Blu-Ray Review: Shock Corridor

It has been a long time coming but, in the West at least, mental illness is finally being treated as seriously as physical conditions. The brain is an incredibly complex organ. So labyrinthine that we are still far from understanding how it works. This ‘grey’ area makes mental institutions rich pickings for film-makers. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the most famous example, but it’s a setting directors seem to love. Especially in genre cinema. Samuel Fuller uses it to full effect in his 1963 film, Shock Corridor.

Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) is a journalist who is desperate to win the Pulitzer Prize; reckoning his best shot is to solve a murder which happened in an insane asylum. The problem is that his only way in is by way of a white van. Using a cover story of incest with his sister, played by his girlfriend (Constance Towers), Johnny gets admitted. There are three witnesses, but despite his best attempts he struggles to get any leads. He must persevere whilst fighting to maintain his sanity.

Shock Corridor is a hard-hitting and confrontational crime drama. As you’d expect from a Fuller film, it doesn’t take and prisoners or allow the audience an easy ride. Breck is brilliant as the tortured hack. Desperate to find the killer but struggling to maintain control of his sanity. The genius of Shock Corridor is that it’s an enthralling psychological thriller in the middle of a murder mystery.  

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.

Shock Corridor is released on Blu-ray by Criterion Collection on 2 September.

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