While the defining image of Morgan - dressed as a gorilla, riding a motorcycle, on fire - remains iconic, the surrounding movie is as dated as the ‘Swinging London’ that this foe-primate hurtles through. Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment is the story of a socially adrift artist (David Warner) who, when torn between his Marxist upbringing and love for his heiress ex-wife (Vanessa Redgrave), looks for sanctuary in fantasies of life in the jungle. “I believe my mental condition is extremely illegal,” he remarks and his desperate mind soon tumbles into madness.
Based on a 1962 Teleplay by David Mercer, director Karel Reisz (Saturday Night, Sunday Morning) adds a dose of ‘Cool Britannia’ to keeps events rolling. After all, this was after all the decade of Bobby Moore, Blow Out, Twiggy and Sunny Afternoons. So there’s the hip casting of Redgrave and Warner (then making waves as Hamlet in Stratford) and a fashionable anti-establishment vibe to appeal to those happening kids (although Morgan’s communist greasy spoon owning mum is a highlight, tucking him up in bed while remonstrating him for being a “class traitor”).
Then there’s the avant garde editing (brought over from the French New Wave) with Morgan’s fractured psyche conveyed using jump cuts, speeded up footage (a Benny Hill style chase round an art gallery), freeze frames and a collage of images cut from wildlife documentaries, King Kong and Tarzan. Sure it’s a neat approach, but one that had been so over played in 1960s British Cinema (through the work of Richard Lester et al) as to make the film’s oddness rather conventional. Still the performances are decent with Warner skilfully imbuing Morgan’s irritating pranks (dressing up as said gorilla and trashing his ex’s wedding) with a large degree of vulnerability. Dated, but likable all the same.