Girl Interrupted – Rediscovering ‘The Fifth Floor’ (US 1978 – 80 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - October 06, 2014
Girl Interrupted – Rediscovering ‘The Fifth Floor’ (US 1978 – 80 mins)

With a terrific cult cast and a terrifying premise supposedly based on a true story, ‘The Fifth Floor’ is a pretty good if sometimes sleazy thriller, with a genuine sense of dread permeating throughout.

After collapsing at a discotecque in an apparent suicide attempt, likable young Kelly McIntire (Dianne Hull) finds herself carted off to The Fifth Floor, an asylum for the crazed, run by a lecherous orderly (Bo Hopkins). In truth, Kelly was intentionally poisoned, and her scumbag boyfriend has no intention of getting her out. Seemingly alone, she now has to do all that she can to protect herself, both physically and mentally, from this nightmare cuckoo’s nest.

As the unfortunate Kelly, pretty Dianne Hull is very good and gives an effective performance here. Hull has had an interesting career, incorporating cult, exploitation and bigger studio pictures. She played a single mother taking to the road with Paul LeMat, in ‘Aloha, Bobby and Rose’ (’75), was John Savage’s pregnant wife in the powerful drama ‘The Onion Field’ (’79), and was then married to an insane Santa Claus in ‘Christmas Evil’ (’80). Bo Hopkins played the villain with relish, chewing the scenery at every opportunity. Hopkins has built a career co-starring in cult classics, including ‘The Wild Bunch’ (’69), ‘American Graffiti’ (’73) and ‘Midnight Express’ (’78). Playing a senior doctor; Mel Ferrer was well into his exploitation period by now, and would go on to appear in Umberto Lenzi’s controversial Italian flicks ‘Eaten Alive!’ and ‘Nightmare City’ (both 1980). Other supporting roles went to a pre Freddie Kreuger Robert England, and ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ loon Michael Berryman. Other inmate roles went to Patti ‘Bilitis’ D’Arbanville, and Sharon Farrell, who is a standout as the sad and troubled patient Melanie.

Writer-director Howard Avedis had earlier made the enjoyable Angel Tompkins drama ‘The teacher’ (’74). He later directed Connie Stevens in the exploitative ‘Scorchy’ (’76), and would later make the Sybil Danning favourite ‘They’re Playing with Fire’ (’84). He also cameos here as an occupational therapist.

Although not a great film, and the ending a bit of a let-down, ‘The Fifth Floor’ is an OK attempt at serious storytelling while mixing exploitation elements, including electric-shock therapy and the usual women-in-prison nudity. It’s a bit trashy for sure, but there is a message here in that, no matter how sane we think we are, given the right (or wrong!) circumstances, this could really happen to you.

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