Heard about it for many years, recorded a while ago and finally got to watch it. What a stirring movie. I know something terrible would inevitably happen in the morning after the climatic party, but when I heard Billy speaking without stuttering at all I thought something miraculous would save them–how naive! I think that’s the finest moment in the movie, but it’s too painful to think about what happened next.

Another fine moment is when McMurphy announced the Yankees-Dodgers World Series Game 1 in front of an off TV. In reality, the Yankees were swept (the only other time being 1976 to Reds), Mickey Mantle hit only one home run in the series (7th inning of the last game), and Sandy Koufax got MVP with 2-0 and 15 KO’s in Game 1 (only 2nd to Bob Gibson’s 17 in 1968 Game 1. The all-time MLB record is 21 by Tom Cheney in a 1962 game with 16-inning, 228-pitch).

From IMDB’s forum I learned that the title is taken from a tongue twister nursery rhyme:

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn;
Wire, briar, limber lock,
Three geese in a flock.
One flew east,
And one flew west,
And one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.

The “cuckoo’s nest” is an obvious denotation of the psycho ward, as cuckoo is a slang for crazy. It’s left to interpretation and imagination, though, for the meaning of one flew over it. On second thought, cuckoo doesn’t make nest–it parasites its chicks in other birds’ nest. The Selfish Gene talks about this amazing behavior at length, speculating that it evolved relatively late and the other birds haven’t developed a cost-effective strategy to counter it. I don’t think there’s any connotation for the movie along that line, but it’d be fun to come up with a preposterous one:

The cuckoo is the society at large (bad bad bird), and it drops one of its nasty chicks (McMurphy) into a nicely controlled nest, expecting the chick to grow up and conform, like all the other crazy chicks already in the nest. But the nasty chick grew nastier by taking in all other crazy chicks’ food (in this metaphor everything is backward, so McMurphy not taking pills means taking bird food), and finally it was able to fly and flew over the nest to some neverland so that it’d never become a cuckoo itself. One more fine point is that the Chief is actually an eagle chick, also parasited in the nest. He actually threw McMurphy over the nest as if he flew, and then he himself flew over the whole cuckoo country back to where he belongs. Sounds interesting? That’s total BS 🙂

I also learned about prefrontal lobotomy for the first time. The movie didn’t say it, and I thought McMurphy’s brain was “just” fried by too much electroconvulsive therapy. OH MY GOD. I can’t imagine people doing that to “cure” mental illness. I hope it’s not me being ignorant that I haven’t heard of Chinese people getting such treatment during the first 30 years of the People’s Republic. What an effective way it would be to shut up the dissidents!


The movie won 5 Oscars in 1976, the whole Big 5 that is: Picture, Director, Writing (adaptation), Actor, and Actress. Only two other films made the Big 5: It Happened One Night and The Silence of the Lambs. Louise Fletcher is so unworthy of the award, though. Her role is by no means “leading”. She probably has fewer shots than the Chief. The devil’s incarnation is way too easy to play (J noticed how her hair was combed like devil’s horns toward the end of movie).

And what a great bunch of supporting nuts! It is one of Danny DeVito’s earliest roles. Also Vincent Schiavelli’s (the subway ghost in Ghost), who’s undoubtedly a real incarnation of the Holy Ghost–may he RIP. And Brad Dourif’s (Grima Wormtongue in Lord of the Ring) second, with an Oscar nomination for supporting actor. And Christopher Lloyd’s (the Doc in Back to Future) first.

The director Miloš Forman is a Czech Jew whose parents died in Auschwitz. His Amadeus is one of my favorite movies (but I can’t remember Schiavelli playing Salieri’s valet, probably only a couple of quick shots). Looking forward to Goya’s Ghost later this year since we love Goya’s paintings.

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