10 days in a Madhouse is a 2015 American biographical film about the experiences of undercover journalist Nellie Bly where, as a reporter working for Joseph Pulitzer, she got herself committed to Blackwell's Island Asylum to report on atrocities. The production was written and directed by Timothy Hines with consultation from one of Bly’s modern biographers, Brooke Kroeger. The film draws from Bly’s exposé Ten Days in a Mad-House, which led to significant reforms in the treatment of mental health patients in her time. The cast includes Caroline Barry, Christopher Lambert, Kelly Le Brock, Julia Chantrey and Alexandra Callas. This film has garnered extreme controversy for breach of contract. Christopher Lambert, the male lead, was the only actor compensated in full for his work on the feminist film, while the female cast members remain unpaid as of 2017. Reviews for 10 Days in a Madhouse are predominantly negative. Audiences often cite poor directing, editing, and high school production grade performances.
Caroline Barry was selected for the starring role of Nellie Bly out of 8000 submissions, only 2 months after moving from Colorado to L.A. to pursue a career in acting. Barry recounted in a 2015 interview: ”The director said he was looking for Nellie Bly's smile and that optimistic spirit, and he felt my audition was the one that really had that smile and the brightness and optimism."
Principal photography took place in Salem, Oregon, a location known for another film that shed light on injustices in the mental health world, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The physical location was an abandoned mental institution with no electricity, which meant the actors had to perform in 10 degree temperatures, which Barry suggests added to the depth of the film's performances.
Other elements of the film were filmed later on sound stages in L.A. adding cast members Christopher Lambert, and Kelly Le Brock.
When Kelly Le Brock was cast in the production she had 12 hours to prepare for her role. To accomplish this, she drew from her experiences dealing with mental illness in her past stalkers, as well as previous roles as a nurse to give life to the character.
The film closely follows Bly's original account, and extracts much of the dialogue from Bly’s 1880s expose Ten Days in a Mad-House.
In an interview on Los Angeles talk radio, Caroline Barry recounts Christopher Lambert bringing authenticity to the part of the antagonist Dr. Dent, by portraying his motives as misguided good intent rather than evil. Which she feels adds to the realism of the biopic.
The film made its first festival appearance on the opening day of the Bentonville Film Festival on May 5, 2015, (Bly's 151st birthday); the Bentonville Film Festival is a festival founded by actress/activist Geena Davis to highlight women and minorities in the media.
The film was released in theatres on November 11, 2015.
On its opening week of November 11th, 2015, the film was a box office flop grossing only $12,165 against a supposed $12 million production budget. Its final box office receipts totaled $14,616.
An early review by Ms. (magazine) had the following to say: "I can honestly say this movie is a must-see. Nellie Bly’s heroism and courage truly come to life on the screen, thanks to the work of talented up-and-coming actor Caroline Barry. Barry is instantly magnetic as Bly, and it’s hard not to root for and fall in love with her character as the story progresses." The review goes on to cite any of the films shortcomings as forgivable due to its relatively low budget: "And I can hardly blame Hines for the lack of funds to create a slicker product. The problem lies not with him, but with Hollywood." Upon its release, Paste Magazine wrote, "Bly's life is an intrinsically compelling one, and the failure of 10 Days in a Madhouse is that it never once lives up to the indelible nature of the life it portrays," citing the film's "B-movie camp" and its "one-dimensional characters, awkward, hammy acting and clumsy dialogue."