The Road to Wellville (1994) is the story of the doctor and “clean-living” guru John Harvey Kellogg and outlandish methods employed at his Battle Creek Sanitarium at the beginning of the 20th Century.
The film has a pretty good cast including Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Kellogg, Matthew Broderick as William Lightbody, Bridget Fonda as his spouse Eleanor, John Cusack as Charles Ossining, Dana Carvey as the doctor’s adopted son George, and Colm Meaney as Dr. Lionel Badger.
Dr. Kellogg’s sanitarium is located in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he practices his unusual methods for better health, including colonics, electrical stimulus, sexual abstinence, vegetarianism and physical exercise. The sanitarium is for the well-to-do patients including William and Eleanor Lightbody, who are suffering from poor health following the death of their child. On their way to Battle Creek they meet Charles Ossining (John Cusack), hoping to make a fortune by exploiting the fad for health food cereals.
Ossining finds a partner in Goodloe Bender. Having enlisted the services of George Kellogg, the doctor’s estranged adopted son, they attempt to produce “Kellogg’s Perfo Flakes.” Using the Kellog name to attract consumers.
In the sanitarium, Will Lightbody is separated from his wife, and is soon harboring lustful thoughts toward Nurse Graves and a patient named Ida Muntz. His wife Eleanor, meanwhile, befriends Virginia Cranehill, who has a modern attitude toward sex, influenced by the works of Dr. Lionel Badger. Will eventually succumbs to Ida Muntz’s charms. Later he learns that Ida has died during treatment. Following the death of a patient in the sinusoidal bath, and the discovery of yet another death, Will suffers a breakdown, flees the sanitarium, gets drunk and eats some very rare meat. At the restaurant, he meets Ossining, and agrees to invest $1,000 in his health food business. Will returns drunk to the sanitarium, where he is reprimanded by Dr. Kellogg and is abandoned by a distraught Eleanor after vomiting on the good doctor.
Ossining’s business is a disaster producing nothing edible—not even by pigs. He and the partners resort to stealing Kellogg’s cornflakes and repackaging them in their own boxes and is eventually exposed as a fraud and arrested.
In a final coda, the Lightbodys have reconciled and are happily married, with four daughters. Will receives a check for $1,000 from Ossining, who has become a cola beverage tycoon. Dr. Kellogg dies of a heart attack while diving from a high board.
Sound strange and complicated? Well it sort of is which makes the movie kind of an odd yet viewable film. All the crazy inventions that Dr. Kellogg is using on his patients makes one wonder when they stopped using leaches to treat people’s ailments. All in all the cast does a pretty good job and though the movie was a flop at the box office I think it is better than the reviews give it credit for.