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I've got a weakness for a certain kind of wacky personal filmmaking—movies like William Cameron Menzies's Invaders From Mars or James B. Harris's Some Call It Loving that aren't “well made” by any standard but clearly mean so much to their creators that all aesthetic rules crumble in the face of their bizarre, unaccountable intensity. William Peter Blatty's The Ninth Configuration may be a classic of this peculiar genre: made for Warner Brothers in 1979 (under the title Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane), it sat on the shelf for several years, and within the first five minutes you'll know why. The setting is a gothic castle weirdly situated on the outskirts of Washington that has been taken over as a psychiatric hospital for schizophrenic Vietnam vets (one inmate is busily auditioning dogs for an all-canine version of Hamlet). A new doctor (Stacy Keach) is assigned to discover whether the men are really mad or just faking it to avoid duty, but soon enough he's acting out his own psycho-scenario, a Christ complex with a particular fixation on one patient, an astronaut (Scott Wilson) who has refused to go to the moon. Demented disquisitions on Catholic theology vie for supremacy with camp humor and horror-movie conventions, leading to a conclusion that somehow manages to conflate The Wild Angels and The Passion of Joan of Arc. With Jason Miller, Ed Flanders, Neville Brand, and Moses Gunn.

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