Cinema’s Sinister Psychiatrists

From Caligari to Hannibal

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About the Book

Film history is merged with psychiatric history seamlessly, to show how and why bad depictions of mind doctors (especially hypnotists) occur in early film, long before Hannibal Lecter burst upon the scene. The German Expressionist Dr. Caligari is not cinema’s first psychotic charlatan, but he launches the stereotype of screen psychiatrists who are sicker than their patients. Many film psychiatrists function as political metaphors, while many more reflect real life clinical controversies.
This book discusses films with diabolical drugging, unethical experimentation, involuntary incarceration, sexual exploitation, lobotomies, “shock schlock,” conspiracy theories and military medicine, to show how fact informs fantasy, and when fantasy trumps reality. Traditional asylum thrillers changed after hospital stays shortened and laws protected people against involuntary commitment. Except for six short “golden years” from 1957 to 1963, portrayals of bad psychiatrists far outnumber good ones and this book tells how and why that was.

About the Author(s)

Sharon Packer, M.D., is a New York City psychiatrist and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Bibliographic Details

Sharon Packer, M.D.
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 256
Bibliographic Info: 37 photos, filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6390-9
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9241-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments vii

Preface 1

Introduction: From Caligari to Hannibal the Cannibal 4

 1. Mad Military Mind Docs 22

 2. Hypnosis: Helping Hand or Evil Eye 38

 3. Sweet (and Sour) Dreams 60

 4. Spirit Possession and Supernatural Psychiatrists 75

 5. Sex, Seduction and the “Couch Cure” 92

 6. The Not-So-Gentle Gender 109

 7. Shock Schlock 120

 8. Lobotomies and the Like 133

 9. Diabolical Drugging (and Other Deceptions) 149

10. Unethical Experimentation 163

11. In Control or in Cahoots 180

12. Madhouse Movies, Involuntary Incarceration (and Managed Care) 199

Conclusion: Evil Sorcerers, Mad Scientists and Sinister Psychiatrists 215

Filmography 219

Chapter Notes 223

Bibliography 227

Index 233

Book Reviews & Awards

“entertaining…thought provoking…fine scholarship…an intriguing thesis”—Metapsychology Online Reviews; “recommend”—psychiatryonline.org.