20 April 2014

Sybil (1976)
198 min.
Directed by Daniel Petrie.
With Sally Field, Joanne Woodward, Brad Davis, Martine Bartlett, Jane Hoffman, Charles Lane, Jessamine Milner, William Prince, Natasha Ryan, Tommy Crebbs, Penelope Allen, Camila Ashlend, Gina Petrushka, Paul Tulley, Harold Pruitt.
Remarkable Made-for-Television feature about a young woman (superbly portrayed by Sally Field) who suffers from multiple personalities as the result of her traumatic childhood.

The expert film deals with efforts by a sympathetic psychiatrist (Joanne Woodward) to diagnose and treat her fragile patient.

Is Sybil a horror film? Not in the conventional sense.

But just as with Hitchcock's 1964 psych drama Marnie, the interplay of present scars and emotional flashbacks here is often a chilling and uneasy affair.

Chief among them are disturbing sequences detailing Sybil's abuse at the hands of her psychotic mother (a very scary Jane Hoffman); eerie shots of the title character seeing images of several different personalities in the mirror; and Leonard Rosenman's haunting score.

The cast is uniformly excellent and director Petrie pulls no punches in this sad - but ultimately optimistic - story based on a true case.

Possibly the best movie on the subject ever made, this won Emmy Awards for Field (who forever shed her wholesome Gidget and Flying Nun personas), Stewart Stern for the teleplay, Rosenman for score (shared with Alan and Marilyn Berman for their lyrics), and an Outstanding Special award for the production itself.

Originally aired in two parts on November 14-15, 1976.

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