Thursday, March 20, 2014

407. Shock Corridor (1963)

Running Time: 101 minutes
Directed By: Samuel Fuller
Written By: Samuel Fuller
Main Cast: Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans, James Best, Hari Rhodes
Click here to view the trailer

Note: It is my intention to get "The Big Red One" watched before Friday afternoon, as my wife and I have plans to spend our upcoming three day weekend (three days for me, only two for her :( Sorry, honey) catching up on some new releases that we've been wanting to see. For the curious, every once and a while my wife and I do a Redbox run and rent about 7 - 8 titles and chain watch them. This go around we picked four a piece; Her picks: "Prisoners", "Dallas Buyer's Club", "The Conjuring" and "Enough Said"; My picks: "Gravity", "Nebraska", "12 Years a Slave" and "American Hustle". I'm skeptical about "American Hustle", because I only kind of liked "Silver Linings Playbook" and it's the pretty much the same crew, but I'm still curious enough to see it. The rest (even her picks) I have enough of an interest in to be at least somewhat excited to see all of them. Should make for a blast of a weekend and I really can't wait. Following that, I'll be spending the majority of next week away from THE BOOK and focusing on a few films that are to be the basis of some articles I'll be writing in the coming months. One article has to do with the "Great Villain Blogathon" banner, you may have seen posted in the sidebar. I'll be writing a piece for that in April and you can see it here on the blog. The other piece will be an article I'll be penning for The Dark Pages newsletter. Both films will more than likely also get the SINS OF OMISSION treatment, which is why I say I"ll be taking a week off from THE BOOK and not a week off from the blog. Anyway, I'll talk more about those projects when the time comes, lets get down to brass tax...


So after lukewarm feelings on "Pickup On South Street", I was somewhat skeptical to tackle the second Sam Fuller flick from THE BOOK. It turns out my skepticism was unwarranted, as "Shock Corridor" was a breath of fresh air, after the dankness that was "Pickup...". Read on...

Johnny asleep, dreaming about his stripper girlfriend Cathy (Constance Towers). I somehow liked the way this was shot. Although admittedly it's a style I'd normally hate, it somehow worked here.

Get a load of this premise and tell me it isn't genius material. Johnny Barrett (Breck) is a newspaper reporter looking to nab a Pulitzer Prize. The big story making the rounds, is a murder that was committed at an insane asylum, except that no one actually knows who committed the murder. It turns out that there were three witnesses, however, they were patients and they ain't talking. Enter Barrett who conjures up the idea to get himself committed to the asylum, so that he can do some first hand snooping around and get some one on one time with the witnesses and get them to crack. His girlfriend is against the idea completely, but in order to pull it all off, they'll need her cooperation. It is Johnny's idea to get his stripper girlfriend, Cathy (Towers) to pretend to be his sister who he has incestuous feelings for (complete with a story about a fetish for her hair). After a bit of coaxing, Cathy finally gives in and goes to the cops to report her would be attacker "brother". He's given an interview with the asylum's lead psychiatrist, which he's been prepped for by a psychiatrist friend and manages to convince the doctor that he needs to be kept at the hospital (success!). From there, all Johnny has to do is catch the three witnesses during brief moments of rationality and get them to tell him who did the murdering. Meanwhile, Johnny must keep up the charade of being a loony toon long enough to get the answers he needs. However, as Johnny becomes more and more accustomed to the day to day goings on of the asylum, not to mention the bevy of tests and experimental treatments he undergoes, he slips deeper and deeper into senility.


Let me make it perfectly clear that I don't condone the words on the sign. I only post the picture because I thought the idea of a black white supremacist was just genius and very unique.

I mean, is it not an absolutely fresh and fantastic idea for a movie?! You wanna' talk about something being ahead of it's time, look no further than this Sam Fuller venture, which combines the dark, seedy world of a film noir with the eeriness and unknowing of a great Twilight Zone episode. I think I've learned, just after one film, that Fuller's the type of guy who isn't going to let a film go by without using as a perfectly good vehicle to get a few statements in and he does that here too, but it's nothing that can't be overlooked. Sure, I could've done without the monologues from James Best and Hari Rhodes and the two color sequences (actually three, there's one later on too), but I went with the flow, swallowed it and kept chewing. Speaking of Rhodes, he's the catalyst for another fantastic Fuller idea - a black white supremacist! The thing of it is, is that since the film takes place in an mental hospital, you can kind of get away with a lot of things and chalk any uncouth shenanigans up to the fact that, "Hey, it all takes place in a crazy ward, nothing is to be taken too seriously". The idea of this black man going around, thinking he's a KKK leader, is just brilliant writing, in my opinion. And hey, I haven't even gotten into the whole incest thing, which had to be SUPER RISKY for it's time. Not to mention Constance Towers and a few of the outfits she dons. I mean, I had absolutely no problem letting my eyes guzzle her up, but she was so scantily clad, I couldn't believe I was watching a '63 film.

The thing I love is that it all makes sense too. I mean, a man would go insane wouldn't he. Not only do you have the pressures of your job and the desire to succeed, but you also have your smokin' hot girlfriend, who's a stripper, who you're leaving on the outside to get hit on and flirted with by every Tom, Dick and Harry that watches her dance, all so you can get that Pulitzer. On top of that, you're constantly surrounded by patients who are singing in your ear (of course I'm talking about Pagliacci, played brilliantly Larry Tucker) and chomping gum. Then you actually have to coax information out of a few of them, catching glimpses of sanity, that's about as easy as catching a peek at a shooting star. Pile on to that the fact that you're constantly acting, getting reality and fantasy mixed up and then the coup de grace, the shock treatments, which would be bound to send him over the edge.

The big rain scene at the end, that I mentioned. This, in my opinion, perfectly demonstrates what is going on inside Johnny's head during his "irrational moments". 

If I'd had my way the ending would have been a little different. I LOVED the rain scene, but I'd have maybe cut the big fist fight between Barrett and Wilkes. It went on a bit too long and reminded me too much of the fist fight at the end of "The Quiet Man", meaning I half expected Barrett and Wilkes to get up at the end, toss their heads back in laughter and share a beer. If only it had been half as long, I'd have still ended it with Johnny banging Wilkes' head on the ground, asking who killed Sloane, but I wouldn't have had Wilkes admit it. I'd have had Johnny bang his head till he died, thus rendering Johnny a lifetime member of the insane asylum, sentenced by a judge. I also hated the whole good cop/bad cop routine played by the two attendants and I just knew that the killer would end up being the nice one - a bit too predictable. But really, that's all just nitpicking. I have to ask, was anyone else reminded of "Shutter Island"? I was, for sure. It also makes me realize that fiction that takes place inside asylums is usually really good stuff, at least 95% of the time. Anyway, check this out. I'd say approach it with caution, because there are a few curve balls that threaten to take you out of the whole picture. However, in my opinion the story itself is so good, that you'll be very willing to dodge the curves and just go with the flow. Recommended.

RATING: 7.5/10  Well, that brings us to "The Big Red One", which I am NOT looking forward to, considering it's a war flick. However, I do love me some Lee Marvin, so it's got that going for it. We shall see...


March 20, 2014  12:12am


  1. I've been hanging on for several days trying to think of something to add..
    And I've decided you said just about all there was to say.

  2. Was getting worried about you Ray. Glad to see you back!


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