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Young Malcolm Ward's father dies and he is betrayed into Mid-State Hospital by a cruel and greedy uncle. Malcolm is imprisoned on the Acute Violent and Forensic Ward where he discovers both art and the art of survival. Later, in the general hospital population, he fights to save a pretty young lady patient in his group therapy from a psychotic superintendent. This activates a system already clearly out to kill him. After he is blitzed by a series of unneeded shock treatments and sent to a back ward to die, he slowly recovers by painting and crafting sculpture. He falls in love with a devoted occupational therapist who reciprocates. And to make himself whole for her he escapes the hospital to find a new and truer life in a blazing finale of enlightened madness in New York's Greenwich Village.

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