Charly ~ Back in high school we had to read the short story version of “Flowers for Algernon,” we could read the novel by Daniel Keyes too, if we wanted, for extra credit. It was the tale of a mentally retarded man who is ‘cured’ by the miracle of science.
In 1968 it was made into the film Charly, which won Cliff Robertson an Oscar in the title role. I’ve never seen it in its entirety until now. What a pleasant and emotional surprise. Robertson’s transformation from simple to complex, shall we say, is amazing, but then again, he’s always been a terrific actor.
Claire Bloom is straight and adequate, somewhat of a cipher. She is neither good nor bad as Charly’s teacher/girlfriend. The late Ravi Shankar produces an intriguing and decidedly non-Eastern score.
The director Ralph Nelson, who also did Father Goose, Lilies of the Field, and Soldier Blue, is one of the reasons Charly stands out as a film. His odd and original use of split screen, and picture in picture techniques mark the movie as different.
Toward the end, when the story and ending becomes clear, it takes on a Rod Serling vibe, as if it were an extended episode of “The Twilight Zone” or “Night Gallery.” It’s sad and troubling, but good is a story if it does evoke an emotional reaction, right? Great flick, recommended.