Sunday, September 26, 2010

Shock Corridor 1963

A week after seeing Sam Fuller’s evocative movie poem on American Society circa 1963 that’s set in a mental hospital, I’m still thinking about this fucking movie. Fuller wraps his little cheapie around an outrageous plot about a newspaper man nicely played by the attractive and appealing Peter Breck... who wants to win a Pulitzer Prize very badly and has the idea to go undercover at a mental hospital to find out who murdered a patient. This ploy will surely get him the big prize he thinks. Things start to get obtuse and out of hand when Peter enlists his stripper girlfriend Cathy (played by Constance Towers) in his crazy scheme and convinces her against her better judgment to pose as his sister and makes up a cockamamy story about having incestuous feelings for each other. He use to play with my pigtails she tells to the doctor. Well Peter gets admitted into the nut house, and is soon roaming the corridor and meeting the inmates. They include a wild group including a shell shock Korean war vet, an African American who is so compassionate about his self hate that he goes around wearing a Klu Klux Klan hood and attacking fellow black inmates. Also in the mix is an obese guy played by the future screenwriter Larry Tucker who’s nickname is Pagliacci and sings to distraction opera off key and a scientist who is haunted by the terrible things he has worked on in the name of science who now in a nearly comatose state and spends most of his time drawing. Sounds like many artists I know. Some of these patients know who the killer is (you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure this out) and Breck goes to great lengths to get the name out of them.. Who murdered Sloane In The Kitchen? he barks at everyone during his tortured stay at the hospital. There are some great jaw dropping moments and images throughout this little crazy B, and Fuller that film brut really knows how to tell a pulp story with words and images. He is ably helped by deep shadowed cinematography by the great Stanley Cortez. who shot among others films The Magnificent Ambersons and The Night of The Hunter. Also helpful is the single set of the hospital corridor designed by Eugène Lourié whose perspective ends in a painted dead end backdrop with midgets walking back and forth to give the sense of distance and depth. His film is like an assemblage, a show and tell, a lost and found. He uses color footage from his film House Of Bamboo when one of the inmates tells of his dreams. and no doubt the footage came first. and then the scene. There are rain storms in the corridor, and Constance Towers comes to Breck’s dreams like a sexy little tinkerbell. And in the end Breck gets his Pulitzer but things eventually turn out very bad for him, but for adventurous movie lovers bad turns out to be awfully good. One of the ten best films of 1963.


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