I am not a fully fledged fan of the work of Sam Fuller, the renegade writer and director. I would suspect he would not even give a hoot about me, I know. The reason, for me is very simple. He was a scandal sheet and pulp fiction writer before becoming a filmmaker. This meant his work sensationalised the content and made the viewer play up to the subject. It also meant, he was trapped in the same rhetoric, metaphor and bluster. Now he also saw combat, fought in WWII and made a stunning film called THE BIG RED ONE, about his time and that war.
Journalist Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) is on to something. He thinks if he is admitted to a local mental hospital, he could solve, an unsolved murder. Helped by an expert psychiatrist to appear insane. This manifests itself in incestous thoughts about his sister. His exotic-dancer girlfriend (Constance Towers) is used as the bait and she begrudgingly convinces the authorities to act. They lock him up in the institution where the murder took place. As he investigates, he experiences his fellow inmates and the system at large.
Fullers SHOCK CORRIDOR is a cult classic and no messing. It is also a film I just can’t get on with. I suspect it is my issue but yes, it has incredible moments. The moments when it deals with race and the programming of it within US society for instance. That is bold and electric. It also will no doubt get the triggered on the right, a jolt. He uses this frankness in another one of his films WHITE DOG. The issue I have is that SHOCK CORRIDOR descends into melodrama too often and defuses the awful with a note of the absurd. Now I get that we are shocked by the conditions, institutions and inmates but with this handling we are also less interested than we should be. I felt it was just erratic. The slopping and sliding scale of absurdities draw me into a Lewis Carroll tale and not an expose on the corruption of the mental health system. You dont mean to but you laugh and its acceptable (jet black comedy after all) but its a genre film that lacks the cohesion of the genre it wants to be fully absorbed in. So for me, I just can only watch it again and try to make a case for it.
So the new HD transfer is taken from the same print as the DVD had. Its benefits from being a good quality print and all but it has a little white balance issue in the final third. The sound is crisp however and that slight hiss is gone.
Best? Adam Simon’s 1996 documentary excepts. We saw them before but they are a great grounding in the work of Fuller. Constance Towers interview is ok enough but its not of a range to be amazing, just ok it will do.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
- New, restored high-definition digital transfer (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack)
- New video interview with star Constance Towers by film historian and filmmaker Charles Dennis
- Excerpts from The Typewriter, the Rifle and the Movie Camera, Adam Simon’s 1996 documentary on director Samuel Fuller
- Original theatrical trailer
- PLUS: Illustrations by cartoonist Daniel Clowes (Eightball, Ghost World) and a booklet featuring an essay by critic and poet Robert Polito and excerpts from Fuller’s autobiography, A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking.