or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 8/26/07

   September 1st, 2007 Brian Herzog

Titicut Follies posterA patron comes in with "Titticutt Follies" written on a piece of paper. She hands it to me and asks if I can help her find it.

After a bit of questioning, I eventually find out that it is a film, about patients in a (now closed) Massachusetts mental hospital. I checked our local catalog and then the state-wide catalog, but found no matches.

Then I went online to see if I could find anything at all, and also to double-check the spelling. A search on IMDb for "Titticutt Follies" redirected me to a 1967 film called "Titicut Follies." After reading the description, it seemed like the right film.

However, the trivia section also provided this information:

The only American film banned from release for reasons other than obscenity or national security, Titicut Follies was filmed inside the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Bridgewater, a prison hospital for the criminally insane. After the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sued the filmmakers, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the film constituted was an invasion of inmate privacy and ordered the withdrawal of the film from circulation.

Wow. I've helped people look for information on this hospital before, because of the bad conditions and treatment of the patients, but I'd never heard of this film.

A bit more from Wikipedia:

[Frederick] Wiseman, the film's director...believes that the Massachusetts Government, feeling concerned that it portrayed a state institution in a bad light, took the film out of circulation to protect their own reputation. In 1992, it was allowed to be shown on PBS. The film is now legally available through the distributor (Zipporah Films, Inc.), for purchase or rental on VHS or 16mm film for educational license only.

A few WorldCat libraries have this item, but after reading these descriptions, the patron decided not to request it after all.

bridgewater, libraries, library, public libraries, public library, reference question, titicut follies

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