The Caretakers is a movie adaptation of a 1959 novel by the same name. Dr. Donovon MacLeod (Robert Stack) is a new optimistic psychiatrist who brings with him new ideas for treating mentally ill patients. The patients in his care include a frustrated mother Lorna Medford (Polly Bergen), Marion (Janis Paige), a former prostitute, Edna (Barbara Barrie), a pyromanic and Irene (Ellen Corby), a former teacher. He doesn't believe in punishing or using violence as treatment methods, and wants to use outpatient care and group therapy. However, the head nurse Lucretia (Joan Crawford) resists him every step of the way. She believes only traditional methods such as strait jackets and padded cells can work, and is not open to new ideas. Their struggle erupts into a battle which splits the overcrowded mental hospital as the head of the hospital, Dr Harrington (Herbert Marshell) can't find a way to make both sides happy.