Everybody was running away from this one. Michael Crichton used a pseudonym on his novel; award-winning scripters Harriet Frank & Irving Ravetch, working with tv specialist John D. F. Black, jointly became the fictitious James P. Bonner; and director/co-producer Blake Edwards, after trying to back out, failed at having his name removed. Studio interference drove them to it (a typically crisis-ridden M-G-M), and for sure the film hopscotches thru its medical murder mystery to unsatisfying result, but not without a certain flair & oddball charm. James Coburn, cool, laid-back pathologist at a top Boston Med Center, falls into hospital politics, romance with dietician Jennifer O’Neill and investigating an illegal abortion gone wrong pinned on surgeon pal James Hong by hard-nosed detective Pat Hingle. (In truth, Hingle has a rather blobby nose.) Coburn’s interactions as amateur sleuth with the crusty Hingle are the best thing in here, they could have done a series together. There’s also some fun to be had ticking off the mores & attitudes on display of early 1970s middle-aged hipster lifestyle. (Hint: both amusing and embarrassing.) Edwards may have been miserable on the shoot, but he can’t help but turn out a slippery smooth product, even when forced to have Coburn scare the truth out of two lying gals as the wind up to Act Two and Act Three. A bit more variety might have helped hide the narrative seams & lacunae.
DOUBLE-BILL: Edwards book-ended this non-starter with two of his least appreciated pics, low-pitched Western WILD ROVERS/’71 and ruminative spy romance THE TAMARIND SEED/’74, both still waiting to be rediscovered.