Bad Boys for Life
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Great Writing. The Confederates story is amazingly interesting and emotionally touching. I really appreciate how this movie is at first an investigative detective story but turns out to be a heavily complex film that critiques America. It's a tiny bit formulaic, and ends kind of exactly how you expect it to but it's still pretty great. There's some amazing shots too.
The best thrilling movie ever made!
Eurípides: A quienes Dios quiere destruir, primero los enloquece...¿Tom McGuane?: La mente NO es un boomerang, si la lanzas demasiado lejos, quizás no vuelva.
A basic premise of a reporter going undercover to gain access to potential witnesses goes horribly wrong at a mental institution. With several patients holding unusual ideas which parody (without a laugh track) societal problems. Though only a 'B' movie, this ends up as a foreshadowing of One Flew Over the Cuckoos' Nest.
This movie might have been really good if the girl wasn't in it. Although she's very pretty the cheap T and A shots of her are, well, cheap. And her acting isn't good, especially the very drawn out scene at the end. Breck overacts. The rest of the movie is entertaining. I found it fascinating that people in the 60's thought insanity was contagious!
Like the eccentric David Lynch, the man who mangled dreams of pictorial suburbia with "Blue Velvet" (1986) and "Twin Peaks" (1990-91), iconoclast Samuel Fuller (1912-97) was deeply suspicious of picture-perfect Americana and was obsessed with finding the darkness lurking beneath seemingly perfect white-picket fenced small towns. Fuller, an auteur who began his career (in 1949 with "I Shot Jesse James") as a connoisseur of the Western and the film noir, arguably reached the top of his artistic valor with the one-two punch of 1963's "Shock Corridor" and 1964's "The Naked Kiss." Two nightmarish, low-budget noirs that simplistically appear to be B-level shockers but complexly stand as malevolent satires, the unofficial double feature prominently addresses the hypocrisies of American life and the way its bleakest underbellies oftentimes bleed into the mainstream with eerie panache.
"The Naked Kiss," a psychological thriller and firm believer that you can find any frightening message in a Norman Rockwell painting if you look hard enough, deconstructed the mythologies of charming suburbia and came to the conclusion that monsters are always slinking around in the shadows - doesn't matter what your social standing nor your reputation suggests. But that film was more inescapable night terror than outright cultural critique; you have to look for the meanings embedded in the celluloid.
"Shock Corridor," by contrast, is a resolute lashing of the many insincerities of the American Dream, growing in its power the more you try to interpret its many symbolic layers. It stars Peter Breck, in a fearless performance, as Johnny Barrett, an earnest crime reporter who decides that the only way he's going to get himself a Pulitzer Prize is by investigating a murder that recently took place at his local mental hospital. Figuring it'd be easier to get to the heart of the truth by immersing himself in the situation rather than stand by as a mere observer, he goes undercover as a psychologically tortured proponent of incest, his stripper girlfriend (Constance Towers, the lead of "The Naked Kiss") hesitantly pretending to be the sister and victim who brings her "familial troubles" to the attention of the police.
His professional dedication so ardent, Barrett puts on a performance that immediately convinces the asylum's authorities of his faux hysteria. It isn't long before he's living alongside unhinged men whose instability seem to have more to do with being victims of society than with being stereotypically mad. Initially does his decision seem conducive: he gets good intel and has plenty of time to refine the various profilings for the overreaching story. But as time passes does he start to feel the effects that inevitably come when you're surrounded by insanity that looms like air being breathed, causing both him and his always rational lady to ponder if getting ahead occupationally is really more important than the putting of one's mental capacity on the line.
In a more traditional genre exercise would the murder that draws Barrett to the hospital in the first place be the pivotal plot point, the thing that absorbs us the most. But obvious is that Fuller isn't much concerned with the story Barrett intends to write nor the intrigue that lines the walls of the forever sanitized asylum. What sticks with us, and what makes "Shock Corridor" so interesting, are the interactions Barrett has with the three men who witnessed the murder, once brilliant men who have since been riddled with derangement after finding themselves not being able to psychologically handle the stresses put on them by a status quo dependent society.
One is a former soldier (James Best) who was brainwashed by his Korean opponents into becoming a Communist (and now believes he's Confederate General J.E.B. Stewart). The next is a black man (Hari Rhodes) who thinks he's white and a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The last is an atomic scientist (Gene Evans) who's reverted to the mental state of a six-year-old.
But the soldier is only so damaged because he was taught racism as a child, changed his ways in adulthood, suffered PTSD during the war, and was tormented by the eventual dishonorable discharge that became him. The black man was one of the first African-American students to attend a newly integrated Southern university but was destroyed by the acrimony that buzzed around him on a regular basis. And the scientist's psyche has been ravaged by the otherworldly stress that comes with the knowledge of nuclear codes. "Shock Corridor" reminds us that you can do everything right, be a game-changer, and live up to the expectations of the American Dream and still fall flat on your face when societal norms seem to contradict everything you've ever worked for.
But while its commentaries are ingeniously placed, "Shock Corridor" still manages to feel weirdly inconsequential, like a hellacious hallucination with a couple of soap box baiting moments to enliven the sum of its parts. I prefer "The Naked Kiss," if only because its idiosyncrasies, similar to those of "Shock Corridor," better suit its pulpy, distinctly ethereal stylistic cues. But Fuller's artistic ticks, crushing criticisms, and glistening dialogue make it a fever dream to make the blood boil, the actors complementing his noirish sensibilities exquisitely.
What does it mean that a movie is a cult movie? Danny Peary has a book about them but besides Rocky Horror, are there actually followings, people that congregate and pay homage to these movies? I can't think of a single movie Peary discusses in terms of a phenomenon of people besides RHPS.
Anyway, Peary's interesting observations on this movie:
-director's trademark is unpretentious movies for the working class
-you're not meant to identify with the protagonist (interesting, considering the first point) but you do identify with Cathy who (he thinks) is smart, and who's had it worst of anyone in the film
-no resemblance to real mental hospitals
-stuck on the crassness: it goes too far and for no reason but to be tawdry
-filmically punishes people who couldn't handle the responsibility of being race and cold war resisters, and the protagonist who's too ambitious/greedy.
Samuel Fuller proves to be a true auteur of film with Shock Shock corridor. Jump cuts, transitioning between black and white and color, and a story that makes the audience feels as though they're going as crazy as the main character of his film. What great about this film is that Fuller makes every attempt to pull the audience into his mind. You can't watch this film without becoming a part of it, which is the way it should be.
The depths that Johnny (Peter Breck) would go to in order to win a Pulitzer Prize is remarkable. He would risk his health and sanity for an award to boost his career. He even drags his girlfriend Cathy (Constance Towers) into the abyss with him. Johnny poses as a mental patient in order to gain admittance to a mental institution to solve a murder. This is the basis of Samuel Fuller's 1963 film "Shock Corrider."
Johnny is coached by an imminent psychiatrist to appear insane and to fabricate stories of incest with his "sister" unwittingly played by his girlfriend. Three witnesses witness the murder. All three were productive members of society until the stresses of war, bigotry and nuclear war regressed them into thinking they were Confederate soldiers, Ku Klux Klan members and six year old kids. Johnny is able to receive information from the three in little periods of time when they become rational before they fall apart again into a case of their delusions.
This is masterfully directed by Samuel Fuller and it's a shocking, disturbing film that shows in 100 minutes how fragile the human mind can be at times.
Some gaps in the story weaken this original psychological drama. 1001 movies to see before you die.