The Ninth Configuration

Welcome back!

And…welcome to our first single-digit day of the countdown!! (Man, can you tell that I’m psyched about this?! Hope you guys are, too. (-:)

It has been a week or so since we talked old movies (yeah, you may remember that we recently celebrated nearly 40 years of Ted “The Geek”), so let’s take a quick look at another from back in the early 1980s. (And no, this one is definitely not a raucous teen comedy! Additionally, I should mention that all theological elements of tonight’s discussion are meant to serve as a vehicle to help paint a picture of the film, nothing more. So, please take them with a grain of salt.)

The psychological thriller The Ninth Configuration (1980) is set at a mental hospital for military personal, a converted medieval castle somewhere in New England. There, Marine psychiatrist Colonel Vincent Kane (Stacy Keach) is tasked with treating troubled war veterans.

You’ll probably recognize some of the asylum’s inmates, with the likes of Lt. Frankie Reno (Jason Miller), Colonel Richard Fell (Ed Flanders), Major Nammack (Moses Gunn) and Lt. Bennish (Robert Loggia), all succeeding in amusing us, while also breaking our hearts. The comic touches almost seem misplaced, as each man has own set of unique problems, fears and anxieties, with the dark humor portending some potentially catastrophic events.

Also among the oddball collection of characters is Capt. Billy Cutshaw (Scott Wilson), a former astronaut who suffered a mental breakdown just prior to launch, causing him to abort a mission to the moon. As we later learn, the petrified Cutshaw was dragged from the space capsule screaming, convinced that the mission would be his last.

Colonel Kane pays special attention to Cutshaw, repeatedly asking him why he refused to go the moon. Cutshaw continually avoids answering, and instead gives Kane a St. Christopher medal, reminding him that Christopher is the patron saint of travelers. The two men spend a good portion of the film sparring verbally, each trying to strong-arm the other with his own unique concept of theology.

Recognized by some critics as the unofficial sequel to The Exorcist (1973), The Ninth Configuration takes you on a metaphysical journey, one that will surely keep you guessing.

Check it out if you get a chance. Pretty cool stuff.

Have a great night, gang, and I hope to see you all back here tomorrow.


@Copyright 2023 by John L. Fischer

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