I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Hannah Green's book, of the same name as this film, was very popular with all the girls when I was in school. That alone should give you an indication of whether you want to see this film. Although it is about a serious mental illness, that condition is sufficiently reflective of the typical female adolescent neuroses that young girls may project themselves inside the character.
I read the book to see what the fuss was about, and I liked it but, well, it was a girly book so I only could like it up to a point, which is to say I couldn't relate to it.

This is the kind of sensitive book that you would expect to be made into a movie by Barbra Streisand or somebody like that, but in reality, the film was produced by Roger Corman, king of the low budget exploitation pictures, and was directed by Anthony Page, whose only claim to fame was the stirring TV docudrama "The Missiles of October" 


Kathleen Quinlan was topless in good light, during a scene in which she changes into a fresh hospital gown
The unlikely combination produced a satisfactory movie. The director was fortunate to get Kathleen Quinlan as the disturbed girl, and the distinguished Swedish actress Bibi Andersson to play her shrink. It spends a lot of time inside the head of the disturbed girl, in some kind of stone age tribe that she joined in her fantasies, and I think those sections could have been shorter, less frequent, and less bleached out (they used some low-contrast technique to distinguish it from reality).

But it's an OK film. 

The biggest problem it had was distribution. Corman's normal 1977 distribution channels didn't include a lot of sensitive 13 year old girls in the audience, and that was the natural target market for this film. (Females 29 and under rate this film a 8.5 at IMDb, Females in general rate it 7.4, Males only 6.5) 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • no widescreen

  • Full-length Kathleen Quinlan commentary

  • Kathleen Quinlan interview

Given that it's a Corman picture, you'll be impressed by how sensitive it is (no gladiators or car crashes) and you'll be impressed by the DVD which has a visual interview with Kathleen Quinlan and a full-length voice track commentary from Ms Quinlan.

Unfortunately, there is no widescreen version available, and the existing print looks very, very tired and dark. It claims to be digitally remastered, so obviously the source medium was not very good.

As in all Corman films, look for future stars in minor roles. In this one Dennis Quaid makes a brief appearance as a softball pitcher. Jeff Conaway and Clint Howard and Rene Santoni can also be seen with a line or two. 

Tuna's Thoughts

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977) is a Roger Corman release, but not one of his typical exploitation efforts. It was made on very low budget, but is a serious look at a teenage girls hospitalization and treatment for extreme schizophrenia. The girl, played by a very young Kathleen Quinlan, attempted suicide, and was deeply disturbed. She had her own internal world, and did everything the people in this world commanded. They even had their own language. Her shrink, Bibi Andersson, showed all the patience in the world with her, and the film ends on a hopeful note. Quinlan was superb, and was nominated for an Golden Globe for this performance. It also received an Oscar nomination for best screenplay.

Two things made this film excellent. The first was that we saw the world through her eyes, and got a real feeling for what her condition would be like. Second, the support cast of mainly older women who played mental patients on her ward were superb. As someone who has visited wards in mental hospitals, I can say that they had things right on the money. Quinlan shows her breasts when an attendant changes her hospital gown after some kind of sweat therapy.

The transfer is abysmal, but might be the best possible for this film. There is a lengthy interview with Quinlan on the DVD. I can't say that it is a pleasant watch, and if you don't like the genre, you won't like this one, but it is a very well made mental disorder film. C+.

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 3/4

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.5 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C (Scoopy) to C+ (Tuna). 

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