Thirty-year-old John Soames (Terence Stamp) has been in a coma all his life when he is suddenly restored to consciousness after undergoing an operation at the Midlands Neurological Hospital.
Dr Bergen (Robert Vaughn), a recently arrived American neurosurgeon, revives Soames from his slumber during a lengthy televised operation.
When Soames eventually awakens he has the body of a man with the mental capacity of a child – The problem is that he must now gain a lifetime’s worth of experience in short order.
Dr Maitland (Nigel Davenport) is certain that he can accelerate the maturation process with unrelenting education sessions. All the while Soames’ progress is captured by a film crew intending to document his treatment. Soames breaks down under the pressure and takes to his bed, refusing to eat, drink or talk.
Humanist Dr Bergen introduces Soames to toys and adds an element of fun to his rehabilitation, but this approach brings him into direct conflict with hard taskmaster Dr Maitland who deems such antics as frivolous.
Soames once again tires of his captivity and the relentless boredom of controlled life in a locked hospital room and breaks free – running across the countryside to a nearby town where the childlike patient encounters various situations he cannot comprehend.
After jumping from a train, Soames seeks refuge from the hostile outside world in a country barn, but the pressure on his emotional stability is such that he reacts violently when giving himself up during a live TV broadcast.
This unique sci-fi premise is intriguing throughout, and Stamp’s performance is nothing short of superb as the 30-year-old fish-out-of-water.
The film explores the differing approaches of breakthrough sciences on human behaviour and contrasts the scientific method with that of the humanitarian.
Whilst Nigel Davenport and Robert Vaughn provide able support, it’s Stamp that steals the show with an engaging and sympathetic portrayal of an exploited patient struggling with the emotional strains of the unknown.
Adapted from the 1961 bestseller by Charles Eric Maine, The Mind of Mr Soames is an engaging and sensitively-handled science fiction feature from purveyors of high-brow horror, Amicus.
Dr Michael Bergen