You may think you’re a hardcore horror hound, but until you’ve seen Peter Cushing awkwardly mingle at a swinging ’60s drug party in a sea of mini-skirts and psychedelics, you do not know real terror. That’s one of the pivotal scenes in director Robert Hartford-Davis’ 1968 sleazy horror film Corruption. The only film that came out of a deal between Columbia Pictures and British exploitation studio Compton-Cameo, Corruption disgusted UK critics upon its release and was disowned by star Cushing. The film lived in infamy for decades and has now been given its first U.S. home video release courtesy of Grindhouse Releasing.
At the time, Corruption might’ve been a nasty picture. By today’s standards it’s really tame, although it’s wicked fun nonetheless. Based loosely on Georges Franju’s classic Eyes Without a Face, Corruption stars Cushing as hotshot surgeon John Rowan. When we first meet him, he’s just wrapped up a five hour procedure and a junior surgeon is fawning over him, practically asking for his autograph. Rowan’s expertise with a scalpel must’ve been enough to charm the pants off his fiancée too, ambitious glamour model Lynn (Sue Lloyd), who appears a bit out of his league.
After a gross modeling accident leaves Lynn’s face disfigured, Rowan attempts to repair her tissue using lasers as well as glands he removes from women he murders. The film does a good job of making Cushing out to be a reluctant killer. He does it first because he loves her to death and feels at fault for her accident. Then Lynn keeps pushing him to kill, which drives him a bit mad. The murder scenes are trippy and frenetic – reflecting Rowan’s guilt-ridden madness. They even use a fish-eye lens for one kill scene! So while the gore might be way over-hyped (the back of the Blu-ray cover reads “Uncut, Uncensored, Unbelievable!”), the violence certainly is hypnotizing in a way. The disc contains both the original R-rated and uncut version, which is about one minute longer.
How swinging are the ’60s depicted in Corruption? They’re so swinging, there’s an actual shot of two men literally swinging a woman over a balcony. The film is populated with attractive English mods, making Cushing this sort of odd-duck in a mass of youthful hipness. Then there’s the climax of the film, where Rowan and Lynn fall under attack by a group of violent hippie-types. One of them, appropriately named “Groper,” played by British comedian David Lodge, is a giant, flower-power nightmare. Here Corruption flips the script – making the doctor and his fiancée the victims.
This third act also contains a terribly suspenseful scene in Rowan’s kitchen. Remember what Hitchcock said about letting the audience know there’s a bomb in the room about to go off? It’s like that, only with a head in the freezer rather than an explosive device.
While Corruption may not blow any minds, every horror fan should see Peter Cushing behead a topless hooker at least once in their lives. The film is a wealth of entertainment – from the abrasive jazz soundtrack to the absolutely psychotic laser-carousel that closes the film. And thanks to Grindhouse Releasing, the film is rescued from obscurity in a package well worth the retail price.
Corruption is presented in 1080p HD in 1.85:1 widescreen. The video quality is fantastic, with details, colors, and hues looking sharp as hell. It’s hard not to get lost in the deep blue sea of Cushing’s eyes when the HD is this good looking. The DTS-HD Master Audio is perfectly fine. I did lower the volume during soundtrack blasts a few times. The horns can be a tad overwhelming.
The commentary by English horror expert Jonathan Rigby and Cushing biographer David Miller is deeply insightful about the film’s production and place in UK horror history. They seem to be having a really good time watching the film together, especially during Cushing’s “fight” scenes.
There are several interviews with cast members, including Billy Murray, Jan Waters, and Wendy Varnals. There’s also an audio interview with Cushing recorded in 1974. The man has a strong stance on profanity.
Viewers can also breeze through the shooting script, director Robert Hartford-Davis’ filmography, and LOADS of still images. Seriously, there are hundreds. If that’s not enough for you, check out the trailers and TV and radio spots. Then give your TV a rest and read the liner notes written by UK horror scholar Allan Bryce.