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Fifth Floor, The
Code Red digs up some deservedly forgotten movies for Blu-ray fanatics, but The Fifth Floor is not one of them! At first an intensely aggravating pot-boiler about the sub-par status of 'hysterical women' in modern Western Society, the movie (supposedly based, probably very loosely, on a true story) soon turns into an oddly kooky 1978 version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, packed to the gills with genre vet character actors and often comedic situations.
One assumes the movie's relative anonymity, completely counter to its cult-movie ingredients, stems from the fact that it was impossible to market. It's certainly not a horror movie, nor is it really much of a psychological thriller. In fact, it has much to recommend it as an unintentional comedy as anything else. And that title! Hoo-boy! "What do you want to see at the drive-in, babe? How 'bout a movie called The Fifth Floor? "Nah, I saw the first four, and they weren't all that great."
Things start swimmingly at a discotheque featuring a live singer and a bunch of crazed dancers who do some sort of coordinated stop-time vogueing thing. As the crowd dances to the movie's theme song, disco-waitress Kelly (Dianne Hull) rushes in to work. Is she there to serve drinks? Or merely to dance with the crowd? Who knows? At any rate, upset with her fiance, she downs a couple drinks before getting her freak on out on the floor. And does she really freak! After convulsing on the floor for a while she's committed to the psych ward on the fifth floor of the local booby-hatch, a place only the irredeemably nutso would ever want to be.
The fifth floor is lax and punishing to the extreme. Dr. Coleman (Mel Ferrer) talks a good game, but doesn't seem too concerned that live wire nurse-tech Carl (Bo Hopkins) is given free reign to "accompany" female patients into the shower where he tries to rape them. And if a patient like Kelly should try to complain, it's taken as proof she's crazy, and she's treated to violent apprehension, impromptu shots of Thorazine, and worse. Kelly's treatment contributes to viewers' early aggravation, as does the cast of crazies, ridiculous caricatures who mercilessly taunt Kelly during group therapy. But then you realize it's all a big joke and a world of fun opens up before your eyes!
At least this realization hit me when Kelly finally decides to start disco parties in the common room, which were great until Carl tried to shut one down, and one of the chain-smoking inmates disco-flips him off in the background for two-minutes straight. It's possibly the best scene ever filmed. So maybe it's not supposed to be a comedy, but when you load your
cast of crackpots with the likes of Julie Adams, (The Creature from the Black Lagoon) Robert Englund, (A Nightmare on Elm Street) Warholite Patti D'Arbanville, (Flesh) Anthony James, (High Plains Drifter) Earl Boen, (The Terminator) Sharon Farrell (Night of the Comet) and more, it's a damn party! Seriously, they have so many inpatients wandering around, I didn't even notice Michael Berryman and Tracey Walter until I saw their names in the credits.
The Fifth Floor is a bit of a mystery. Is it a thriller, drama, or unintentional comedy? Maybe all of the above? With a title that evokes nothing, the movie has cruised under the radar until now, as Code Red has thankfully given it a well-deserved, but not exactly stellar Blu-ray release. The story of a college student/disco-waitress wrongfully committed to a treacherous psych-ward, this odd tale is full of aggravation, tension, laughs and great performances. The Fifth Floor never gels into a recognizable tone, but it's crammed full of perfect character actors and forehead slapping moments. Recommended for film fans of flim-flam and outre awkward moments.
Code Red takes us to The Fifth Floor in a new HD Master that reveals all the movie's faults nicely. The 1.78:1 ratio picture certainly looks like it was sourced from a print and merely buffed-up a tiny bit, with a faded color palette and scratches and damage appearing occasionally. Details are adequate to soft, and a couple of dark scenes find shadows blooming, pulsing and fluttering as they try to figure out how to resolve themselves. Except for those shadowy things, the rest isn't entirely distracting, but makes the experience closer to watching a degraded print at your local Flea Palace than to watching on High Definition at home.
Your audio presentation is a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track, which is in similar shape to the picture. While dialog is generally clean and clear it comes accompanied by some hiss and damage, while occupying mostly the mid and upper ranges. There are a couple of noticeable instances where the volume drops before recovering, likely at reel changes. However, the disco theme song sounds good. Spread your beautiful wings!
Extras are limited to mildly tasteless menu design, English SDH Subtitles, degraded Trailers for other Code Red releases, two TV Spots for The Fifth Floor, and a contemporary 8-minute Interview with Bo Hopkins, apparently hastily arranged and filmed on the fly in a cafe, with the camera sitting on the table, and Hopkins occasionally taking a bite. He covers some BTS aspects of filming the movie, plus offers brief thoughts on other parts of his career.
The Fifth Floor is a bit of a mystery. Is it a thriller or a comedy? Maybe both? With a title that evokes nothing, the movie has cruised under the radar until now, as Code Red has thankfully given it a well-deserved, but not exactly stellar Blu-ray release. The story of a college student/disco-waitress wrongfully committed to a treacherous psych-ward, this odd tale is full of aggravation, tension, laughs and great performances. The Fifth Floor never gels into a recognizable tone, but it's crammed full of perfect character actors and forehead slapping moments. Recommended for film fans of flim-flam and outre awkward moments.
- Kurt Dahlke