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Madhouse (1990 film)

Madhouse is a 1990 American comedy film starring Kirstie Alley and John Larroquette. Written and directed by Tom Ropelewski, it was produced by Leslie Dixon and released by Orion Pictures.

Madhouse poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTom Ropelewski
Produced byLeslie Dixon
Written byTom Ropelewski
Music byDavid Newman
CinematographyDennis C. Lewiston
Edited byMichael Jablow
Distributed byOrion Pictures
Release date
  • February 16, 1990 (1990-02-16) (U.S.)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$21,036,771 (U.S.)


Mark Bannister, a stockbroker, and his wife Jessie, a TV Reporter/Anchorwoman, are a successful yuppie couple with an idyllic California life, aside from a toilet with a faulty handle. It is interrupted when both of them find out that Mark's timid cousin, Fred, and his pregnant wife, Bernice, are flying in from New Jersey to visit that same day. The first days are slightly chaotic - particularly because of Bernice's cat Scruffy Banister. Mark gives them 300 dollars to spend in the city and grant the couple some alone time. They are interrupted when Jessie's gold digger sister Claudia arrives demanding hospitality. She had a fight with her rich Middle Eastern husband Kaddir, whom she divorces after he cancels her credit cards. Fred and Bernice's visit, meant to last only five days, is extended when Bernice falls on the way to the car. She is instructed by her doctor, Dr. Penix, not to leave until the baby is born.

At a local bar, Mark motivates Fred to quit being Bernice's pet, but Fred takes the message too far and leaves "to find himself." Meanwhile, Mark's next door neighbor and carpenter Dale builds a machine for Bernice to be comfortable in bed all day. Having to be waited on hand-and-foot, Bernice becomes increasingly irritating, even demanding constant funerals and burials for her cat who dies multiple times (but comes back each time). Claudia's son Jonathan also comes to live with them. Jessie tries getting Dale to seduce Claudia, but things take a turn for the worse when Mark and Jessie inadvertently burn down Dale's villa, which can't be rebuilt for three months. As a result, Dale, his delinquent son C.K. and his phone-obsessed daughter Katy move in. Mark and Jessie are forced to accept them to avoid an arson lawsuit. Meanwhile, Mark helps Jonathan get a job as a mail room clerk at his office.

As the days pass, chaos persists for the couple with them essentially being forced out of their own home. Mark's friend and colleague Wes finds them outside living like hippies, after Mark fails to show up for work. Wes motivates Mark to resist a little longer, especially as Mark is on the verge of closing a successful deal for his boss, Bob Grindle. At work, Mark gets a box from Bogota containing cocaine - sent to him but requested by Jonathan. Grindle tells Mark to sell a set of stocks due to a scandal, but Mark forgets to before leaving work with the cocaine. Fred comes back, having grown a mustache and now owning a baby elephant. Police arrive at the house and find Scruffy Banister overdosing on cocaine. They subsequently destroy Mark's house during their drug bust, which gets televised by Jessie's TV station. The stress for Jessie manifests into an expletive-filled mental breakdown on live TV. Pushed to their limit and facing apparent ruin and imminent charges, Mark and Jesse decide to abandon the house to the guests and leave town to start new lives.

The next day, Mark and Jessie return to salvage what they can find. They hear a recording from Dr. Penix stating Bernice was never pregnant to begin with, breaking what little sanity they had left. An enraged Jessie catapults Bernice from her bed to the backyard and forces her to confess to knowing she wasn't pregnant. She then ruins her sister's expensive clothes to force Claudia out while Mark terrorizes Dale with an electric saw, making him leave with his two children. Lastly, Jessie puts fireworks in Jonathan's cocaine bag, which explodes as he tries to flee in Dale's (loaner) Lotus. Mark and Jessie then threaten to torch their own house in order to keep away their parasitic visitors for good. The police arrive and apologize, stating that their only evidence - Bernice's cat - disappeared, and that they will pay for all damages incurred. Grindle arrives and, believing Mark had meant to keep the stocks, declares that he amassed a small fortune when the scandal was found to be false. He offers Mark a portion of the profit and a promotion. Claudia takes the opportunity to seduce Grindle, and Dale starts flirting with one of the police officers, much to C.K's chagrin. Scruffy returns from the police station evidence room, but has changed sides, preferring to remain with Mark and Jessie. Bernice and Fred depart, with Fred taking much more control than before. Jessie and Mark try to get cozy before Mark, as a last touch, smashes the ever-malfunctioning toilet with a sledgehammer.

In the epilogue it states that Mark and Jessie - who earned a TV show of her own due to her angry on-air outburst - move to a 3 bedroom house in Malibu and live happily ever after... until their parents come to visit.



The film was written and directed by Tom Ropelewski,[2] and produced by Leslie Dixon. The cinematographer was Denis Lewiston.[3]


The film received a mediocre review from Roger Ebert[3] and a poor rating from the Los Angeles Times[4] and People magazine.[5]


  1. ^ Dennis A. Bjorklund (January 1997). Toasting Cheers: An Episode Guide to the 1982-1993 Comedy Series with Cast Biographies and Character Profiles. Praetorian Publishing. pp. 27–. ISBN 978-0-89950-962-4.
  2. ^ Hamid Naficy (6 November 2012). A Social History of Iranian Cinema, Volume 4: The Globalizing Era, 1984–2010. Duke University Press. pp. 286–. ISBN 0-8223-4878-0.
  3. ^ a b "Madhouse". Roger Ebert, February 16, 1990
  4. ^ "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Madhouse' a Satire That Misses the Mark". Los Angeles Times, February 21, 1990 | MICHAEL WILMINGTON
  5. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: Madhouse". People, By Ralph Novak, March 5, 1990

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