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Colonel Kane (Stacy Keach), a Marine psychiatrist suffering from nightmares, arrives at a castle in the American Pacific Northwest where shell-shocked and insane soldiers from the Vietnam war are being treated. The castle's staff has been unable to control the patients, many of whom are suspected of faking their illness to get out of combat. The permissive Kane opens himself up to listen to anything the soldiers have to say to him in an effort to heal them, while at the same time suffering from his own demons.
The Ninth Configuration, (also known as Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane) is an American-made film, released in 1980, directed by William Peter Blatty (most famous as the author of The Exorcist). It is often considered a cult film and it won the Best Screenplay award at the 1981 Golden Globes.
The first half of the film has the predominant tone and style of a comic farce. In the second half, the film becomes darker as it delves deeper into its central issues of human suffering, sacrifice and faith. The film also frequently blurs the line between the sane and the insane.
William Peter Blatty once referred to The Ninth Configuration as the true sequel to The Exorcist, and has stated that he intended the character of Captain Cutshaw to be the same astronaut whom a sleepwalking Regan in The Exorcist warns, "You're going to die up there." In The Ninth Configuration, Cutshaw mentions a fear of dying in space that is almost certainly a reference to Regan's line in the previous film. However, the characters were played by different actors, and the astronaut in The Exorcist is not given a name onscreen or by the credits.
Very dark and surrealistic, this is one of my favorites! Interestingly, the Wikipedia article notes that Blatty considered British actor Nicol Williamson for the part of Kane; Williamson did star as Merlin in "Excalibur", also one of my favorites [possibly <i>the</i> favorite, and has also been called a "dark, surrealistic movie.
However, some of the early bits are insanely funny [literally], as the inmates act out their fantasies: "Superman" changing in a cardboard phone booth, Hamlet in dogs, an artist complaining that there is no color in the air.
Big thumbs up.