Review: The Ninth Configuration
Blu-ray: The Ninth Configuration (1980)
As a fan of film, on occasion a review copy Blu-ray will plop on my mat, and on opening it I will sigh and think ‘Oh fuck, here we go’. It’s not a resigned sigh or even a horrified exhale, but rather a ‘how can I possibly write a critical piece about a filmic masterpiece, or even attempt to do it justice’?. It doesn’t happen that often, but unfortunately for me, William Peter Blatty’s The Ninth Configuration is such a film.
The role of a lifetime for Stacy Keach, and a story so unusual and unsettling that it is one of the few films that I saw as a youngster, that has remained indelibly imprinted into my ‘film-memory’.
The story follows a group of Vietnam veterans who are being treated in an experimental facility for various mental illnesses. Enter a new psychaitryst Colonel Kane (Stacy Keach). Kane’s most difficult patient is Captain Billy Cutshaw (Scott Wilson), an astronaut who refused to go to the moon at the last second, having a complete nervous breakdown instead.
As Kane begins to make progress with quite a few of the patients, Cutshaw remains belligerent, smashing up Kane’s office, challenging him constantly and demanding he prove the existence of God and in fact ANY notion of goodness in man. Kane suggests that the very presence of life on earth, which required such a specific set of conditions and molecules in the scientific ninth configuration, and must imply some higher force or purpose. Kane thinks that any act of sacrifice can prove there is goodness.
Yes, all very deep, all very existential. All very…. boring? Oh no… far from it. The Ninth Configuration is one of those films, so intricate and full of explicit and hidden meanings, a film of its time (1980) and film about the past, about the military, about faith and God and goodness, and madness and man’s capability for abject evil, that to write a full review would … turn into a book. I could also go through the plot, explain that all that screaming isn’t ham acting and it’s really not a very high brow, very boring arty film.
To tempt you somewhat I’ll mention a fight near the end of the film that will literally make your gob drop open, and to finish I’ll say; if you like something that makes you think, that is a real one-off and will entertain you, look no further.
- Audio Commentary by Writer / Director William Peter Blatty
- ‘Killer Kane’ featurette – brand new interviews with writer / director / producer William Peter Blatty,
- Interviews with Actors Stacy Keach, Tom Atkins and Stephen Powers, composer Barry De Vorzon, production
- Designer William Malley and art director J. Dennis Washington.
- Mark Kermode introduction
- Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
The Ninth Configuration will be available to buy from April 25th 2016.