Blu-Ray Review – The Mind of Mr. Soames

The Mind of Mr. Soames is odd film that Amicus (Hammer’s big competitor) made at the end of ’60s. It would also be Terence Stamp’s final film before his “wilderness” years in Europe, where he made stuff like the (impossible to find in English) Arthur Rimbaud biopic A Season in Hell, where Stamp plays the poet… even though he was nearly 20 years too old for the role. Stamp would make other such oddities during his time in Europe, until his big comeback in that horrendously overrated Superman film in 1978.

Here Stamp plays John Soames, who has been in an induced coma state ever since he suffered an injury at birth. He is eventually revived, but is a kind of 30-year-old man-child. Meanwhile, the doctors are doing tests on him and trying to figure out how to introduce him into the population. The two main doctors have conflicting views on how to do that. However, of course Soames escapes and wreaks havoc.

The film was clearly made quickly after Charly was a surprise hit, with Cliff Robertson winning an Oscar for the title role. Charly was based on the classic sci-fi novel Flowers for Algernon, but the sci-fi elements were downplayed in favour of melodrama. If you dig a little deeper into Mr. Soames, you find out that Amicus was desperate to get the rights to Flowers for Algernon for themselves, but they had long ago been sold to ABC Pictures, which by then had their film was in production. And so Amicus made this bizarre knock-off.

The Mind of Mr. Soames is one of those cases where the ideas are more interesting than the finished movie, which becomes a chase film but ends pretty anti-climatically. There is a whole aspect of Mr. Soames being filmed for television documentaries and the mass-media manipulation of a mentally handicapped person for viewership, but it’s never expanded upon. Terence Stamp is clearly having a ball with a role where he gets to play with toys and throw baby food at doctors, etc. It’s also not quite as “trippy” or visually arresting as was needed to really pull off the story without it looking like almost any British film made in the late ’60s, but I still liked it. It also a supporting cast of classic British character actors, like Robert Vaughn and Nigel Davenport.

The disc includes an interview with Stamp, which is primarily about his career in general but does touch upon The Mind of Mr. Soames. The rest of the features include a five-minute featurette with cast and crew talking about their experiences on the film, a commentary track supplied by film writers Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby, and the usual trailer and stills gallery. The booklet brings together many pieces of new and old writing on the film, from essays to interviews.

★★★½

Ian Schultz

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