(US - 1980)
Directed by Howard Avedis. Written by Meyer Dolinsky. Cast: Bo Hopkins, Dianne Hull, Patti D'Arbanville, Sharon Farrell, John David Carson, Julie Adams, Robert Englund, Mel Ferrer, Anthony James, Pattie Brooks, Earl Boen, Betty Kean, Alice Nunn, Cathey Paine, Udana Power, Michael Berryman, Marie Marq, M.G. Kelly, Tracey Walter. (R, 90 mins)
A late-night cable fixture in the early '80s, THE FIFTH FLOOR has largely disappeared from view in the decades since. Just out on Blu-ray from Code Red (because physical media is dead) in a transfer that only acceptable but oddly appropriate given its exploitative nature, the film was just scuzzy enough for the perpetually shady Film Ventures International to release on the drive-in and grindhouse circuit over the spring and summer of 1980, but it's tamer than you might think, and it even aired on CBS in 1983. Its plot has several similarities with 1979's grungier HUMAN EXPERIMENTS and 1985's exponentially more tacky HELLHOLE, all three films combining staples of the women-in-prison potboiler with a quasi-SNAKE PIT tropes as a nice young woman thrown into a mental institution. After she suffers a seizure at a disco that's eventually determined to be caused by strychnine poisoning and considered by the ER doc to be a botched suicide attempt, college girl Kelly (Dianne Hull), who just broke up with her boyfriend Ronnie (PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW's John David Carson), is deemed a risk to herself and ordered to spend 72 hours in observation in the mental ward on the fifth floor, referred to as "Psycho City" by the other patients.
Distraught and unable to convince anyone that someone poisoned her and that she wasn't attempting suicide, Kelly is incredulously dismissed by everyone charged with her care, and no one--Ronnie, attending shrink Dr. Coleman (Mel Ferrer), head Nurse Hannaford (Julie Adams), and especially leering orderly Carl (an unhinged performance by Bo Hopkins)--seems very eager to hear her out, let alone release her. She makes friends with some of the other patients, like pregnant Cathy (Patti D'Arbanville), unstable Melanie (Sharon Farrell), who lost it after her husband's affair with a younger woman, and kooky Benny (Robert Englund), the fifth floor's resident class clown, but her defiant attitude keeps inevitably extending her stay. She also has to contend with the unwanted attention of Carl, who makes her shower while he watches and insists on soaping her back, and when she runs away, he tells Nurse Hannaford and Dr. Coleman that she grew violent and had paranoid breakdown, which forces Coleman to keep her confined for another 90 days.
|Toledo, OH, 6/27/1980
THE FIFTH FLOOR opening in Toledo, OH on 6/27/1980