Film ID:
YFA 1216



Visitor Tabs


This is a documentary film made under the direction of Dr J A R Bickford at De La Pole Hospital to explore issues around correct and incorrect care of patients with severe mental problems such as chronic schizophrenia.  It also addresses why hallucinations takes place.  Using actors as well as staff and patients, the film illustrates two different methods of treatment.  The film is accompanied by a commentary, recorded by Dr Bickford, which his often spoken from the point of view of the patient.  

Title ¬– High or Low Road
Made at De La Pole Hospital, Willerby, under the direction of Dr J A R Bickford, Physician Superintendent assisted by Walter R Jibson R.M.N.
Parts played by Claude H Coiffait, Barbara M Brant, Ronald H Patterson, Barbara A Woodward.  With doctors, nurses and other members of the hospital staff, and the East Riding Police Constabulary.

The film begins with hospital staff who arrive at a meeting in order to discuss issues of the care of mental illness. Then following the opening credits, there is a man mowing the grass before he sets out on his bicycle.  The voiceover, told from the point of view of this man, speaks about himself and his illness, which is in the first stages of development.  At home with his family, the man plays with his child, but the voiceover states that the first signs of the illness he has is an inability to love people.  He plays dominoes with his other children, and relates that he feels happy.

The man then goes for a bicycle ride out to the River Humber with his then fiancée.  Together, they walk along a busy shopping street, passing Vernon’s, and going into Clifford’s shop.  Back home, his fiancée shows him some of her sketches which include one of an African devil done for a local theatre group.  He finds this image unaccountably disturbing.  Later, they sit outside at a pub with a beer, but he is uncomfortable, and picks a fight with a man who accidently knocks over his glass.

In bed he imagines the man with the African devil mask, and becomes so disturbed that he is sent to hospital.  He has an assessment, about which he is very cynical.  He then attempts to cut his wrists on a broken window pane, thinking that he needed to do something to escape from his hallucinations, and feeling suicidal.  He is moved to the chronic ward by two men in white coats.   Here male patients sit and stand around in the hospital grounds, all day long.   At dinner they are served unappetizing food.   He relates that they were caged in like animals.  He is then manhandled into the bathroom for a bath, with other patients also present.  There is no other interaction with the nursing staff, who keep to themselves.

The man attacks one of the staff, who appears to him as Satan.  For this, he receives a beating from the staff.  His girlfriend visits but is turned away.  Once a week the patients have a dance, but this he finds unstimulating.  He is confined in a solitary room, where he gets physically subdued by the male nurses.  They do repetitive factory work, sticking down toilet rolls, for little pay.  The nurse in charge of him is the same one he attacked in the pub.   

Eventually he escapes from the hospital and runs off.  In a field, a mother sits with her child.  The film is cut so the same spot is again shown, but this time with an upturned pram and clothes scattered about.  He relates that he had to do something like this, “Satan cannot be fooled”.  He hitches a lift as the police get into action to search for him with dogs.  He returns to the place on the Humber where he went with his fiancée and jumps in to drown himself.

The second part of the film begins with the same man being escorted by two men in white coats to a long stay ward, after he has attempted suicide.  The narration explains there is a different way of treating patients, without extra nurses or money.  Again male patients can be seen walking up and down in the hospital grounds.  But this time around a female nurse stops to talk to him and offers him a cigarette.  She also takes an interest in him feeding the chickens.  She then meets the matron and the chief male nurse and asks them if she could tend to male patients, leading to female nurses dancing with the male patients.  The male nurse too is friendlier.  Then male patients are seen doing wood working, and he becomes better at dealing with his hallucinations.  He also works on some metal working, along with women patients.  Then he has a game of badminton, followed by a bath, only this time when he wants to and in private.

The patients have an evening class on birds, and a class on typing, although the man continues with his hallucinations.  He then goes to a painting class, a physics class and a maths class, with the nurse treating him much better than in the first film.  He is visited by his fiancée as he rakes cut grass.  He explains how all these things are helping him.  He also helps out with dinner time, serving and washing up.   At the end of the day they all relax in the common room.  He is seen improving, reading the paper, and doing some complex dancing.  Later he polishes shoes, makes flower arrangements, and does some ironing.   

Again he is visited by his fiancée, who accompanies him in his daily activities.  He shows the nurses the correct way to do some sporting activities, like shot put.  He also does some long jumps before his fiancée arrives again on her bicycle bringing along with her his bike also.  They go off together for a ride.

He then meets with the nurses to discuss his future, to make a decision as to which way he is going to go:  the first or the second way.  The film ends posing the question, “Which are you going to do?”