Review: Shock Corridor (1964)

Shock Corridor (1964)
Dir: Samuel Fuller
Starring: Constance Towers, Peter Breck, Hari Rhodes

' As to those who refuse to be oedipalized in one form or another, [...] the psychoanalyst is there to call the asylum or the police for help. The police on our side -- ! Never did psychoanalysis better display its taste for supporting the movement of social repression, and for participating in it with enthusiasm.'

(-'Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia', Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari.)


Shock Corridor, made in 1964, holds a mirror to the turmoil and vast social changes of its historical moment - but undoubtedly it also looks back askance at the McCarthy years, aggressively indicting 1950's political conformism and hypocrisy. As in 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the protagonist (a journalist, played by Peter Breck) enters an insane asylum under spurious pretences; and like Forman's film, the central metaphor is that of America as insane asylum. The 1950's were, in America, the age of Freud and of psychoanalysis; thus, Fuller uses every available psychological excuse to justify his excesses. Corridor is, at its heart, a pulpy noir melodrama, complete with heavily-stylized chiaroscuro and tight close-ups of its leads' anguished faces. Constance Towers (given considerably less to work with than she is in the equally wonderful Naked Kiss) plays a lovesick stripper, her bizarre, feather boa-bedecked dance sequence searing itself onto one's memory. DP Stanley Cortez, (of The Night of the Hunter fame) is responsible for the recurring, nightmarish visuals, ensconcing that so-entitled corridor with an eerie light, its repetitious appearance as haunting as any aesthetic nuance of the film. The trio of mentally-ill patients that our journalist interloper encounters are substitutes for the larger ailments in American society - the young black patient (unsettlingly played by Hari Rhodes) a particularly stunning choice and genuine smack-in-the-face to audiences of the time. These American 'illnesses' link both to a sick society in microcosm as well as a blanket assumption about what sort of 'deviant' behaviour is considered dangerous - and then labelled as such, to be removed from the body politic. In this respect, Fuller also critiques the golden calf of psychoanalysis; as a tool for the repression of dissent. And yet, in spite of the deeply political overtones of the film - Fuller's typical free-wheeling, sensational style allows plenty of time for attacks by gangs of roving nymphomaniacs. What a movie.


Featured in

Featured in