The hospital ward can be a microcosm of life in the real world. In 70s England that meant an alcoholic Irishman (Colin Blakely) who is in for a detox, a black nurse, a middle class school teacher( Clive Swift), a young jack the lad (Bob Hoskins) and of course the doctor (Gillian Barge) so fierce and so right. Sister McFee (Eleanor Bron) administrates proceedings with Nurse Sweet (Lynn Redgrave) and Nurse Powell (Sheila Scott-Wilkenson) either side of this arrangement keeping the order from orderly chaos. With chronic under funding and day to day misery of the kind that comes from mundane routine and death, the escape comes in the form of a dream soap opera world of the hospital and a racial charge love affair!
The reason we still laugh at say Charlie Chaplin or Only Fools and Horses say is thematically. You see some comedy crosses over from decade to decade, generation to generation because it is identifiable. It is so well observed or so truthful to the human spirit that it remains valid. So we can laugh again at it because it states some deeper truth in a relevant way. The National Health (based on a play of the same name) does just that. It is about that great British institution, the NHS. It is about the hardships forced upon it and the lives of those working for her.
It is also a satirical swipe at those who want to destroy her with under-funding and political will. We see the hard reality in tender comedy. The rather mundane medical practices that have to be processed day to day, the lives of patients and how they interact with each other and staff. The counter position of the soap opera world of make believe those above believe the hospital to be and the lives that are shaped because the reality is a world away from this.
The film is also timely in portions. Take the Irish alcoholic. As the motorway building of the 50s and 60s stopped, those who couldn’t return home were left to rot. Alcohol was the main device to forget the problems and this lead to suffering and misery for millions. The film explores this with skill and truth. It also does so with a sardonic wit that I felt still relayed its gravity.
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
• High Definition remaster (Looks very nice indeed)
• Original mono audio
• New audio commentary with actor Jim Dale and journalist Nick Pinkerton ( Funny and adds real history to the production)
• Back to Health (2017, 24 mins): a new interview with author and playwright Peter Nichols (defines the films importance)
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• New English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 32-page booklet with a new essay by Laura Mayne, archival interviews, historical articles, and an overview of contemporary critical responses
• World premiere on Blu-ray
• UK DVD premiere
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 3,000 copies