Cinema Enigmatico #3 – Corruption (1967)

Cinema Enigmatico…Italian for Obscure Cinema! I find the films that are either forgotten or little known, and let you know about them! This week’s installment is a fun, horrifying foray into the swinging sixties, baby, yeah!

Corruption (1967)

I have to admit, while there is a copious amount of obscure knowledge and trivia in my head, I hadn’t heard of Corruption before discovering the Blu Ray. What makes that matter so profound is that it stars one of my favorite genre actors, Peter Cushing! In my travels and searches for obscure movies, I saw this offering from Grindhouse Releasing last year and just HAD to have it! The cover art alone sold me on it…Peter Cushing pinning a woman to the ground, grasping her hair with one hand and a knife at her throat with the other. I thought the ordinarily nice and mild-mannered man was pretty ruthless in some of his other roles, but this one cried out for me to see for myself what new depths of character acting the great Mr. Cushing could unleash upon us.

Fast paced from beginning to end, Corruption makes you feel uncomfortable throughout. Peter Cushing plays Sir John Rowan, a renowned and brilliant surgeon. His beautiful wife Lynn (Sue Lloyd) is a model who drags her proper, polite, and well-dressed husband to a trendy party in the heart of Swinging Sixties London. As the party rolls on, and Sir John becomes increasingly uncomfortable, Lynn’s photographer starts snapping photos of her and encourages her to strip for the camera. Having had enough, Sir John rages and a fight ensues causing one of the hot lighting lamps to come crashing down and burn Lynn’s face, ruining her modeling career. Sir John, being the brilliant surgeon that he is, eventually figures out a way to restore Lynn’s beauty with a treatment that is a mixture of a human gland found in the brain, and a laser machine. As often happens in stories of this type, the effects eventually wear off and her scars return. Sir John must then go out and retrieve more glands for his wife…even if that means killing young women to acquire them! As much as he wants to help his wife, he doesn’t really want to murder people, but Lynn manages to goad him into doing it, acting as the devil on his shoulder encouraging him to do bad things. As they get deeper and deeper into a situation that will probably never resolve itself well, they retreat to a cabin in the quiet town of Seaford. There, the idyllic setting is interrupted by more murder and a home invasion by maniacal hippies, all leading to a crazy, trippy finale.

As far as the story goes, you’ve seen this before a la “The Brain that Wouldn’t Die” – a guy has to resort to murder in order to keep his wife safe/happy/alive. However, what sets this film apart is
the frenetic pacing and camera work, the brilliant and vibrant colors bringing the Swinging Sixties to life, and the groovy music setting the acid trip tone of the film. As the hero Abraham Van Helsing in Hammer’s Dracula films and Doctor Who in two BBC films, Cushing showed a great strength of character and heroism. As the villain in such films as Star Wars (Grand Moff Tarkin) and Hammer Studios’ Twins of Evil and the Frankenstein Series to name a few, Cushing pushed the boundaries of being a villain. As Dr. Frankenstein, it was a mad scientific curiosity that drove him. As Gustav Weil in Twins of Evil, he was motivated by a desire to defeat true evil, but didn’t realize his actions themselves weren’t the best.  Here, his character exudes passion, moving from rage to love to angst, exuding pathos as he is forced onto this dark roller coaster ride that he created and cannot exit. In the same way, the film grabs you from the beginning and won’t let go until the dreamy, wild ending.  He doesn’t want to kill for his wife, but he doesn’t really fight it much either…. sort of like an addict battling the addiction but keeps justifying the reason for continued usage.

The colors, styles and music alone were enough to get me watching. Lampooned in the Austin Powers movie, this film’s styling acts as a time capsule for the era in which it was made. If you crave a trip back to Swinging Sixties London, look no further than Corruption!  Groovy colors, patterns and music, as well as clothing and hair styles, this takes me back to the days of yore that I wish I could travel back to!

The Blu Ray from Grindhouse Releasing contains quite a few things including both the US Theatrical release and the International release containing more gore and nudity not seen in the American version. Also, interviews with stars Billy Murray, Wendy Varnals and Peter Cushing as well as a tons of trailers, script documents, liner notes and commentary by English Gothic author Jonathan Rigby and Peter Cushing biographer David Miller.

Ultimately, what adds the total tongue-in-cheek flavor to this movie is the poster and TV & Radio ads that say: “Corruption is not a woman’s picture! Therefore: No woman will be admitted alone to see this Super-Shock film!” This flick is by no means Cushing’s best, but is definitely worth a look and essential for completists.