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Trial of Dr Fancy, The (1964)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

An English courtroom, 1966. Dr James Fancy is charged with the unlawful killing of Ernest Sprat. The prosecution sums up the charge: that Mr Sprat was admitted to Dr Fancy's nursing home, that both of his legs were amputated below the knee by Dr Fancy, despite opposition from some of his staff, and that Mr Sprat died the following day.

The first witness, Miss Pettifor, matron of the nursing home, admits that Mr Sprat arrived at the home on a scooter, and had no outward signs of incapacity. Dr Fancy's notes identified him as an 'amputee'. The second witness is Dr Harmon, a partner of Fancy's. Struggling with a stammer, Harmon explains his concerns at Fancy's diagnosis - he saw nothing physically wrong with the patient. However, Fancy was dismissive, saying the amputation was for 'psychological reasons'. But as Sprat had consented to the operation, there was nothing Harmon could do. Sprat's mother protested to Fancy, who had her escorted from the home. The next afternoon Harmon arrived at the home to find the operation had already taken place. Sprat revived briefly to ask, "Have I got rid of them?" Told that the legs had been removed, he smiled. He died shortly after. Fancy's response was, "Well, that's showbiz."

The defence barrister - cruelly exploiting Harmon's stammer - points to his inexperience beside the highly qualified Fancy, and notes that Harmon was subsequently dismissed from the home after an attempted sexual assault on Miss Pettifor. Harmon protests that the alleged assault was a set up. The defence barrister suggests that his decision to give evidence against Fancy was motivated by revenge.

Dr Pilbeam, the police surgeon called to pronounce the cause of death, reports that he could not determine whether the operation was necessary, since the legs had already been incinerated.

Mrs Sprat explains how her son, who was 6'4" and, like his father, 'long in the leg', told her that his legs would 'have to come off'. She admits he had been self-conscious about his height, but as a window cleaner, his legs were essential to his job. She tells the defence barrister that, just before he decided to have his legs amputated, he had visited Pender's Hollywood Outfitters to buy a pair of trousers.

Charles Lincoln relates how his life was transformed after his legs were amputated by Dr Fancy. At 6'3", he was continually upset by looking down on others and seeing their dandruff. He talks excitedly of the regular dances with hundreds of others of Dr Fancy's patients, all now free of their anxiety about their height.

Clinical Psychologist Mr Carwell explains his theory of the 'Cyclops Complex': a deep neurosis whose sufferers become so preoccupied with their height that the only cure is amputation of the lower legs. Carwell admits diagnosing 190 such cases in the last year, 175 of which were referred to him by Mr Pender of Pender's Hollywood Outfitters. He admits he has a 1/3rd share in Pender's. Mr Sprat was referred by Mr Pender after he became angry when he was unable to find a pair of trousers to fit him in Pender's.

John Pender tells how, moved by an experience as a junior haberdashers' assistant, he eventually opened a shop selling 'clothing for the economy-sized man'. The business grew, and soon he had a sizeable export trade. He explains how he came to be associated with Mr Carwell and Dr Fancy, and eventually went into partnership with the nursing home, driven, he insists, by a desire to help those poor souls afflicted by the Cyclops Complex - some 70% of his customers.

After the Judge has summed up, expressing his strong doubts about the prosecution case, the jury foreman announces that the jury has already reached a decision: not guilty. The jurors, all of them under 4'6", waddle out, while Carwell, Pender and Mr Lincoln congratulate Dr Fancy.