Friday, July 17, 2020


Robert Hartford-Davis

Following in the footsteps of Eyes Without a Face (1960), Corruption is another film centered around a doctor who is in the habit of murdering women in order to preserve someone close to him. In this case, it is his fiancée, a model who has suffered severe burns during a photoshoot. By using the human pineal gland from a recent corpse and a laser in the treatment, Dr. John Rowan (Peter Cushing) is able to achieve remarkable results. The problem is that it doesn’t last, and he must secure a fresher pineal gland.

Aesthetically Corruption feels like the opposite of Eyes Without a Face.  Whereas the later carries a quiet chill set in a stark black and white environment, Corruption is a riot of color, fish-eye lenses, and shouting. Eyes Without a Face ends with a character walking into the woods with a dove in a final moment of poetic horror, Corruption climaxes with lots of people shoving and screaming while a laser scalpel blasts wildly around the room. Corruption begins as a look into the slow descent of madness and cruelty of one person, but it nosedives into chaos very quickly.

"Is it the hat? Look at me when I'm talking to you."

Aside from its colorful sleaze, I found the most interesting element was that Dr. Rowan’s ultimate corruption doesn’t come from his own selfish desires to keep his fiancée, Lynn (Sue Lloyd), looking beautiful, but it comes from her own vanity and needs to be accepted and worshipped by the hipster scumbags that she associates with. She is the primary driver for Rowan’s eventual madness, but even she loses control of him by the end when everything in the film goes off the rails. This effectively makes Rowan victim and perpetrator. I also expected the film to linger on its female victims far more that it does. This isn’t a demure film by any stretch, but it isn’t quite the lurid story that its promotion suggests either.

Ultimately Corruption is undone by its own silliness. The hippie elements have not aged well at all and feel like they were hopelessly cartoonish even in 1968. Seeing Peter Cushing at 55 rubbing shoulders with these goofy hippies deflates most of the menace that the film bothers to build. Seeing him sitting around mod clothes obliterates it. As a viewer, if you can lean into the over-the-top antics, Corruption ends up being very fun. If you are here for a grimy medical horror film, I would consider looking elsewhere because this isn’t it.

What Peter Cushing's first cup of coffee in the morning sees.

I would recommend this film to Peter Cushing fans, though. Normally his roles are very reserved. He’s often a stalwart hero that the viewer can depend on. Here he’s unhinged and often flailing about. His thinning hair is mussed and standing on end as he jams his sweaty face into a fisheye lens close-up. It’s quite unlike any other roles I’ve seen him and almost worth viewing for that alone. 

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