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With: Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans, James Best, Hari Rhodes, Larry Tucker, Paul Dubov, Chuck Roberson, Neyle Morrow, John Matthews, Bill Zuckert, John Craig, Philip Ahn, Frank Gerstle, Rachel Romen
Written by: Samuel Fuller
Directed by: Samuel Fuller
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 101
Date: 09/11/1963

Shock Corridor (1963)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Color Me Crazy

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Borrowing an idea from a little-seen Budd Boetticher thriller, Behind Locked Doors (1948), Shock Corridor runs with it, going into crazy, angry places and finishing up as one of Samuel Fuller's greatest masterpieces. It begins as a reporter Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) cooks up an idea that could win him a Pulitzer. He will get himself checked into an asylum so that he can interview three inmates that may know the solution to an unsolved murder. He pretends to have incestuous urges, and coaxes his girlfriend -- strip-joint performer Cathy (Constance Towers) -- to pose as his sister.

Inside, he meets the three. There's Stuart (James Best), a Korean War veteran who now believes he's a Confederate general in the Civil War. Trent (Hari Rhodes) is a black man who believes that he's a white supremacist. Dr. Boden (Gene Evans) was a scientist who snapped after working on the atomic bomb, and now behaves like a child. Irony abounds, as we learn the secret pasts of these three, and the very real, unjust social conditions that landed them in the nuthouse. Fuller develops outlandish amounts of tension with the unpredictable atmosphere of this place, the sounds (including an inmate that likes to sing opera) and movements, and terrifying situations, such as the sequence in which Johnny finds himself in the women's nymphomaniac ward. Then there's the ending, which is the ultimate in irony.

This is a true masterpiece of the unrest of the 1960s, years before Easy Rider or anything else remotely like it. Critics like to say that Fuller directed his movies like he was writing headlines, in huge, unsubtle type, blasting the insanity of the world for all to see. This was perhaps never more true than here; Fuller is at his most brutally unhinged, and at his most brilliant. Sadly, this was also the beginning of the end. After this movie and The Naked Kiss (1964), Fuller fell out of favor in Hollywood, and forever more had trouble getting projects financed. Most of his funding after this time came from Europe. In America, his WWII epic The Big Red One (1980) was butchered, and his anti-racist masterpiece White Dog (1982) was buried.

The Criterion Collection once released this classic on laserdisc, and then on DVD. Now a new, remastered edition is available on Blu-Ray as well as a brand-new DVD. It has an uncompressed monaural soundtrack, a new interview with Ms. Towers, Adam Simon's documentary The Typewriter, the Rifle and the Movie Camera (1996), and a trailer. The liner notes booklet comes with illustrations by Dan Clowes, an essay by critic/poet Robert Polito and an excerpt from Fuller's autobiography.

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