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The Snake Pit

89 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Virginia Cunningham (de havilland) appeared to have had an idyllic life - a nice home, a loving husband and prospects for a sriting career. But, something just wasn't right. Confusion, doubts about her husband's love, even violent outbursts led Virginia to be confined in a mental institution. She is put through a series of brutal treatments, including being forced into close quarters with patients whose disorders far exceed her own. The belief - the shock of the experience will return her to sanity.

Additional Features

The Snake Pit is a startling and stark drama about mental illness, anchored by Olivia de Havilland's extraordinary, Oscar-nominated performance as Virginia, a newlywed succumbing to emerging psychosis. Even by today's standards, this powerful 1948 film, based on an autobiographical novel by Mary Jane Ward and boldly directed by Anatole Litvak (Sorry, Wrong Number), is an unsettling vision of insanity and the horrifying conditions under which the mentally ill are sometimes confined. The script is typical of reductive notions of psychoanalysis found in 1940s American movies, in which enormous instability of the mind is directly linked to childhood repression and guilt. But even if one doesn't take Virginia's condition all that seriously, the actress's portrayal of agony and confusion, and that of scores of supporting players, is stunning to behold. The star is helped immeasurably by a sturdy performance from British actor Leo Genn as a sympathetic psychiatrist. --Tom Keogh


Special Features

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Product Details

  • Actors: Olivia de Havilland, Mark Stevens, Leo Genn, Celeste Holm, Glenn Langan
  • Directors: Anatole Litvak
  • Writers: Arthur Laurents, Frank Partos, Mary Jane Ward, Millen Brand
  • Producers: Anatole Litvak, Darryl F. Zanuck, Robert Bassler
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Dolby, Dubbed, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: June 1, 2004
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001US78Q
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,014 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Snake Pit" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Mark Norvell on June 4, 2004
Format: DVD
Once powerful shocker is dated now but still retains the unpleasantness and emotional tugs that must have riveted audiences in 1948. Olivia de Havilland gives an Oscar nominated performance as Virginia, a woman confined to a state mental hospital after a mental breakdown. As she struggles to understand what happened to her and regain her sanity through the kindliness and patience of a very understanding doctor, we are treated to the horrors and inhumanity of a state hospital circa 1948. Hissably horrible nurses, shock treatments, poor food, overcrowding, ice baths and finally "the snake pit"---you name it and Virginia goes through it. Luckily, she has a very loving husband who waits for her to "come home". de Havilland is excellent and if the film (and performances) seems dated, this was 1948 and mental illness was a new frontier being brought out into the open and frankly explored by Hollywood. It's possible to imagine a state hospital being this horrific in the late 40's. Supporting cast is fine but Celeste Holm is wasted in a small part as a fellow patient and disappears altogether. The finale, set at a dance for the patients, features the old tearjerker "Goin' Home" (which, incidentally, is about dying) done to effectively emotional heights about finally being released and "going home". This film is a classic of it's kind and is given a beautiful DVD treatment and I very much recommend it for movie buffs and fans of de Havilland. I still find parts of it intense and disturbing, so if it still has that effect after all these years I can only imagine what it must have been like in 1948.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By James L. on March 13, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
The Snake Pit was released at a time (late Forties) when Hollywood was taking a more serious look at important issues. This film deals with mental illness and mental institutions, and does so in a direct and honest way. Olivia de Havilland stars as a wife / aspiring writer whose husband, Mark Stevens, has to commit her to an institution when her irrational behaviour becomes too much to deal with. In the institution, she fights to regain her mental health with the assistance of a kind doctor, Leo Genn. But it's not easy, and the film shows the setbacks she faces, not to mention the horrors of life in an asylum. She is subjected to electroshock treatments, cruel nurses, and patients even more disturbed than she is, all in conditions that could hardly foster improved mental health. It truly resembles a snake pit, particularly in one memorable shot taken above the bizarre goings-on below. Although the honest presentation of the subject matter is important, the real strength in the movie lies in de Havilland's performance. She's incredible in a role that showcases her dramatic ability to it's full extent. She manages not to go over the top, which would have been easy to do given the subject matter, and she makes the character believable and sympathetic. The film and de Havilland's performance should be seen.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Randy Keehn VINE VOICE on October 16, 2005
Format: DVD
I had heard about "The Snake Pit" over the years but never saw it until the other night. I wasn't sure if I'd see a movie with an expose of mental institutions or a considered opinion of the subject. I believe that I got both. All in all, this is a very good movie about a woman with a mental illness and her slow road to recovery. In the process, we see the story of the woman as a child, as a young woman, as an inmate in a mental istitution, etc. The young woman is play with excellence by Olivia de Havilland in an Oscar-nominated role. She had a worthy counterpart in the acting of Leo Glenn as her psychiatrist. There are several other good preformances by other women inmates. There is a husband, played by Mark Stevens, whose patience challenges our belief.

The excellence of de Havilland's preformance lies in her ability to show a woman disturbed rather than insane. There are times when she loses it but she generally plays the role as near normal to close to the edge.

The movie, made in the late 1940's, shows us a variety of levels of care as well as treatment. We get the electroshock treatment as well as analysis. Experts in the field may either scoff or appreciate the portrait of the state of psycho-analysism of the time. Frankly, I found the doctors explanations to his patient to be above the norm for Hollywood. The ending is appropriately understated. I won't elaborate but I think you'll agree that there was no need for a typical Hollywood finale. This is one of the better movies of the late 1940's and it's still worth seeing.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Rod Labbe on July 13, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Olivia deHavilland shows her acting chops in "The Snake Pit," a harrowing look at mental illness, circa 1948. Believe me, if you have to go insane, just be thankful we're in the New Millennium, and not in post-War America! "The Snake Pit" is wonderfully acted by all concerned, but it is deHavilland's showcase, and she does a superb job. In fact, I was quite impressed with her range and dramatic ability...this is no "Melanie" from "Gone With the Wind!" Alas, "The Snake Pit" is extremely dated, but I recommend it for deHavilland's startling performance. Really, it's extremely unusual to see such power in an actress from the "old" school of demure acting. Livvy was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award and certainly deserved to win, in my humble opinion. She's much better in this than in "The Heiress" (though I love that film, too, for different reasons). Check this out--you won't be disappointed!
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