Titicut Follies

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 11


Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,357
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Movie Info

Frederick Wiseman made his documentary debut with this controversial 84-minute survey of conditions that existed during the mid-'60s at the State Prison for the Criminally Insane in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Made in 1967, the film was subjected to a worldwide ban until 1992 because the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that it was an invasion of inmate privacy. The film goes behind the walls to show stark and graphic images exposing the treatment of inmates by guards, social workers, and psychiatrists. The title refers to a musical revue staged by inmates and guards. Richard Schickel, writing in Life, stated, "The repulsive reality revealed in Titicut Follies forces us to contemplate our capacity for callousness." The documentary was cited as the "Best Film Dealing with the Human Condition" at the 1967 Festival Dei Popoli (Florence) and also honored as the "Best Film" at the 1967 Mannheim International Filmweek. Robert Coles (The New Republic) wrote, "After a showing of Titicut Follies the mind does not dwell on the hospital's ancient and even laughable physical plant, or its pitiable social atmosphere. What sticks, what really hurts is the sight of human life made cheap and betrayed." The story behind the complicated legal issues raised by this film and the attempts to suppress it are detailed by Carolyn Anderson and Thomas W. Benson in their book, Documentary Dilemmas: Frederick Wiseman's "Titicut Follies" (Southern Illinois University Press, 1991).


Critic Reviews for Titicut Follies

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (3)

  • The stage, where odd behavior reigns, blurs the lines of sanity and confers an hour of equality.

    Dec 11, 2017 | Full Review…
  • Titicut is primarily just shocking; it's an angry polemic about the state of the mental health care system, not a multifaceted portrait of an environment.

    Mar 24, 2016 | Rating: B | Full Review…

    A.A. Dowd

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • Titicut Follies is incredibly difficult to watch but it is a film of potent, declarative power.

    Oct 29, 2018 | Full Review…
  • I was also struck by the way Wiseman weaves singing and music throughout the movie: the traditions of the inmates and staff, and the way they beautify an environment which would seem to resist any attempt at beauty.

    Sep 6, 2018 | Full Review…
  • A sort of harrowing tragicomedy, with images of force-feeding, bullying, strip-searching, and the staff's indifference to inmates, all culminating in an institution-wide talent show called the Titicut Follies.

    May 3, 2018 | Full Review…
  • [VIDEO ESSAY] Made during an era when mental hospitals dotted America's map like flies on manure, "Titicut Follies" presents an invaluable time capsule.

    May 16, 2012 | Rating: A | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Titicut Follies

  • Jul 11, 2012
    Shocking and full of precious footages, Titicus Follies it's a unique vision of tormented minds. An impacting film, which it's very important in all the years. Wiseman's disturbing documentary presents a terrific theme and teach to re-educate the psychologic system and the respect to the other person. Fresh.
    Lucas M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 13, 2011
    Director Frederick Wiseman refrains from narrating a message to correspond with the images he depicts. He shapes the film in such a way that it feels as helpless, maddening and overwhelming as the material itself. There is profound sadness in this documentary. It is not something I will easily shake off or forget; I think it is some kind of masterpiece in its own way.
    Mike T Super Reviewer
  • Apr 06, 2010
    Disturbing in ways that fiction only fantasizes to be. To imagine living in an asylum like this is extremely terrifying. The home movie style filming of the inmates and guards really makes it evident how surreal and relevant this documentary is. The wide range of patients is probably the most interesting aspect, you have some who clearly need to be there and others that are being held captive and kept quiet. I can see why it was banned, obviously, sometimes the truth is just a little too much for people to handle. Any fan of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest should definitely check this out, it's truly magnificent.
    Conner R Super Reviewer
  • Jan 08, 2009
    Interesting and depressing look into a prison for the mentally insane in the 60s. Hard to watch at times, but pretty intriguing stuff.
    Wu C Super Reviewer

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