When I first heard about Corruption I thought, “a 1968 horror film starring Peter ‘Grand Moff Tarkin’ Cushing? Yes!” Then I got the disc in the mail and got a little concerned. The cover shows a very dramatic drawing of Cushing kneeling over a woman trapped beneath him. He is holding her head up by the hair with one hand and holding a knife to her throat with the other. Quotes like “A sleazy gem”, “A devastating orgy of slaughter” and “Uncut, Uncensored, Unbelievable!” adorn the packaging. What had I gotten myself into? Was this some strange, seedy slasher film that had avoided the light of day until now for a reason?
As it turned out it wasn’t nearly that bad. I mean it was pretty bad for squeamish 1968 audiences, which is probably why there are two versions of the most controversial scene. In the scene Sir John Rowan (Cushing) has gone to the home of a prostitute to kill her and… – I’ll explain why in a minute. In the version originally released in the US and UK, the lady of the evening (Jan Waters) is fully clothed and you don’t see much in way of blood or gore. It’s an extremely tame scene. In the internationally released version, seen here for the first time, the woman (Marian Collins) appears topless throughout the whole scene and the audience sees Rowan cut off her head with a scalpel. It’s an intense scene… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Corruption (or Carnage if you’re looking it up on imdb) is a story about Sir John Rowan, a renowned surgeon, and his beautiful supermodel fiance, Lynn (Sue Lloyd) and their obsession with vanity that destroys them. The film opens at a swinging ’60s London party. This is Lynn’s scene and the much older John is obviously out of place. This scene is shot really well to convey the claustrophobia that John is feeling.
At this party John and a snooty photographer get in a huge fight when the photographer wants Lynn to take her cloths off for a photo shoot. John tries to take the man’s camera, they struggle, and one of the hot lights is knocked over landing on Lynn’s face horrible scaring and disfiguring her.
Driven by guilt, and most likely a desire to see his fiance hot again, John develops a very controversial way to heal her, using the pituitary gland of another woman. The first gland he gets if from an already dead woman and while it works, the effects do not last. John realized he needs to a fresher gland, hence the above described scene.
Where the film really gets interesting is when John gets home and pulls the severed head out of his medical bag to show Lynn. She doesn’t seem to care in the slightest. She is such a vein shallow person that she doesn’t care that another woman had to die in order for her to be beautiful again.
This time around the effects last longer, but John realizes that this too will fade in time. Lynn’s answer, get another gland. But John doesn’t want to kill again. You can kind of guess where it goes from here, but you’d be wrong.
If it’s possible for a film to jump the shark this film does it in the third act. John has killed a girl who they thought was a lone traveler. It turns out she was part of this strange beatnik gang that was going to rob their house and when the girl doesn’t report back the gang shows up to rob the place, providing one the strangest third acts I’ve seen in a very long time. I don’t want to spoil it, but I will say that if felt like I was suddenly watching a different film.
And then there is the ending. Or should I say endings. The first ending comes and you think “Okay, the last twenty minutes was really weird, but that ending was kind of cool.” But then the film keeps going for another minute or so and just makes you more confused than ever.
Besides the bizarre third act and the “twist” ending it’s not totally terrible film. For a low budget horror film the acting is pretty good. Cushing and Nolan are great and it’s fun to see the development of their twisted relationship. And most of the lesser rolls are acted pretty well too.
There are lot of interesting camera angles in the film that keep things visually interesting and one can’t help but wonder if Sam Raimi saw this film before making his Evil Dead films; there are some striking similarities between Cushing’s close ups when killing women and some of Bruce Campbell’s more extreme close ups.
That said, it is a very strange film. I guess if you’re a fan of ’60s British horror films or a Peter Cushing completest then I’d say head out and see this “lost gem” as soon as you can. However, if you are not either of those things then you’ll probably just be confused by this very strange film and wonder why you wasted 90 minutes watching it.
The film is presented in 1.85:1 and 5.1 HD Mono. I’ve heard old versions of this film look and sound terrible so if you’re a fan of this film you’re going to love this high-def remastering. This is the best you’ll ever see this film.
On top of both versions of the film, you get: some alternate shots that were used to make the film less violent in countries that needed it (2 min.). Interviews with Billy Murray, Jan Waters and Wendy Varnals (32 min.), these are really interesting. It’s fun to see them think back on a silly film they did so long ago. And they all thing very fondly of Peter Cushing. An audio interview with Peter Cushing (7 min.) that is great, A series of Trailers and TV spots, a shooting script that you can read on your computer and more.
I only sat down to watch this film because I love Peter Cushing, who I mostly know from Star Wars. It was very interesting to see him in such a different role. I liked the way the film was shot and I liked the dynamic relationship between John and Lynn, but this was a very, very strange movie and I’d be really hesitant to recommend it to someone.
Columbia Pictures and Grindhouse Releasing present Corruption. Written by: Derek Ford and Donald Ford. Directed by: Robert Hartford-Davis. Starring: Peter Cushing, Sue Lloyd, Billy Murray and Wendy Varnals. Running time: 91 minutes. Rating: R. Released: October 8, 2013.
Tags: Grindhouse, Peter Cushing