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Shock Corridor (Criterion Collection) (1963)

Cast: Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans, more...
Director: Samuel Fuller
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Criterion Collection
Genre: Drama, Criterion Collection
Running Time: 101 min.
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Shock Corridor represents filmmaker Samuel Fuller at his most excessive, but we wouldn't have it otherwise. Peter Breck plays a ruthless journalist who believes that the quickest way to a Pulitzer Prize is to uncover the facts behind a murder at a mental hospital. To glean first-hand information, Breck pretends to go insane and is locked up in the institution. While pursuing his investigation, Breck is sidetracked by the loopy behavior of his fellow inmates. During a hospital riot, Breck is straightjacketed and subjected to shock treatment. By now almost as crazy as he's previously pretended to be, Breck begins imagining that his exotic-dancer girlfriend Constance Towers (a Samuel Fuller "regular") is actually his sister! By the time the murder has been solved, Breck has gone completely off the deep end, while another patient, a genius suffering from a mental breakdown (played by Gene Evans, still another member in good standing of the Fuller stock company) has figuratively taken Breck's place in "normal" society. Typical of the Fuller ouevre, the characters in Shock Corridor are either saved or destroyed by their individual obsessions. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

You might also enjoy:
The Naked Kiss
Fuller's follow-up to Corridoris like a pulp novel turned in to a film noir

GreenCine Member Reviews

Camp That Still Packs a Punch or Two by talltale August 27, 2006 - 8:01 AM PDT
Sam Fuller's SHOCK CORRIDOR doesn't hold up quite as well as his "Naked Kiss": a movie with Peter Breck in the lead just isn't as interesting as one with Constance Towers. (She's in this, too, but doesn't have much more to do than complain, cry and sing 'n dance a "strip" number as bizarre and asexual as anything in the history of burlesque.) But the movie still shows how this one-of-a-kind filmmaker could wrap his mind and camera around the most peculiar (for their time) topics and manage to create something entertaining, thought-provoking, sordid and silly.

Fuller's 1960s output experimented with techniques and ideas new to film at the time: the risk of messing around with Freud, pharmaceuticals and electroshock for the sake of journalism; the clever use of Towers' tiny figure appearing onscreen and in the mind of Peter Breck's character after his entry into the mental institution; a black man's taking on the personality and feelings of a white bigot (was this perhaps the first such scene in an American movie?). As so often, the problem with "firsts"--and particularly with Fuller--is that he hits you over the head with his newfound ideas rather than incorporating them into any kind of subtle art. But that doesn't make his ideas wrong.

In this film, the black character Trent's behavior is a much less subtle (but sadder and not nearly as pernicious) version of our Supreme Court's Clarence Thomas or Ohio's J. Kenneth Blackwell. The wonder of Fuller is that he was "on" to so many things so much earlier than most. And he had the balls to do something with his ideas and anger. I hope Criterion (or some company) manages to get every last one of his movies onto DVD eventually. I imagine we'll find a lot that's worthwhile--even in the least of them.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.32)
139 Votes
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