Emergency Hospital

My Mom was never real big on soap operas, but I do remember that she used to watch “General Hospital.”  I was just a kid and I knew all about Luke and Laura.  Today, the soap opera has pretty much vanished from the airwaves.  Today’s movie, 1956’s “Emergency Hospital,” is a lot like a soap opera, packed into a tight little 62 minute B-picture.

There’s really not much of a story, so to speak, just a bunch of small vignettes taking place in an emergency hospital facility.  The thing about this emergency room is that they seem to assume that if you’ve injured yourself in such a way that you need to go there, you must have been in the process of committing a crime.  Several police officers seem to be permanently on duty at the hospital, plus a detective, Sgt. Paul Arnold (Walter Reed).  The hospital even has several rooms that are prison cells!

Also on duty at the hospital are, believe it or not, some medical personnel.  Dr. Janet Carey (Margaret Lindsay) leads the crew as she worries that her fast car loving boyfriend, Ben Caldwell (Byron Palmer), may end up on the gurney soon.  That is, when she’s not fending off the advances of Dr. Ellis (John Archer). Among the cases they deal with are a teenager who split his head open while trying to break into his father’s store, a battered wife who tried to commit suicide, a crook with a bullet in the gut, a child abuse case, and a teenage rape victim.  The treatment of this last case is particularly disturbing as the doctors counsel the young lady to go home and not think about it!?!

While all this is going on, Paul gets a call from his wife who is worried about their son Jimmy (Jim Stapleton), who is out with the car.  Of course, you can see where this is going to go.  Jimmy is brought in after having crashed into a poll.  But that’s not all, he crashed while in the course of committing a robbery with some buddies…one of whom died in the crash.  But Jimmy doesn’t stop there!  He grabs a scalpel, threatens one of the cops with it, then grabs the cop’s gun to make his escape.  And if that wasn’t enough, Janet’s beau Paul does indeed end up in a crash too!

Most of the incidents in “Emergency Hospital” do have that soap opera feel…maybe not to the extreme that TV soaps were famous for, but the general spirit is there.  I guess you could see that as a good thing or a bad thing.  I found that it gave the film a fun sort of silliness.  The film does drag in parts, but the payoff moments are hard to resist.

There’s certainly nothing to rave about when it comes to the performances.  There are several moments of overacting, but that’s par for the course with a B-movie like this.  In actuality, the overacting probably helps several of the film’s key moments.  Mary Carver, uncredited as the drunk mother who beat her child, is completely over-the-top with her performance, but it works for that scene.  There’s also a fun scene between the suicidal woman and her nasty husband.  She screams at him, he screams at her, he tries to strangle her.  B-movie goodness all the way!

For a 62 minute soap opera, “Emergency Hospital” has enough to satisfy most B-movie fans.  And you don’t have to worry about tuning in tomorrow!

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