as this one has.

markdcampbell 5 October 2001

You may not know who Stacy Keach, Scott Wilson, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders, Neville Brand, George DiCenzo, Moses Gunn, Robert Loggia, Joe Spinell, Tom Atkins, or Richard Lynch are, but you have probably seen them acting in dozens, if not hundreds of roles.

They are the finest collection of great "unknowns."

Because these fine craftsmen blend so well into their roles, they are often left within the films architecture, forever the character they portrayed, unlike Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt who carry their names into every role they play.

This film, The Ninth Configuration, is perhaps one of the finest films I've ever seen. In dealing with madness, rage, heartbreak, drugs, violence, pride, loyalty, honor, and lastly hope, this film is perhaps too much for any "regular" movie goer. The humor is as sharp as guillotine, and the seriousness is as tight as piano string.

William Peter Blatty has been hailed for The Exorcist, and justly so (despite Stephen King's dismissal of him).

However, if you pull the shadow of the Exorcist away, you will find this true non-Hollywood gem resting in the corners of a dank castle in the northwest.

Brilliant writing, brilliant character interplay, and beautiful image and cinematographic work radiate through this film.

The best treat of all, is the Blatty actually appears in the film with his family members, Linda and Billy.

A great, great film that may not be for the weak-knee'd, but will satisfy anybody who has ever asked for "proof of the existence of God."

I call this film, the anti-Exorcist.

Peace,

Fizz

beltransierra 11 May 2001

First of all, forgive my English. I'm a mexican who lives in Acapulco now, so I'm not Hamlet. (Is he crazy?) I saw The Ninth Configuration years ago, when i was just a kid because I was a fan of The Exorcist. (My parents did'nt know) But i was shocked by the movie. I loved it. Then i tried to find it in video as "Twinkle..." Just a month ago finally discover the real name. I bought it and saw it 2 times now. I was not wrong! I think the film is an astounding "War Film" You can see Petter Blatty from the first shots. (Is the Exorcist, without Reagan, in a tour near the Cukoos nest) I think is a film every filmgore must see a lot of times. The screenplay is a must! (The last scene could be cut and everyone happy) Well, I want to know who sings the opening song, if anyone can help!!)

Petter Blatty must Direct Again!

chris-1691 23 June 2004

Like many things that Blatty has done, the more you put into the film, the more you get out of it. I have watched it maybe a dozen times, and every time I get something out of it. If you think a Steven Seagal film is mentally taxing... be prepared to be bored.

This is one of those films that is hard to categorize (Comedy, drama, etc.) There are certainly comedic elements, such as the crazy inmate casting a Shakespeare play entirely with dogs, but I would call it a drama. It is about "crazy" war veterans in an insane asylum, and some of what they do is comedic, other things are tragic.

This movie is certainly on my top 20 list of all time greatest movies, and I would recommend it to those that enjoy a good mind-bender.

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