Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Doctors' Wives" is not the cure for what is wrong with the movies

Cleveland Press February 11, 1971

"Doctors' Wives" is playing at local theaters. Melodrama: adults. In the cast are Dyan Cannon, Richard Crenna, Gene Hackman, Carroll O'Connor, Rachel Roberts, Janice Rule, Diana Sands, Cara Williams, Running time: 102 minutes.

"Doctors' Wives" is "Valley of the Dolls" with a medical setting, superficially anyway. Some of the acting is better and most of the specific sex is off-camera but the material is the same -a sensational pot-boiler of a story.

"Doctors' Wives" is about a group of doctors who have made it big enough to establish their own hospital and who belong to the same country club with husbands and wives playing musical beds.

There is an odd juxtaposition of steamy bedroom bits with bloody operation room moments. You get a closeup of open heart surgery via closed circuit TV that takes you right into the incision. The movie told me a great deal more about open heart surgery than I care to know.

Dyan Cannon gets star billing in the picture, She is killed after the first few minutes and, wait and wait as you might, she never returns for the expected flash backs. Lucky for her, I suppose, but too bad for the movie.

Somehow she was right for the outrageously unbelievable, but although the rest of the performers are good journeymen actors, and actresses, they never carry it off.

The picture opens with all the good medical folks playing cards at the club- the wives sitting around talking about sex, the husbands at another table talking business. Now there's a switch.

Miss Cannon tosses a bombshell by telling the other wives she is willing to have affairs with their husbands so that she can tell the wives what's wrong with their love lives. In fact, she adds, she's already covered half the territory.

The next day, during one of her research moments, she is shot dead by her husband. One of the other doctors - with her at the time - is seriously wounded.

The other wives go rushing to the hospital, each believing it is her own husband who is involved.

The movie goes off in several directions from that point concerning itself with a series of sub-plots about the other husband-wife relationships. The development is choppy to the point of incoherence.

What is worse, there is never anyone that you really care about.

Richard Crenna looks stalwart as the top doctor, Diana Sands is anguished as his mistress and Janice Rule is unconvincing as a cool wife.

Rachel Roberts gets to come on strong as an uptight repressed wife and Cara Williams has some flamboyant moments as a lush.

It's the kind of material television could have stretched out for months, even years.