Sam Fuller's shot in 10 days in studio Neo Neo Noir.
Fuller (Pickup on South Street (1953), House of Bamboo (1955), The Crimson Kimono (1959), Underworld U.S.A. (1961), The Naked Kiss (1964)) also wrote the script back in the forties under the title Straitjacket for Fritz Lang. But Lang wanted to cast Joan Bennett in the lead. Cinematography was by Stanley Cortez (The Underworld Story (1950), The Night of the Hunter (1955), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Three Faces of Eve (1957), Vice Raid (1959), and uncredited for Chinatown (1974)). Additional color footage sequences by Sam Fuller from The House Of Bamboo and the unfinished film Tigrero, the Music was by Paul Dunlap.
The film Stars Peter Breck (I Want to Live! (1958)) as Johnny Barrett, Constance Towers (Over-Exposed (1956), The Naked Kiss (1964), as Cathy, Noir vet Gene Evans (Berlin Express (1948), Criss Cross (1949), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Armored Car Robbery (1950), Storm Warning (1951), Ace in the Hole (1951), The Long Wait (1954), Crashout (1955) ) as Boden, Western Vet James Best (One Way Street (1950), ) as Stuart, Hari Rhodes (The Satan Bug (1965) as Trent, actor and writer Larry Tucker (Blast Of Silence (1961) as Pagliacci, Paul Dubov as Dr. J.L. Menkin, Chuck Roberson (Hi-Jacked (1950)) as Wilkes, Bill Zuckert (Kiss of Death (1947), ) as 'Swanee' Swanson, and Philip Ahn (Impact (1949), Macao (1952), Hell's Half Acre (1954)) as Dr. Fong.
|Johnny Barrett (Breck)|
|Cathy (Towers) and Swanee Swanson (Zuckert)|
|Dr. Fong (Ahn)|
|Pagliacci (Tucker) and Barrett|
|Dr. L.G. Cristo (Matthews)|
The three witnesses to the murder are Johnny's targets, Stuart was captured in the Korean War and was brainwashed. Stuart now thinks he's Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, Borden (Gene Evans) is a brilliant nuclear scientist who's gone mad. Trent is a blackman who thinks he's the head of the Klu Klux Klan. Trent starts race riots among his ward mates.
Added to Johnny's dealings with the loonies are the sadistic guards and various forms of institutional therapy that he's subjected to after his confrontational altercations. All the sequences in the asylum are great with some outstanding acting sequences on display especially from James Best. The area where the film goes laughingly off track are in the Constance Towers' Cathy stripper sequences. I don't know if it was written in the original script but as it comes out on the screen Towers plays a singing stripper with a brain who sticks out from the other strippers like, as Chandler put it in Farewell My Lovely, "a tarantula on a piece of angel food.
Cathy: Do you think I like singing in that sewer with a hot light on my navel? I'm doing it because it pays more than shorthand or clerking or typing.
Yea sure. In real like she wouldn't last a set. She comes off utterly ridiculous doing a very lame strip routine. Her head at one point is completely covered with a feathered boa. You can picture what a real real hardcore reaction of the audience to her would be, i.e. jeers, boos, and shouts of, "WTF!" "shut up and strip," "take it off," "show us your tits," and "get the fuck off the stage." It's almost as bad as Anita Ekberg's set in Screaming Mimi.
|a bit of bump and grind|
It also doesn't help having Cathy show up in miniature in repeat performances to reinforce the cheesiness of her act during some hallucination sequences.
In another scenario Barrett walks accidentally into the male graffiti covered walls of the nympho ward, the Nympho's go out of control and attack, taking Barrett down like a pack of wolves taking down a deer, apparently trying to "bite" Barrett to death, it's a hoot.
|And he's down!|
After one of Trent's hospital race riots, Barrett is straitjacketed and cared off for shock treatments. He begins imagining that Cathy really is his sister.
Barrett still manages to learn the identity of the killer and during a fight with a guard violently extracts a confession from him in front of witnesses and gets to write his story. But consequences send this directly to Noirsville.
Shock Corridor is good in some sequences with some powerful acting but in others not so much and not because of anything controllable, it was a victim of the restraints of the times. 7/10