The "fine madness" of the title refers to Samson Shillitoe (Connery), a poet who's having trouble completing his next work. He's also a bit of a deadbeat: He can't keep a day job to save his life, he's months late on alimony payments and being chased by debt collectors, who he regularly beats up, invariably destroying the room he's in along the way. Oh, he cheats on his wife (Joanne Woodward), too. But she loves him so much she's willing to spend all her savings on, get this, psychoanalysis, so he can finish his poem.
Connery spends the entire film with a sour expression, screaming at everyone around him. I guess this is meant to indicate how passionate he is (and maybe the novel did a better job of this), but really it comes off bitterness and mean-spiritedness. Connery is a jerk, sure, but surprisingly Woodward is little better: Her Rhoda is an uncouth harpy whose only redeeming feature is her devotion to Samson. Whenever the duo are together on screen, they spend the time shrieking at each other. It gets so loud I had to eventually turn down the volume on my TV.
This continues through to the end -- Samson's attempts at being "cured" are a complete MacGuffin; the film ultimately has nothing much to do with his psychosis. The final scenes show the fallout of the latest fight between Samson and Rhoda: Their entire apartment is wrecked to the point of inhabitability. In their last scene (and you might consider this a spoiler, but I doubt it), Samson punches her out in the street. She then reveals she's pregnant with his child. Good luck, kid.
This is a comedy, by the way (tagline: "We should all be so crazy"). Black comedy is possibly my favorite genre of entertainment -- from Dr. Strangelove to Bukowski -- but this is just hollow tripe that never works.
I've never seen such an ill-advised film and such amazing talent (including Jean Seberg as the analyst's wife, who inexplicably becomes infatuated with Samson, too) put to such little ultimate effect.
The DVD includes a featurette on Connery.
Run time: 104 mins
In Theaters: Friday 23rd September 1966
Distributed by: WARNER BROTHERS PICTURES
Production compaines: Pan Arts, Warner Bros.
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
IMDB: 5.9 / 10
Director: Irvin Kershner
Producer: Jerome Hellman
Screenwriter: Elliott Baker
Also starring: Jerome Hellman
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