Shock Corridor Reviews
UPDATE: Finally got a chance to seee this again, and I was NOT disapponted. It's my first Samuel Fuller film, and if the others are of this quality I can't wait for the rest.
Peter Breck plays a journalist on the big story that will win him a Pulitzer. He has himself committed to a mental hospital to get a story about a patient murder, and finds that he is slowly coming just as unhinged as the people he is observing.
While some of the film is dated, in particular the scene with the "nymphos", and some is just offensive -- Dr. Cristo's implication that Cathy is bringing on John's "Illness" by encouraging John's incestuous behavior, for example (reminds me of all those years of women being blamed for bringing on rapes by being too seductive) -- for the most part, the film is extremely well-done. The scenes of Stuart and Trent's revelations about the origins of their respective mental illnesses were moving at times, and special props have to go to Larry Tucker as wife-killer "Pagliacci." I've never seen this guy before, and he was great. He had this weird half-happy fat guy/half-nutso serial killer laugh that really got me. I would have liked him to have more screen time. In bragging on the supporting players, I don't want to take away from Breck himself. He did a good job in general, and a great job in a couple of scenes where he has started cracking.
I get the impression that Sam Fuller had a real problem -- as everyone should -- with the Southern racial attitudes of the 1950s and 60s. Both Stuart and Trent's illnesses stemmed from experiences they had in the South -- Stuart being raised by bigoted Southern parents, Trent being the only black student in an all-white Southern university. Someone more versed in Fuller can probably fill me in on this.
A couple of things -- besides the stuff I already mentioned -- that I wasn't fond of were 1) the ending, which seemed a little Twilight-Zoney and tacked-on, and 2) I've never been a fan of Constance Towers (she reminds me of a second-rate Joan Crawford for some reason). I've always found her performances kinda flat, and she fits that bill here with one of the lamest-ass stripteases I've ever seen.
One thing that gave me pause -- Even though the film was made in B&W, the mental patients dreams were in color. I dream in color. Coincidence?
What I admire is Fuller's bold messages, an inmate who uses racial slurs to show America's insane obsession with racism, a prostitute who has a heart of gold, and finally the corrupt system of the beast (corruption in society, greed, media, politics) it's all there and it's all evident, inside of an insane asylum. Great stuff by the master director Samuel Fuller.
Samuel Fuller's films ARE "bad". But his art is THE RE-DEFINITION of bad. His films work their way into your mind like a worm. If I had to compare him to someone, I would compare him to Trier and Bergman. His work reminds me of both, in terms of emotional impact, of the way he paces his films, of the cruel insight he has on reality's worst aspects.
Fuller's films are a life-time experience. I don't think anyone should let critics and academia lead them on this and tell them how and what they should think of a film, what's more this one. Just get there yourself and (unlike his characters) remember the way to get back...
When a reporter decides to infiltrate a mental hospital in order to solve a murder and win a Pulitzer, he finds himself in a condensed microcosm of the United States: a madhouse where bigotry, a failed civil rights movement, war and the threat of nuclear annihilation have come to define its patients/citizens. As our lead gets closer to the murderer, he begins to lose his mind.
The film makes no apologies for its crude, B-movieness (on the contrary, it is proud of its roots) or lack of subtlety. There is no doubt this was a labor of love for Sam Fuller, its writer-director, who had something unequivocal to say and made no bones about it. The film is well acted, well written and works quite well both as a fun genre picture and as something more.
compelling and disturbing.